Daddies have something that mamas don't. It's something special, it's essential to fatherhood, and it's what kids love about their dads; children cling to their fathers because of it.
Still, mamas like me wouldn't touch that special something with the gloved hand of a HAZMAT suit. This something prompted a daddy to feed his family at a steakhouse re-purposed as one Hibachi Sushi & Supreme Buffet restaurant perched upon a lonely stretch of rural North Carolina road, where Bar-B-Que, not California rolls, reigns supreme.
The backseat erupted in delight with the risky prospect of dining on sauteed squid. I know because I've been on that runaway bus to botulism, the tour de trichinosis, with a man who possesses that special something.
While I nurture and protect my children from diarrhea disasters, their father encourages them to take gastrointestinal gambles. Where I saw an empty parking lot and quickly computed that the locals look elsewhere for sustenance, he saw the bulbs in the "Hibachi" sign flickering toward extinction and jumped at the chance to go where few folks dare.
When I recoiled from the Ryan's-style Asian, serve-yourself buffet with crusted-over pans of stagnant shrimp lo mein, the sire of my offspring enthusiastically dished up plates of faux fried crab claws for the kiddies.
Dalliances on the edge of derangement endear him to his children, and the more their enamor grows the more he endeavors to express heroism. He dabbed a clump of neon green wasabi on his palate.
Our brood fixed their eyes on their father to fully appreciate his ruggedness. They watched as he threw his head to the left, eyes sealed in agony. They observed as he swung his head to the right, fists raised near his temples. They looked as he swallowed, eyes still clenched, inhaled slowly through his nose, exhaled out of his mouth, then wiped sweat beads from his upper lip.
They pensively waited for him to revive. They giggled hysterically when he asked, "What? Did I twitch?"
Soon after the wasabi demo, a quivering plateful of octopus bodies arrived at the table borne by a well-meaning man whose sole goal is to inspire his progeny to expand their experiences and broaden their horizons. This evening, he brought the world to them demanding that they force it down, tentacles and all.
When they glanced over to check my reaction, he commanded, "Don't pay any attention to your mama. She doesn't like the texture." He mocked my rationality and logic in a prissy, sissy voice and handed out squiggly, squishy sea monsters to children eager pass them through their alimentary canals.
One squealed, "Ooooh, its head fell off," to which his father replied, "Pick it up and eat it." For a daddy with that special something, enough is never enough. He left and returned with raw-fish topped white rice (what I suspected was a parasite playground); the grand finale of his flirt with food poisoning, his attempt to achieve valor over vomit.
The next day, I expressed relief that no one awoke in the night awash with stomach pains and throw-up. In response, a son remarked, "What is it with you, Mama? We leave home and suddenly the world is a scary place." What could I say? I don't have that special something (thank heavens).
For a daughter, her dad models manhood; what she should look for in future boyfriends and eventually a husband. For a son, his daddy sets the standard for masculinity.
And a daddy couldn't do any of it as well without that special something. Happy Fathers' Day to all the dads who have it.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson. E-mail Lucy at email@example.com and visit her Web site, www.IfMama.com.)