As Father’s Day approaches, and the three-year anniversary of my father’s death, I’m thinking about my dad more than usual. Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see his broad shoulders, muscular legs and thinning hair.
The physical resemblance aside, I find myself thinking his thoughts, repeating some of his keen (and not always popular or kind) observations—about man- and womankind, politicians, kids, the weather, high prices, incompetence, opera, lousy drivers, funny-looking people, hot food that arrives cold ….
Well, you get my drift.
Pronouncements that used to seem outrageous and exaggerated are making sense. (More and more sense all the time.) Uh-oh.
Several years ago he arrived from Arizona for a visit. We’d barely removed his bags from the carousel when I saw him eyeing a huge woman. She was dressed in a Spandex number with horizontal stripes. I knew what to expect. He looked at me, rolled his eyes and tsked. I smiled. Nothing wrong with his eyesight, I mused. Her hips could have supported the refectory table at Hearst Castle.
Dad shook his head and, in a raspy voice loud enough for Marlee Matlin to hear, said: “Don’t people ever look in the mirror. What could she have been thinking when she got dressed this morning?” I watched his face turn crimson. His breathing became labored. “It’s so disgusting, I could just spit on her. ” Always his best audience, I cracked up while leading him from the terminal.
Now, I’m not endorsing his view of obese women. (He was a bit more generous regarding men, but not much.) While I hate to admit it, I have had similar thoughts when I see someone 100 or more pounds overweight clutching a Big Mac in each fist, or licking a triple-scoop cone. Or ordering an extra-large Slurpee.
You may think my dad was an unkind person. Irreverent and curmudgeonly, yes; mean, no. He just called ‘em like he saw them. And let the devil take the hindmost.
Among the many things I recall on this annual fête to fathers—
He taught me to fish with bologna because he was too squeamish to bait a hook with anything else.
At a time when I lived on PB&J, he introduced me to kippered salmon which I love to this day.
He once tossed a clogged salt shaker onto the garage roof to drive home the message that it did not work.
He taught me important life lessons: “Take responsibility for your actions.” “Don’t say what you can’t take back.” And, my favorite: “Always use the right pan.”
He took me to the Mayflower Doughnut shop on Sunday morning, when I could barely see over the counter, and made me memorize the inscription on the wall: As you ramble on through life, brother/Whatever be your goal/Keep your eye upon the donut/And not upon the hole.
For those experiences, for passing on his love of food and of nature and appreciating the little things, and for making me laugh—usually at another’s expense—I am eternally grateful.
Tell your dad that you care. Now.
Happy Father’s Day!