It’s difficult for me to separate any memory I have of my father from the smell of Old Spice. For anyone unfamiliar with Old Spice, it is a quality cologne that can be purchased wherever other fine fragrances, such as Aqua Velva or Skin Bracer, are sold. It has a distinct, aptly named aroma that immediately puts one in mind of old men and spices.
In my early twenties, I so closely associated the smell of Old Spice with adulthood and masculinity that I actually bought some and tried wearing it. I remember splashing it on and waiting for the heady rush that only testosterone-laden activities bring. For the first 20 minutes or so of wearing it, I was filled with the same exhilaration I felt when I grew my first chest hair, which also turned out to be my last.
After 30 minutes, though, I noticed the fragrance wasn’t fading as colognes often do. It might have even grown a little stronger. I began to long for a breath of fresh air—or any air, really. Then the thought suddenly occurred that I might have jumped the gun by about 30 or 40 years. I clearly wasn’t ready for that level of masculinity, so I bolted to the bathroom and washed my face, neck, and hands as thoroughly as I could, but to no avail. The Old Spice had bonded with my DNA and wasn’t giving up without a fight. At one point, I feared I was going to have to undergo radiation therapy just to get rid of the smell. Today, 30 years later, I’m proud to say I barely smell of Old Spice at all.
But my dad was man enough to pull it off. He made it work somehow, and I would catch a whiff of it every time I was near him.
My family was affectionate, so when I was a kid, every night I hugged and kissed my dad and mom good night. Eventually I grew up and moved away, but I would still hug and kiss my parents when I visited. My father would crush me into his arms, and I would smell the Old Spice that I so closely associated with him. I would kiss his sandpapery, whiskered cheek and then pull away to see him beaming at me. My dad passed away a number of years ago, and oh, what I would give to have another chance to hug and kiss him once more.
I’m fortunate to have those memories. I know some people who grew up with parents who never hugged or kissed them. Some people have never seen their parents show any affection to each other. Never. Not once.
My family was far from perfect, but we had affection. My dad showed me what it’s like to be man enough to wear Old Spice and still be loving with his family. And I’m doing everything I can to pass that gift along to my kids.
Excerpted from The Good Dad Guide © 2016 Charles Marshall.