To my Dad.
Thank you for always having my back.
Thank you for always making sure I have gas and bridge money.
Thank you for not selling me to the circus.
To my Dad.
Thank you for always having my back.
Thank you for always making sure I have gas and bridge money.
Thank you for not selling me to the circus.
So, the little salt and pepper shakers have been a matched set for 58 years now. 58 years. 5.8. I mean, I don’t even know what to say for my parents’ anniversary this year … it’s not often I’m at a loss for words, as you all surely know by now. The lack of poetic flourishes notwithstanding, I’m awestruck at the feat – I mean, 58 years! But also their obvious devotion, which has been on full display even more recently. Oh sure, sometimes they seem more like Tom and Jerry than Ozzie and Harriet, but the love binding them together for all these years remains a force to be reckoned with. And no doubt the best is yet to be.
Keats said: “Life is divine Chaos. It’s messy, and it’s supposed to be that way.” And I get it. Yes. Life is messy. I’m not quite sure on the whole “divine” aspect, but in general, I’m on board with the whole chaos theory per Mr. Keats.
Here lately, chaos has defined my world … some bad, some good. It seems that along with being messy, Life has a sense of humor, and a twisted one at that. It sometimes gives you what you want, while also throwing obstacles — or downright tragedies, in your wake. Trials, tribulations, misfortune. Why can’t we just be allowed to enjoy the “good” without having the “bad” trail so closely behind?
After too many years of an unhappy — even, shall we say, hurtful, marriage, I began anew. It has taken adjustments, but it was necessary, and there is now a peace in my home that reigns supreme. Chalk that up to the “good” side. My kids are doing well on their respective paths to their future. Add a notch to the good column. I start a new job in a week. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m excited about this new route my own path is taking. Another mark to the good.
And then. Life, in all of its infinite wisdom said: “You know what? Things are just going a little to well for you and your family. I’m going to throw a kink into things. The mother of all kinks, in fact. Because, fuck you.”
Yeah. Life is messy all right.
My Dad, who this time last year was fine, now has Stage IV lung cancer. We know he was fine last year because for a few, non-cancer related reasons, he has scans done every year. That’s Life right there, flipping the middle finger. He’s a tough old cuss and if anyone can beat this thing, he can. But damn it, Life, get your shit together why don’t you?
Yesterday. Whew. What a long day, for all of us.
Dad had the biopsy on his lungs yesterday. To say I was nervous and afraid is an understatement.
I decided to tag along to keep you company. You’re my mom, but you’re so much more. My friend, my confidant, my rock. And dad? He has always, always been there for me, no matter what. So of course, I was going to be there for him.
While thinking of you both last night, after all was said and done, I took a moment to reflect on the differences that separate us, and also those that connect us, as they do in any family. Politics? Please. Social issues? Ugh, no way. I have no doubt that you feel the same. I mean, I got my attitude from somewhere, right? Yet, through it all, I love you. More than you will ever know. You’ve done so much over the years for me; I want to be there for you like you are always there for me.
This is not to toot my horn, so to speak. Instead, it’s meant to offer up a heartfelt apology.
Yeah, I choked. Sure, I’m great at the lighthearted stuff. I can gossip about the mailman and tell terrible jokes with the best of them in an attempt – perhaps, a misguided attempt – to keep your mind off things. I can distract you from the bigger picture, if only for a little while, with any number of sarcastic and witty (in my own eyes, at least) observances. I can get super-charged and angry on your behalf; whether it’s at people or situations, I’ll gladly take it on to save you the stress or heartache. But the serious stuff? I’m at a loss.
They never taught this stuff in school.
Mom and dad, I wanted to say the right things. I wanted to do the right things, to offer comfort, hope, and a bit of light in the darkness. I just am so ridiculously backwards and awkward in serious situations that I don’t know what to say or do. It’s almost funny. Except, it’s not.
I’m sorry I’m not good at small talk or knowing what to say in a painful, frighteningly serious situation. And I was scared. Just like you were. I’m sorry I’m not better at comforting you; I truly wish I knew how.
I hope you both know that I love you more than anything in this world. I will always be there for you, no matter how awkward or backward I may be at the reassurances and encouragements and comforting phrases.
My heart feels it, oh boy does my heart feel it; if only my mouth could say it.
I want to say Happy Father’s Day to my Dad. And I’m sure my children would like to take this time to thank him for the inside joke that I constantly throw out, even though they weren’t even born when the joke originated, and it’s one they don’t really “get,” but they laugh along with me anyway. Of course, their laughter is likely just a way to placate their eccentric mother since we’re always in the car with me driving at the time of said joke, and they do have their safety and well-being to consider.
I’ll share a bit of nostalgia with you and let you in on the inside joke – there are actually two. And which joke gets repeated on which outing depends entirely on which road construction sign I happen to see at the time. I know, I know, make jokes about construction signs, you say? Who on earth can come up with jokes about road construction signs? Well, my Dad can. And little did he know they would drive off into the future at full speed to infect his grandchildren.
I have no idea if these happened all on the same long family trip, though I think they did. I think my Dad just happened to be on a “roll” during this one lengthy excursion with a Great-Aunt in tow – honestly, it all happened so long ago that I can’t remember exactly. There are a great many parts of my childhood that I remember only in fragments, not getting the whole picture, but rather just fractured bits. I believe on this particular occasion, we were taking my Great Aunt Bunny to West Virginia with us, and both the long drive and the looming visit itself would have made her an anxiety ridden nervous wreck, such things always did. Which would make sense – IF that’s the trip I’m remembering – because my Dad would have been doing what he could, in his own silly way, to ease my Aunt’s nerves. The jokes I’m going to tell you about, however, those stand out in my mind.
The trip to West Virginia from our house back in those days took a solid 8 hours, and more often than not, there was road construction along the way. Going through an area of construction, with all of its delays and issues, during an already 8-hour trip – with two pains in the ass children, can never be an easy thing, but on this particular trip in question, my Dad decided to take his comic show on the road, as it were, and lighten the mood.
Coming upon a section of road construction that required rerouting of the lanes, there was a safety sign duly posted informing all and sundry of a “flag man ahead.” Now most people would slow down, follow the “flag man’s” direction and just move on, right? Not my Dad. He stopped, rolled down his window (this was in a time when you really did roll down a window) and cheerily greeted the guy: “Hi, Mr. Man!” After we drove on, and I suppose due to the looks of confusion from all of his passengers – except my mother, I don’t even want to know what look she was giving him – he says, “Well, I don’t know him well enough to call him Flag!” Rolling eyes and groaning laughter ensued. And the joke has lived on into infamy. Although, my version keeps the window tightly closed, with me just shouting through the glass, but in a good way, not like when there is an errant jaywalker or a driver who has apparently never heard of a turn signal.
The next sign that encouraged my Dad to act was a bit more hearty and enthusiastic, or rather, his reaction was at any rate. For seemingly no reason whatsoever, and certainly with no warning, my Dad threw out his hand and grabbed my mother by the top of her head. I wish, for the life of me, that I could remember the look on my mother’s face at that instant, but what I conjure (based on personal experience with the woman), it would’ve been a hoot, and not exactly a look of adoration towards my father either. In his defense, he pointed to the “Stop Ahead,” sign we were passing…I mean, he was only following directions, right?
My kids are 25 and 18, and I kid you not, they know exactly what is going to happen when we pass construction or road work that has one of these signs posted. Oh, they may forget in the moment as they text or watch videos on the phone, but whoever is in the front passenger seat is sure to have their head accosted, or to be startled into thinking we’ve seen someone we know, each and every time…and when they search the surrounding area for the sign and find it, they smile a pacifying smile and then go back to their business.
It makes no difference to me if my kids don’t share in my joke. I think it’s hilarious and sometimes, dammit, I just do things because they amuse ME, not necessarily those around me. And more than being amusing, it reminds me of family, of times gone by, and while I can’t grasp the full memory of that road trip from so many years ago – only bits and pieces remain, what does stick in my head is the fact that my Dad was on a comedic roll for the entire drive. Who knew his Dad jokes would get passed down through the generations? I guarantee you that while they may not repeat the jokes themselves, till their dying day, my kids will never be able to pass road construction without at least going over those wisecracks in their head. And maybe, just maybe, when they have kids, this bit of Dad-silliness will live on.
So, thank you Dad…it’s not enough that you’ve had my back since I was born or that you constantly watch out for me. Your casually tossed out pieces of comedic genius have stayed with me over the years and have been the source of great joy, in so many ways. Here’s to family road trips from back in the day. Here’s to lasting memories. Happy Father’s Day! I love you.
My parents’ 57th wedding anniversary is tomorrow – June 15th. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad! I think this might be the first year that I haven’t confused the date. It fell on Father’s Day one year, ages ago, and for me, I’ve equated the two ever since, making me perpetually late in wishing them a Happy Anniversary. Father’s Day changes every year, you say? No matter. You underestimate my ability to be wrong about something.
Hey, did you know there are traditional gift themes for each year of wedded bliss? First year is paper. Fifth year is wood. Twentieth year is china. Well, as far as I can tell, by year 57 all the ideas have been used up. By that time only the anniversaries ending in 0s or 5s get a themed gift. Seriously. On the list of “traditional gifts” the years skip from 55 right to 60.
My guess as to why that is: maybe whoever made the list felt that people grinding out 55 to 60 years of holy matrimony are too busy trying to not kill each other to really celebrate the honored day. Who knows? Maybe they’re right. Maybe by that point, not trying to choke each other is a gift in and of itself. “I didn’t suffocate you with a pillow this morning sweetie, Happy Anniversary! Want some breakfast?” Personally, I think 57 years of marriage—murderous thoughts notwithstanding—is one hell of an accomplishment.
The lists of traditional gifts often give an alternative modern gift for the couple who want to stay hip and with the times. For example, the first-year anniversary’s “modern” take on the traditional paper theme is clocks. How the two are related completely escapes me. Now while there isn’t a traditional gift for 57 years of wedded bliss, a modern alternative my parents have for celebrating their anniversary is a glass or a mirror. A glass, particularly of the decanter variety, I can understand. Giving each other something to hold the sweet nectar of alcohol or caffeine I can see as being invaluable to such a lengthy marriage. Sadly, my parents can have neither. So that’s a firm no on the glass option.
Mirror, it is. But really? A mirror? All I can really see my parents doing with a mirror is holding it up within an inch of the other’s face and saying, “SEE! I told you there was a smudge on your face! You just couldn’t believe me, could you? Noooo…of course not.” I’m not sure I want to be the purveyor of such a contentious gift.
Despite their individual secret schemes on how to plan what can only be described as the perfect murder, in real life my parents do what they can to keep each other out of the ground for as long as possible. Which is particularly good news for my dad. If anyone was going to kill an old man and get away with it, it would be my mother. That woman is nothing if not thorough.
I’ve often wondered what the secret is to a long marriage such as theirs. In an age when a marriage that makes it five years can be seen as “a good run,” there’s got to be something special to keep two people together for close to SIX decades. I believe that my brother and I were maybe that special ingredient in the glue that has bound them. No, not because their love for us created an unbreakable bond. It was more than that. I think they decided years ago that whichever one of them asked for a divorce, they had to be the one to take the children.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, my parents loved us…still do for some crazy reason. It’s impressive really, given what we put them through. It’s just that together, they were strong enough to counter my and my brother’s daily foolish antics. They could commiserate late at night and bolster each other’s mental stability – “Did you SEE what that boy did? Just look!” “Oh well, that’s nothing on what the girl tried to get away with today…let me tell you!” Ahh, there’s nothing like having a common enemy to keep people together.
At its essence, having each other’s back is their mainstay – their rock. Sure, they may squabble and they may pick at each other, but my dad still makes my mom her coffee (decaf these days) every single morning before heading out to the backyard to feed her feathered friends – I mean, hey, she needs company while she sits on the deck, having her morning cup of joe. In return, she makes sure his meds are always in order and that he has his fishing hat when he goes out on the water so his shiny bald head doesn’t burn. And god help the outsider who speaks ill of either one of them.
A shout out to my Dad on Father’s Day. He may have been on continual “grumpy” mode when my brother and I were growing up (he had good cause and really, a part of that may have been a sadistic rumor started by mother – “just wait till your father gets home!”) and it may have taken him 30 years to realize he likes shorts and sandals/tennis shoes (see, they ARE pretty cool right Dad!? it wasn’t a conspiracy after all.), and he may have had a “that one’s a jerk” meter that went into overdrive every time I brought a guy home, but he has always been there for me when it counts and I have no doubt he always will be. Oh sure, he’s given us some health scares over the years that we could’ve done without (keep that in mind Dad!) but overall, he’s a pretty damn good guy.
Not everyone is meant to be a Dad, trust me, I know. But would you like to hear how I know my Dad was truly meant to be a Dad, and a good one at that? Of course you do. I’ll pretend I heard a resounding YES! at any rate.
When I couldn’t have been more than 8…my sense of time may very well be off, but I couldn’t have been much older than that. Anyway, one day while my Dad was busily fixing our pool filter (yep, we had an above ground pool that ROCKED! till I saw Jaws, that is), I was riding my bike around the yard and decided for whatever reason to try and squeeze through the little narrow path that ran along one side of the pool. Now this was a trick on a good day because there was the pool on one side and my mother’s humongous (I’m serious, it was like a mutation it was so huge) lilac bush on the other. But with my Dad steadily performing his mechanic work, the path was cut off that much more. Now I have to go back a bit to say that while my Dad always, and I mean always, wore jeans and boots, he often went without his shirt while working outside. Unless there was company. Or the chance of his getting wet (don’t even THINK about splashing my Dad with the hose or from inside the pool which he never entered…trust me on this one). And on this particular day, he was shirtless.
So here I go by on my nifty bike with the huge handlebars and truly solid, over-sized pedals (we’re talking old school here) and I would’ve made it…I swear I would have…but that damn bush got in the way at the last minute and as the branches swatted at me, it tipped me over just ever so slightly so that my left pedal caught my father smack in the middle of his lower back. Hard. His bare, naked back. No shirt for a cushion. No cloth to catch the sharp edge of the heavy metal (and not the good kind) pedal and buffer the blow. Nothing.
Now what I remember VERY clearly from this event is immediately seeing the open dent I made in my Dad’s back and realizing I better get the heck away from there before he’s able to get up. But I didn’t quite make it – he was able to raise himself up before I could flee the yard or get into the house. And to my surprise, while it obviously hurt like hell, not a word came out of his mouth and rather than come after his wayward attacker, he staggered around with his hand clapped to his back and probably muttering under his breath – as you do when a bratty kid who didn’t feel like going the other way round rams full bore into your back with a bike pedal.
What he didn’t do was yell, have a meltdown or even punish me. Oh he was angry, no doubt about that. I mean, he’s human after all. But at a time when he could have easily taken the anger and physical pain he was suffering out on the small child who had just engaged in a very stupid, stupid maneuver and injured him – and indeed, many people would have taken that route – he instead simply “walked it off.”
It’s amazing what the mind dredges up when you start thinking of your childhood and your parents. Well. This is what mine conjured up this evening as I was thinking of what to write for this entry. All I can say is, to endure the pain, to endure the worry, the absolute mind-boggling stress that your kids can throw at you on a daily basis with not just the ability but also the mindset to just “walk it off” rather than cause your offspring emotional pain…well, that’s being a stand up parent. A devoted Dad. And I’m proud to say he’s mine.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.