Good Men Make Great Fathers

Vivian McInerny
Human Parts
Published in
4 min readSep 2, 2023

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Act how you wish to be remembered

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Memories of my dad appear randomly in my brain like a documentary film run by a jumpy projectionist.

I’m convinced I am incapable of misremembering him, anymore than an echo could repeat words never spoken.

Others’ memories may contradict my own.

Still, mine are true.

I grew up in the landlocked midwest. We had lakes, ten thousand of them. Some had grassy banks and willow trees that swished and dipped to make rings in the surface of the waters. Others had wooden docks and sandy beaches perfect for lazing in the sun. My five siblings and I learned to swim in those waters. We took turns holding onto our father’s back while he swam out to the floating dock where no one’s feet could touch bottom. I still remember the thrill of flying out behind him like the cape of Superman flapping in the wind, terrified I’d lose my grip.

But the moment we reached the safety of the shore, I begged, “Again! Again!”

Also around that time, me fighting with a big brother. He was five years older. He always won. Our mother responded to our squabbles with a smack upside the side the head. But she wasn’t around this day. Our dad broke up our bickering by kneeling between us, a King Solomon, eye level to my five-year-old self.

“Vivi would never do that,” he said, of whatever crime my brother had accused me. He hugged me and added with great theatrics, “She’s an angel and wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing.”

I understood Dad was purposefully exaggerating my good qualities in hopes of appealing to my better angels. I sunk into his embrace, rested my small chin over his shoulder to see my big brother still standing there.

And I stuck out my tongue.

We had a neighbor who was a jerk. He berated his wife. He terrorized his kids. He played a “game” at the pool, holding his daughter and me under water until we nearly blacked out, and then threatened the lifeguard who came to our rescue.

One crisp fall Saturday, he raked his backyard, put the pile of yellow leaves into a wheel barrel, walked them around to the front yard, and with a creepy smug smile, dumped them by the…

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Vivian McInerny
Human Parts

Career journalist, essayist, fiction writer, and life-long spirit-quester.