20. my Dad
On today, my father’s 60th birthday, I want to write about why I am thankful for him. As a person, as an artist, as a father.
First, he is just plain awesome. It may take a bit for you to realize this when you first meet him, he has no social filter when it comes to conversation (just another reason he is awesome), but once you are his friend and in his circle, that’s it. You’re in.
Unless you cause someone in the family harm, in any sense. Then you’re out. And that is another reason he is awesome. To him family is everything. He will move the earth for his family. He will give up almost everything (and has) for his family.
Let’s go back to that lack of filter. It can be incredibly embarrassing (like when he met my future husband, a fairly serious catholic, for the first time and decided to relate a dream he had in which he systematically eliminated right-wing Christians in gruesome ways. Pete isn’t a right-wing Christian by any means, but it rattled him and it took awhile for him to warm to Dad after that.) but it can also be hilarious and right on (like when he made a joke about ‘gestapo hostess’’ new husband during a rehearsal dinner that she didn’t catch). Sometimes I envy this quality in my father. I don’t always envy what comes out of his mouth, but I envy his ability to just let it fly as soon as it comes into his head.
Second, he is brilliant. You wouldn’t know it to look at his working class, hard labour, slightly grizzled and dishevelled appearance (then again, maybe you would), but he is a quiet genius in writing social commentary in a very witty and entertaining and subtle ways. He does this through scripts, screenplays and characters created for circus, theatre and radio. But he also has the ability to write about the joys and magic of childhood in a very innocent and sweet way.
I wish he would do this more often, but the arts didn’t pay the bills and it got too hard to raise a family (mom and I can be a handful) and produce scripts and shows on the side. Perhaps now, as familial responsibilities lessen, he can go back to his filter-less creativity.
Third, he is resourceful. I once wrote a story about a family that built an entire house out of stuff the dad found on the side of the road. This was completely inspired by my father and his habit of bringing home road detritus that might be useful in a set or around the house. I distinctly remember a toilet sitting in our car port for over a year before it found itself in a set. This wasn’t just dumpster diving, these were goods that had literally fallen off trucks. He has tamed it down a bit, but he does have an array of bungee cords collecting on the framework of his work truck. To be fair, he used every single thing he brought home.
Fourth, he is thoughtful when it counts. He can verbally battle and throw insults with the best of them but when it counts, he is incredible thoughtful and feels very deeply. He lives in his head and his heart but hides it well.
Fifth, he is fun. My parents were fun parents. They were my primary playmates and dad is always up for some fun. Witness father’s day this past summer. Pete’s family was in town the week before the wedding. He created a regulation baseball field in the field behind our house complete with bases and foul lines and gathered bats and mitts from around the neighbourhood in order to give Pete’s family the opportunity to experience the great American past-time of baseball. He didn’t stop there. He got on the internet (very rare and usually painful for him) and ordered a cricket set as well so that he could try it out with someone that actually played.
And finally Sixth, he’s my dad. That is enough in itself. Being the kid I was, I robbed him of a few key father-teen daughter moments that he had been patiently ready for but that never happened. He never had to chase away a bad boyfriend or rescue me from a party gone wrong (although I think they might have picked me up from some sleepovers when I got too scared). He did get to buy me my first car, an 84 blue chevette, and I’m pretty sure he drove from some distant corner of Ohio at top speed when it was totalled and I was in the hospital with a concussion and unable to walk. He cheered me on through my entire ill-fated softball career, slowly dying each time I missed the ball (frequently). He dressed in full wet-weather gear to watch me march in the band every Friday night and slowly died each time the Cardinals dropped the ball (frequently). He moved me into and home from university for four years, into at least three apartments in three states and home again between at least two of those. He even drove a futon to a friend’s house 120 miles away.
Then there are the things that just we share. We have political discussions, we both love Black Adder, we discuss books and movies, and then there was the moment that just we two shared. The few moments before and during our walk down the aisle last June. That was just for us and the moment he put my hand in Pete’s and shook Pete’s hand with joy, was second only to our vows as my favourite parts of the day.
Dad, on your 60th birthday, I love you and am ever thankful for you.