“With my dad … it’s a long, boring story.”
So said Jeff Cosgrove on Friday morning.
“Nothing is boring,” I responded, but I wasn’t going to press him for details. It being Father’s Day weekend and all, it would be cruel to open any potential wounds that had perhaps taken years to scab over. “It’s a long, boring story” felt a lot like code for “no, not getting into that right now.”
The admission was provocative, though. Jeff is one of the kindest, most upbeat people in all the land. He’s also one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to the music scene. A prolific jazz drummer, he has relationships with some of the heaviest hitters in the genre. His most recent release, “Near Disaster,” with Matthew Shipp and William Parker, is an at-times thrilling listen, and as it goes, his next project, which he hopes to release in October, will feature John Medeski, of Medeski, Martin & Wood fame.
You could say he’s kind of a low-key big deal, and you wouldn’t be wrong.
Still, as we were catching up ahead of his performance at Vini Culture in downtown Frederick on Saturday night, the conversation unexpectedly turned to Father’s Day weekend. As it goes, he’s taking his kids to the Red Sox-Orioles game Sunday to celebrate the day, and the trip to Camden Yards will mean far more than the typical J.C. Penney tie that most dads get on such a holiday.
“I’m a huge Red Sox fan and I have infected my kids with that disease,” he said. “I’m taking the kids to Boston this summer to see a game. I used to go to opening day with my grandfather — every year from when I was 4 until I was 15.
“Two of my uncles were batboys for the Sox in the ‘60s,” he continued. “I went with my mom’s dad to the games. He was my hero.”
And then came the admission.
“With my dad ... it’s a long, boring story.”
While Father’s Day is designed to thrust the spotlight on the men who helped bring us into this world, raise us, discipline us, inspire us and care for us all the same, it would be somewhat irresponsible to ignore those who didn’t have the luxury of what most people would call a normal upbringing.
Why? Because some dads don’t raise us. Some discipline us too much. Some refuse to find inspiration in anything, let alone incite it in others. And when it comes to caring ... well, some do, and some don’t.
Then, of course, there are the memories of the fathers lost that continue to bring tears to eyes on a Sunday in the middle of each June. Gone too soon or gone in tragedy or simply just gone, Father’s Day can serve as a reminder of something missed or something robbed. Either way, it’s a void impossible to truly ever fill if it’s a void that continues to consistently haunt.
“The onslaught of greeting-card holidays like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day can make you feel pressured to participate — even if you don’t want to,” Brandi Neal wrote in 2017 for the website Bustle. “But don’t feel like you absolutely need to. ... Some of these holidays can be painful because they might highlight what you don’t have, or what you do have but isn’t worthy of celebration. If either of these things pertain to you, it’s perfectly OK not to jump on the Father’s Day love train.
“I grew up with an absentee father who I reconciled with as an adult,” she added. “But, shortly after we repaired our relationship, my father died. Because of these two things there are very few Father’s Days that have made me want to get into the celebratory mood.”
Such is the case with holidays: While they are designed to be a time of commemoration, we should be careful about how we approach others who haven’t lived the same life we have. Not all celebrations are created equal, and the more we believe that happiness is assumed — and not a gift — the more likely we are to display a specific blend of ignorance that not just offends but cuts deeper than anyone may realize in the moment.
This isn’t to say that Father’s Day shouldn’t hold value in our society, of course, and it’s especially poignant to those who use the day to connect with something deeper than a Hallmark card. Plus, despite whatever Jeff’s story with his father is, he’s taken what could be a negative and turned it into an impressive positive with his own kids. Now he gets to share those memories with them, and now he gets to perhaps tap into his own childhood to try and turn some early-year wrongs into some present-day rights.
Still, as the burgers grill, or the baseball games commence, or those ties become unwrapped on Sunday, remember that regardless of what Father’s Day means to you, know that it doesn’t mean the same for everybody. And perhaps more importantly, know that while you might have a long, boring story about your past, there could be a short, exciting story developing right in front of your eyes and you’ll be ready to share sometime in your future.