On Fathers Day, it's only fitting to reflect back once again on times past and memorable times spent with my father.
One story that's never going to leave the annals of our family stemmed from a time many, many years ago when my father worked for a newspaper and was tasked with delivering bundles of papers to various racks and customers. I was very young at that time and considered it a great treat whenever he'd taken me along on these "adventures"
Well that night, as I rode with him, I'd taken to toying with a needle-nose pliers in his car. Now normally this would have been a non-issue, but for some reason, at one point during the night, he saw fit to bend over while opening a new bundle of papers and in doing so, he presented an irresistible target for a few seconds. I reached out and nipped him in the butt with the pliers.
Now it was at this moment that I learned two things about my father. I learned that he could jump about three feet off the ground, and I learned that he actually knew curse-words...a lot of curse-words.
We didn't talk much for the rest of the night, and rumor has it that there was a considerable bruise the next morning. And to this day, I cannot look at a pair of needle-nose pliers without remembering that incident.
He didn't hit me that night though. For some reason he never laid a hand on me. That wasn't always the case though when I'd earned it, and I can remember one of the best ones I ever got took place when we were on our way to Florida on a family vacation, pulling a trailer cross-country behind our big old Mercury station wagon. Naturally, my sister and I took to squabbling and fighting in the back of the station wagon, where we were out of reach of my father up front. Periodically, he'd shout back and warn us that he was about to stop the car and give us what for, but we kids knew when he was bluffing even back then. On this day though, we actually went beyond the limits of his tolerance and all of a sudden we felt the car decelerate as he pulled over onto the shoulder of I-75.
Aw, damn. As he got out of the car and slammed the door, on his way to the back of the station wagon, we knew that there was nothing on earth that was going to prevent the application of his hand to our behinds. Nothing except...
Irrationally figuring that a spanking delayed was somehow better than one administered without additional provocation, I dove over the seats and hit the power door locks just as his hand yanked on the door handle. Now we were safe for the moment and he was locked out on the side of the interstate. Of course it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that when he did get in--and he inevitably would--that it was going to be worse...a lot worse. So when he yelled "Open that door RIGHT NOW!", I obeyed, but then my desire for self-preservation kicked in and I immediately re-locked it when he grabbed the door handle.
"OPEN THAT DOOR!"
I again unlocked it, but then panicked and re-locked it again as he shook the handle and raged. This was bad, real bad, but I couldn't think to do anything smarter to get out of this situation.
It definitely didn't help matters that our mother was sitting in the front seat, laughing.
Now I wish that I could say that eventually we negotiated a truce by which he was allowed back in the car in exchange for not killing me, but it didn't work like that. I kept unlocking the door, then re-locking it as he grabbed the handle, until eventually I mis-timed it or perhaps my mother hit the "unlock" button on her side and overrode me. He got the door open and the ass-blistering commenced in earnest.
But I can't say that I hadn't earned it with honors by that time.
The other really good one came when we'd pulled into a rural gas station in Deliverance, Georgia or some such hick town. The Mercury was overheating or otherwise acting up, and my father did what all guys did back then when cars weren't working right--he got out, opened the hood, and began peering at an engine that he understood about as well as a monkey understands algebra. And as he bent over to study the engine, for some reason I leaned over the seat and hit the horn.
Of course he jumped and smacked his head resoundingly on the inside of the hood. And while this was bad enough, what really put the frosting on the cake was when the bunch of local inbreds who'd been sitting on the gas station porch watching all broke out laughing.
To this day, my butt twinges when I think about what happened next.
But my memories of my father aren't limited to times when I earned and got ass-whuppings. I remember him taking me out of school one day on my birthday to go downtown Detroit to Tiger Stadium to watch Mark Fydrich pitch a game. I remember that the Tigers lost that day, but I didn't care. The treat was spending the day with him, and actually being taken out of school to go to a ball game--something that was unheard of back then.
I remember him teaching me how to drive, and how I repayed him by using his Buick Skylark to knock half a wall off of a new addition we'd just put on the house, bringing his three-week old Dodge Aries home minus a front fender, and drowning his Pontiac Bonneville in a pond that lie at the end of a dirt road that I'd never been down before and which I'd decided to explore at a rate of speed that was much too high.
And that was just all in the first year. But he was amazingly tolerant of those stupid stunts. It was only later that the reason was suggested by my grandmother--his mother--when she enlightened me as to some of the things that he'd done to his father's car when he was my age.
And if what goes around does come around, no son of mine will ever learn to drive until he's thirty or so and buys his own car.
I remember my father showing up in the hospital the night that I lost my leg a few years ago, too, even though he lived five hundred miles away. He stayed for a week, his own job put aside, and then he returned for a few more weeks after I was out of the hospital, just to stay and help me adjust and get by. I really needed him then and I won't forget how much he helped me get through those days, even when all we really did was play cribbage, drink beer and talk. That was enough.
He was always strong in his Christian faith when I was young, and he still is today. He was always a role model for me in that regard, and these days, both he and I share a strong faith, with part of mine being attributable to his example and discussions that we had when mine wasn't so strong.
My dad was and still is a hell of a good guy and a good father, a Ward Cleaver kind of dad with more than a few Homer Simpson moments. He's not perfect, but then he never had to be. It's enough that he's just himself.
Happy Fathers' Day, Dad.
And for more, re-visit my previous Fathers Day post here.