Every summer, I go out to South Dakota to visit my dad for a month. And each time I’ve gone there, from even before I was old enough to form memories, it’s been a crazy, wild ride. My dad’s been through a lot, and I’ve been there with him for a little of it, but I’ve also been with him in some of the happiest moments of our lives. My dad’s been a teacher for me in the traditional way, teaching me how to be a gentleman, about our faith, and, you know, how to shave and stuff. But he’s also taught me through example, both positive and, by his admission, negative, the types of people to cherish and those to avoid with a ten-foot pole, how to brush off bad moments and laugh it off, and how to disengage from drama whenever remotely possible.
I’ve always been an obsessive person, as in I fixate on one or two things I love, and this was especially true when I was a child. But my dad’s always been supportive of it, while still making sure I had a healthy variety of interests. From my initial fixation of Thomas the Train (back when they used models, not this new CGI crap), to Cars (yes, the insufferable Pixar movies) to Pokemon, he would talk to me about it, occasionally buy me stuff without showering me with underserved gifts, and would constantly recite the stupid songs I sang about the things I loved. It was annoying as hell, but I knew he meant well.
But while I’m the video game expert in most cases, there were a few games, video or otherwise, that he can kick my butt at. Chess, Tetris, and PAC-MAN are especially his games, but his favorite arcade-y experience is pinball.
As I said, we went through crap. I’d get yelled at pretty badly and unfairly punished for stuff that I didn’t understand or simply didn’t do by a family member. My dad would get yelled at a lot too. One night when things got really bad, we were both forced out of the house. But we made the best of it, and my dad took me to all the pinball machines he could find to play together.
Things got worse from there, but one summer, I came out to visit my dad not in the usual house, but in a small apartment meant for college students, with just me and him. And it was one of the best changes in my life. A few more years would pass, and things got even better. Now when I come out to visit, I’m part of a wonderful family that values me as much as I value everyone in it. And much of this bonding happened through our shared appreciation for The Legend of Zelda.
Even though my dad and much of my other family from both parents have a strong history in music, he’s never tried to dissuade me from what I want my career to be. I strongly considered audiobook narration for a while, but when I ultimately decided on video game journalism, he shocked me with how supportive he was. As I said in my final article of last summer’s “SixTAY Days of Writing” challenge (even though it didn’t have the title then and I was the sole participant), I remember my dad talking about how he was at first secretly hesitant about how much video games seemed to consume me, but as he saw how much I loved it and the writing that came out of it, he became proud. Since then, he will proudly introduce me to people as the “video game journalist,” and even talks about my blog, KeenGamer, and SixTAY Days of Writing!
Almost every article I’ve written for this event has been proofread by him, and this one will be no different. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!
But this article isn’t over yet! I’ve also have a stepdad for over ten years, and while we aren’t as openly close, I do genuinely respect and appreciate him. For one thing, his understanding and (some might say excessive) acquisition of modern technology has been a boon for my access to both tools to cover video games and to the video games themselves. That’s not to mention the myriad of times he has helped me with technology issues. If not for him, I might be stuck on something that prevented me from playing video games or writing online to this very day.
He also was on a phone call with the same (let just say it) emotionally abusive family member one time after she was yelling at me, and said something surprisingly touching, given his usual removed demeanor:
“He’s not always Joseph. He’s just Joseph.”
It’s weird to type, but the bold print was negative and drawn out, while the normal was positive and simple. And I think that sums up our relationship: We’re not peas in a pod, but we respect each other and our roles in the family.
Plus, I managed to get an NES Classic for him, which all of his coworkers were jealous of. I think he liked me a bit more after that.