Friday, October 30, 2009

Ten things about my dad

1. Like most dads, he really, really wanted a prototypical athlete of a son … and he signed me up for every little league sport known to man and patiently tried to explain to my little could-not-be-less-interested self the rules of all the games. I have a distinct memory of him trying to illustrate the football line of scrimmage to me by drawing Xs and Os and lines in the redwood planks of our backyard picnic table when I was a kid. And when it eventually became clear that I was completely sucky at and completely not interested in team sports but pretty good and really interested in musical theater, he abruptly changed his expectations and started coming to cheer me on in every show and concert I ever did. No questions asked.

2. His colloquialisms and insults rival those of any you’d hear on a well-written sitcom. And I steal his material with reckless abandon to this day (though apparently it’s way better live than in a blog post). I remember laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe the first time he told my little sister—who was not the neatest or most linear of children—that she could screw up a one-woman parade. I can still make the domestic partner giggle by telling him someone is so cheap they wouldn’t pay a nickel to watch Jesus ride a bike. And I’ve even spread the jocular wisecrackery to none other than Dan Savage, who stopped mid-conversation and reached for a pen and paper when I described a fussy woman I know by saying she wouldn’t say shit if she had a mouth full of it.

3. Dad officially hates cats. My mom and the rest of our family officially love cats. So of course Mom and Dad’s cat wants nothing to do with anyone but Dad. And whenever he sits down, he patiently lets her (the cat, not Mom) climb to her favorite position on his chest with her hind paws on his tummy and her head and upper paws on his shoulder as though she were a hideous, cat-butt-shaped broach.

4. He likes to let people think he’s a gruff old curmudgeon, but he’s really little more than a giant bowl of warm Play-Doh in the hands of my niece and nephew. Like the cat, they easily manipulate him to do their bidding, and watching him happily interact with them is the most heartwarming thing you will ever see.

5. I had a 4:00 am paper route from December of 6th grade to December of my senior year in high school. (And I still haven’t caught up on my sleep.) Dad got up with me almost every morning, at the very least making sure I was awake and more often than not to take a chunk of papers and doing the west loop of my route for me.

6. Throughout my entire childhood, either late at night or right before the paper route, Dad and I would snack on milk and those rock-hard store-brand iced oatmeal cookies. To this day, every time I walk by a package of them in a grocery store I have strong and very happy flashbacks to our cookie time together.

7. He instilled in me a lifelong love of peanut butter. And, following his example, I always keep a wide selection of jelly flavors in my refrigerator.

8. His handwriting is an interesting blend of casual scrawl and indifferent masculinity … and it’s not the easiest thing to read. And by the time I’d gotten out of college I discovered my handwriting had become almost exactly like his.

9. On the day he turned 45, I remember sitting in school thinking Holy shit, my dad is 45. That means he’s going to die soon.

10. But he somehow managed to survive 45. And today he turns 70. And though he’s stoically enduring the indignities of macular degeneration and a host of lesser advancing-age infirmities, he’s still an active, happy, loving part of all our lives. And I’m so thrilled that he’s around to cheer on his grandson—who clearly understands what a line of scrimmage is—in his football games and have cookies with his granddaughter and spoil his Mom’s cat … and still sit in the audience of his sensitive, artistic son’s concerts every once in a while.

Happy birthday, Dad!

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