Father's Day

For Father’s Day this year I was able to spend some time with my sister, brother and mother as they drove with me down to Melbourne to have a short visit with friends. I rode shotgun in my sister’s new (and first) car as she drove down behind my mom. We sat and talked for near an hour about dad, our childhood and things we remembered about each of the houses we’ve lived in, friends we’ve played with and all kinds of experiences we’ve had. We recollected a number of statements, reflections, sayings and nuggets of wisdom impressed upon us three children by the unyielding power of the one man. As I have written down a detailed list of things and made a short little movie of them, I think the narration and storytelling following each prompt is really what is most fun. Every little thing has a story, with each a small piece in the large story of our family. Dad Definitions are words that we thought up which we learned from our dad:
· Ratfink - (noun) any trouble making kid
· Punk Kid - (noun) also trouble making kid; may be coupled with "ratfink"
· Loser – (noun) amiable greeting designed to reinforce individual worth
· Dork – (noun) person of questionable normalcy with “unique” coolness
· Geek – (noun) very dorklike with an affinity for high technology and nerdiness
· Turd – (noun) reflective of a “base” nature, highlighted by acute idiocity
Sayings and characteristics I have called Definitively Dad are each things which I know I carry into my own behavior. “The Nat laugh” is something we hear a lot in the house, something we think we can each reproduce easily. Similar in that way is the Nat "animal recall" whistle which dad uses to let the dogs and cats know it’s time to come back. It’s very loud and I’m still trying to get good at it. Quotes from Nat that we thought up include:
· Who do you love, who do you love child?
· You're going to be sorry.
· Don't make me come over there.
· I'm gonna get you.
· You're gonna get it.
· You just wait.
· What are you punk kids doing?
· What do you mean by that?
· There's no feeling like getting that pull on your fishing line.
· If you touched it you should have caught it
· Ohhhhhhhh Duster Wuster, Ohhhhhhhhh Francie Wansie
· You kids don't know how good you got it.
Then all the Random Comments collected include jokes as well as quips from television shows and inside jokes from over the years.
· I once knew a guy that was allergic to Kleenex...
· Let's go ride bikes
· What does an umpire say?
· I know what you're typing cause of the sound of the keys.
· Saaarcasmmmm...
· I'm not your daddy, well, maybe I am...
· This is a wonderful dinner. Thank you Judy Lu
· "How interesting, and what language would that be?"
· What do you call a dog with no legs?
· Heard about the guy who breathed helium, had a heart attack, and no one helped him?
· "Are you gonna finish that joke?"
Maybe my favorites, however, Stories & Scares include all of the many fiction and nonfiction events which we could remember in a short amount of time. Little things like, “Look out, there's a giant rat in the shed...” and “be careful, I think I see something out there in the trees,” were always on the tip of my dad’s tongue and still are. They don’t even have to be suggested by anything factual whatsoever, in fact, I think sometimes his best motivation is just instilling true terror within easily terrorized children. Such were Travis, Leighanna and Elias and now as we have grown older, such are we still. My dad used to dress up in a black hairy gorilla mask and creep around to look into a window in the dark of night with dead eyes and gorilla gloves as hands. He would be very patient and laugh for as long as he waited after he finally got a hold of one of us, slowing walking into a bathroom and gazing out the window, or doing the dishes and looking up at the glass in front of us. I think the only reason he ever stopped was the simple fact that he lost the mask and gloves. There were stories he told to us each as children; one about a Pink Gorilla that was a freak of nature which escaped from the zoo. You, the listener, go looking for it of course and tremble as this mad man reels of a story sure to end in some kind of hideous disaster. The gorilla is coming near you, quickly, running faster and faster. It finally reaches you and screams out while grabbing you (adding to the effect, my father would usually apply a death grip to a nearby child’s knee) growling, "TAG YOU'RE IT!" There would be no mercy in that tale, as many others. There also would be no silence after the tale, between my father’s laughing and the children’s screaming. Jack Tales were some of his favorites, like Sopdoll. I am trying to learn them myself. He told stories about when he was a kid, like when on Halloween he ran into some real ghosts. Even real stories, like when he was my age and went on a road trip with friends and saw a ghost, a guy in the white t-shirt, during a pitch black night. He and his friends drove up and down the road but never found him. On that same trip, one of his buddies woke up from a slumber and looked out the window to a truck in the next lane, yelling without even thinking about it, “HEY, TEXAS SUCKS!” That night didn’t end well. In fact it ended with a car full of boys about to piss and shit their own pants and trying to outrun the truck for a half hour that seemed like an eternity. Sometimes the best stories are the ones that ride the line between fact and fiction, or the ones that were fact to begin with but then sounded better as they were “added to.” When I was a kid I somehow got the motivation to spread my own poop all over my clean white crib until the whole thing was unrecognizable. When I was older my dad and sister and I all built a go-kart together. Well, mostly my dad built it and I rode it, crashed it, complained a lot and then my sister rode it and complained too. I think my dad wanted to ride it pretty badly, but I bet now that it’s over, he probably enjoyed laughing at us a lot more. I tipped the thing over trying to turn around, spilled gasoline all over myself and then laid their sobbing and complaining until he walked some seventy feet down the street to get to me. Such is life I suppose. I think I’ve learned to not complain quite as much as I did then, like when I had to poop really bad and couldn’t make it home. My dad didn’t get mad at me, but he didn’t help me either. That was a trail of tears. Overall, the stories and scares are very positive memories. I still am working on memorizing The Final Quest, an epic poem about King Arthur about 10 minutes long, which my dad shared with my classes at school for years. And if my kids ever want to get a slip n’ slide, we’ll make one. All we ever needed was some plastic covering, some wire hangers, a baseball base to hit at the bottom, some soap and a hose. By god, that’s all my kids will need too.
Lastly, we included Movie Quotes and Songs which my dad liked best. From O Brother Where Art Thou "My hair...", “Isn't this place a geographical oddity, 2 weeks from everywhere.”, “R-U-N-N-O-F-T”. From Shrek, “Yeah, right before he burst into flames.” From Monty Python and the quest for the Holy Grail, “What is your name? What is your quest?”, "Some call me...Tim?", “Karl Bannog! Sharp, Pointy Teeth...”, “What are you doing in England? Mind your own business”, and “Your father was a hamster and your mother smelt of elderberries.” From Ghostbusters, “Cats and Dogs living together, mass hysteria” and “Did you tell him about the Twinkie?” From the Goonies, "But the worst thing I ever done - I mixed a pot of fake puke at home and then I went to this movie theater, hid the puke in my jacket, climbed up to the balcony and then, t-t-then, I made a noise like this: hua-hua-hua-huaaaaaaa - and then I dumped it over the side, all over the people in the audience. And then, this was horrible, all the people started getting sick and throwing up all over each other. I never felt so bad in my entire life." And lastly, from the Christmas Story, “Mr. Parker: He looks like a deranged Easter Bunny. Mother: He does not! Mr. Parker: He does too, he looks like a pink nightmare!”, “With as much dignity as he could muster, the Old Man gathered up the sad remains of his shattered Major Award. Later that night, alone in the backyard, he buried it next to the garage,” and “Ralphie: No! No! I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle! Santa Claus: You'll shoot your eye out, kid.” His own Songs, which I will end this memoir with, include ones known to us as Ice Cream Man, Standing On The Side of The Highway 4 Exit, Rocky Raccoon and Sweet Baby Jane. Whatever it was dad was the one to tell it, do it, sing it, joke it, define it, hold it or laugh at it. He is all of the things that he shared and they have become him to all of us.