All the dads of my group gather around as one pulls out his wallet. His smile is huge and, even though he would never admit it, there is a tear in his eye as he pulls out the little photograph.
“That’s just precious,” one says.
“Hey, congrats man,” another says.
The picture is well-worn, and you can tell that he has shown it hundreds of times in the last two days alone. To his parents, his friends, even to strangers on the street. He can’t help himself because none of us can. He’s trying to be humble but there is pride in his voice every time he talks about her.
“It was a rough go there for a bit, and I was scared,” he tells the guys. “It could have gone either way.” The stress of the last year is evident as his shoulders appear more rounded than they had been before. “But it worked out. And just look at her. Beautiful.”
All the guys agree, and then start getting their wallets out of their back pockets. We can’t help it. We all have pictures to share.
“This baby right here,” someone chimes in, “she’s gonna be amazing.”
“How much longer?”
“A couple of weeks unless something goes wrong.”
I put my hand on his shoulder to offer support.
“How many gallons?” I ask.
“50. Think it will be enough?” he says.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
The dad who showed his picture first puts it back in his wallet. Everyone pats him on the back, and we all talk about the next steps. Geothermal model? Maybe have twins, one tank to hold a reserve for the other. There’s a lot to choose from when it comes to a quality water heater.
I know this because my dad’s group has been talking about them for freaking years.
Water heaters. Really?
I would like to say that as dads, we are better than this. We are not the cliches that we have been portrayed as. And yet, we are.
What do dads talk about when they get together? Water heaters. How many BTUs, gallons and installation? Tank or no tank? Are you going to hire out the install or are we all getting together to bring this baby into the world together?
All. The. Time.
“Hey, guys,” I asked, “Maybe we cannot discuss water heaters today?”
They slashed my tires, and I’m close to being kicked out of the group.
These are the same families I’ve been quarantining with, and I’m considering going to a large concert to get the virus just to have something else to talk about. But no, I wouldn’t want to take attention away from the new water heater. That would be selfish.
We took a trip together last week and rented a house in the country away from the world. A beautiful barn-type structure that had three floors. The kids could play on the top one, the middle floor was for adults, and the basement was for the dual water heater system that the owner had dropped some serious coin on. I bet my wife how long each dad would hold off before he checked it out and then commented on the system.
I won the bet.
“Hey, did you see the water heater down in the basement?” asked the first dad. “She’s a beaut!”
“I sure did!” said another dad. “Reminds me of my own!”
“Really impressive. Quality install, too!” the third dad said.
The fourth dad just pulled out his wallet and they all gathered around once again, each touching the image of the now frayed photograph that came in the weekly mailer. My wife fell asleep mid-conversation. I tried to slip away but was punched repeatedly for not showing the proper respect.
Now, my dad’s group will say that I’m making up this whole story and adding a flair that didn’t happen. They’ll say that they don’t have a photograph and that they don’t talk about water heaters that much. That it’s just Shannon being funny and trying to give them crap for talking about water heaters so much.
Ask them about the water heater in the rental house, and I guarantee they will tell you the exact make and model, and how it was installed, and they will all look wistful while they do it.
As for me, a stupid water heater is a stupid water heater, and I don’t need any more information about them. We don’t have to be the cliche dads society expects us to be. We can talk about something else.
Like, for example, my new weed eater. She’s amazing. I got her on sale and when she hums, it’s the music of the gods. Here, let me show you a picture.