Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Yes, I know father's day was three days ago.

I wasn’t planning on doing a father’s day post, mostly because my dad and I have a tolerate/hate relationship. But it looks like I’m going to do a semblance of one anyway. (Basically it’s all Beta Dad’s fault. You can blame him and his awesome post for giving me the idea. I don’t think of it as cheating since our fathers are two VERY different men.)


This was in a Q&A forwarded email I received the other day:

“Describe your dad in one word.”

I hate this directive. One word answers have never been my style and describing anyone that way, myself included, is an irritation. This has less to do with the fact that I’m a descriptive person, and more to do with the fact that no one fits into a one word mold. No one.

My dad is, more often than not, an asshole. I’ve written about our issues before, most of which have to do with his drinking or occasional foray into the world of narcotics and/or gambling. But that’s only part of the person he is, so I figured I should be fair and introduce you to the rest of him. Not just the bad, but the good, the ugly, and the more than slightly ridiculous.

1. He’s very, very good at his job.

Starting as a welder in his late teens, he eventually became a certified steel inspector. He worked for several well known inspection companies, traveling around the US and Canada, until my grandfather (who is also an inspector) started his own company. He worked for Pop for a long time, still doing a lot of traveling, until he and mom divorced and he settled in Oklahoma. He recently returned from a job in New Jersey and is now working close to home.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to go on site and see at least part of what he does. I don’t pretend to understand the details of the job, but I do understand respect and it’s very obvious that the men he works with respect his ability and opinion. I used to love listening to his stories about the bridges and buildings he had a significant part in, one of which is my favorite place: the lovely, enormous glass and steel library downtown.

There’s a picture in my photo album that I look at every now and then. In it he’s no older than I am now. He’s standing with a group of men on the unfinished skeleton of a building, his hair in a youthful floppy style just visible underneath his hardhat, grinning and waving with the city skyline and the clouds at his back. It never fails to make me simultaneously pleased and anxious.

2. He introduced me to great music and taught me how to act like a redneck boy, should I feel so inclined.

Though the money spent on his various outdoor toys often made our bills late, I can’t deny they were a lot of fun. I had a go-cart, a golf cart, and a badass ATV that I would drive through the woods and around our back roads like a bat out of hell (with a full face of makeup, of course). He had his own ATV and we’d load them up on the trailer, drive to his buddy’s house for a fish fry, then spend hours in the woods driving the trails and drinking beer. I was usually the only girl on those outings and while they strapped coolers full of beer to the back of their rides, I’d strap a cooler full of Smirnoff to mine.

He had an old bronco that he put enormous tires on – like, mini monster truck tires – and we would take the hardtop off, drive to an old trucking road after a recent rain, and go mud digging. I’ve never been much on dirt or mud, but some of my fondest memories are of standing on the back seat of that jacked up truck, holding on to the roof, and being caked from head to toe in gunk. Afterward we’d drive to the boat ramp and back the truck almost all the way into the water. I’d let go of the roof and just float out over the submerged back end.

And while we were on our little excursions I got a crash course in good music: Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top. I loved rocking out in the front seat with a soda in one hand and a Slim Jim in the other. Sometimes he would tell me things about the bands and sometimes he would just crank it up as loud as it could go.

He gave me a few of his old cassette tapes so I could listen to them in my room. My favorite was Pink Floyd’s The Wall and I wore that thing out. It drove my mom absolutely crazy.

3. He’s unintentionally funny.

When he tries to be funny, he isn’t. His jokes are always stupid and/or embarrassing. And usually, after he cracks one, he does this weird chuckle and says “Huh? Huh?”

One of his favorites was reserved for after big meals and used far too often. He would groan, stick out his stomach, rub it and say, “Hey...I’m pregnant with a baby elephant. Wanna see his trunk? Heh heh heh heh. Huh? Huh?”

Maybe unintentionally funny is the wrong choice of words.

We laugh when he lies about ridiculous things for no reason (which happens weekly), we laugh when he gets drunk and cries about nothing, we laugh at his dancing, we laugh at his solid white enormous tennis shoes, and we laugh at his facial expressions. We imitate his walk, the way he talks, and his speeches we couldn’t help but memorize.

I’m sure that all sounds terribly mean and unnecessary but trust me...finding the humor in that man is essential to dealing with him. If I couldn’t laugh at him, we just couldn’t interact.

4. He’s predictable.

“I brought ya inta this world. I ken take ya out and make anuder un jest like ya.”

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that phrase when I was a kid...

He used to say it in anger, but now that I’m an adult he usually says it in an “I’m being funny and menacing at the same time” kind of way. And I can predict, down to the second, when it’s going to come out of his mouth. And I say it with him. And he hates it.

He will wear the most vulgar t-shirt he can put his hands and go out in public. Always. It’s a given.

Probably one of the worst was when my sister was about nine and on a church softball league. He showed up late to a game one afternoon, pulled in the parking lot squealing tires on his motorcycle. From the bleachers mom and I could see him walking through the crowd on the grass. Each time he passed a group of people there was an immediate reaction. When he finally reached the low chain link fence around the field I recognized the t-shirt right away. It was one mom had attempted to throw in the trash just a few days prior. It was grey and had a bulldog on the front. And on the back it said in big letters: Big Dogs Eat More Pussy.

My mother was mortified. Still is, in fact.

“I love ya more n anything in this world. I’d die n go ta hell fer ya...ya know I would”

This is the precursor to every serious discussion, no matter what the subject matter. (Ever seen Brokeback Mountain? Say it with that accent.)

He cannot give a straight apology. It always goes like this: “I’m sorry, but”. He can’t leave the “but” off. This is because it’s never really his fault.

5. He’s got more than nine lives.

The man has been in every kind of accident you can think of and is still alive. And still doing stupid shit. Car accidents, boating accidents, ATV accidents, welding accidents, ect.

After his terrible motorcycle accident last year, where he broke all of this ribs on one side, suffered head trauma, and numerous other injuries...I thought he MIGHT be ready to wizen up a bit. Yeah, not so much.

After a few months of recuperating in Oklahoma, he went back to work in New Jersey. One night he called me and I could tell he’d been drinking. He kept laughing and carrying on while I “mmm hmm”ed and “uh huh”ed, waiting on an opportunity to get off the phone. Then he suddenly said, “I was so drunk the other night that when I was trying to get the key in the lock I fell off the porch, into the bushes, and broke the ribs on my unhurt side!” Way to go, dad.

Since he’s a habitual liar I checked with my sources and turns out, that’s exactly what happened. I suppose his resilience is a bit extraordinary for someone with his chemical history. This is probably why The Grandmother says he’s the antichrist.

But whatever his faults (or his origin), my dad is certainly a special individual.

I’m looking forward to our visit with him in a few weeks. At the moment anyway. Once I’m there, it usually only takes about 24 hours for me to start daydreaming about whacking him upside the head with a frying pan.

Happy father’s day, daddy. *WHAM*


Nicole said...

Ah families....we don't get to pick them but they are ours none the less. Good for you for sharing the better qualities of your dad. The part about the mud digging - AWESOME!

Sarah P said...

God, I love your writing. You take a simple concept and turn it into a compelling portrait. You should be getting published.

Girl Interrupted said...

It's rather nice that you can still find the good in your dad, and that despite everything you actually know him pretty well, even if what you know isn't always good. I couldn't tell you a single thing about my father, other than the way he makes me feel, and there's zero good about that.

I hope the trip to see your dad is a fun one.

Ps: His line about being pregnant did kinda make me grin and chuckle.

Beta Dad said...

I know guys like that. Lots of fun to hang out with, but it would be tricky to live with 'em.

Even if he's an asshole, you had some good times.

Eric said...

Hopefully he's mellowing out a bit as he gets older. Although based on what you said last time you posted about him...

mylittlebecky said...

i loved this one. my dad was an awful dad but i do try to find the humor. like the time he was drunk and i said he had a "pinhead" (i have a very big head) and he thought i called him a "dickhead." it was dicey for a second but it never fails to make me laugh.

Anonymous said...

Haha, I bet other people think your dad is the coolest while you just cringe at him. I was the same way with mine, believe me. This was a great tribute though and I liked it a lot.

I got along with my dad the first probably eight years of my life. He told great stories, was smart and a really awesome writer. But he had so many flaws too. We were a whole lot like in a lot of ways and I recognize that, but being able to figure out what his flaws were has enabled me to correct some of those things about me that I objected to in him. Now, with hindsight, I kind of understand what his demons were and I feel bad that I only really got to know him again a couple years before he died back in the nineties.

Oh look, this has become all about ME. :)

Library girl said...

Love ... it's a complicated thing, especially with members that don't play the game or fit the 'happy families' mould. The fact you are able to step back from the emotion and 'see' him for who he is, is a gift that not many people possess. The fact you can write about it so well is totally amazing :) Well done!

Didactic Pirate said...

Glad you wrote this post. I think you're working hard to find the good when it comes to your dad, which is good of you to do. I'm trying to imagine me or any of my dad friends wearing that Big Dog T-shirt, and I just can't do it.

Miss Welcome said...

This is colorful - you need all the words to give him depth. It's true, one word wouldn't suffice. It's kind of sweet and funny and sad all at once.

But at least he taught you how to be cool. That's something. I don't regret growing up in a rather cultured strict household for the circles it allows me to move in (I guess is one way of seeing it), but one thing I was never - was cool.

And from what I've read before you have your grandmother to give you the culture! Speaking of which, I wouldn't mind having had tips on how to be a southern lady. So in the end, you had a pretty good deal.

If I may say so.

Baglady said...

My dad's not so much of an asshole as a bit of a dickhead and even though I only hear from him when he's away on an oil rig (away from his second wife, who won't let him talk to us. And of course he's not man enough to stand up to her) I still value the fact that I'm in touch with him. We'll never be close but I think part of growing up is realising you've got to play with the hand you're dealt. Assholes and all.

I like that you still have warmth towards him, despite everything.

Lola Lakely said...

I find it amazing that you can still pick out things that are good about your dad when your relationship has been so tumultous.

And the writing in this post rocks because I feel like I have a very accurate picture of your dad in my head.

Also- looved this part- He used to say it in anger, but now that I’m an adult he usually says it in an “I’m being funny and menacing at the same time” kind of way.

Ally said...

I'm sure you're not alone. Most of my friends have similar tales, it seems like more often than not dads are far from perfect. Cool post. I love your memories and love it even more when you share them with us.

erin said...

I have no idea why but as I was reading this post I started finding commonalities between your Dad and.....myself!?

I have no idea why. Now I'm just generally confused.

Wonderful post, as always. Now I'm feeling a little bit guilty I didn't write a post like this for my daddy!

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness I have nothing to feel guilty about. Coz I have no daddy!! Hahahahaha!! I have my grandfather though, but he passed away almost 2 years ago.

I loved this post! said...

I love unintentionally funny. And the permission to act like a redneck boy.

rubbish said...

He actually sounds quite cool. Can't fault his taste in music.