Today is my father’s 68th birthday. Here are just some things that make him “him” and, by default, some of the things that make me “me”.
After giving unsolicited advice or pointing out the obvious, he likes to say, “I’m just saying. That’s all.”, which, in and of itself, should be pretty obvious to even the casual listener.
He once got a ticket on the highway for going too slow. He was 40 at the time. He holds fast to the maxim that “A car is a weapon.”
Cliff Huxtable may have made wearing college and university sweathsirts famous, but my father’s fondness for this particular apparel item predates “The Cosby Show”. He never went to a college or a university himself, all but one of his children are college graduates. The one who isn’t got her high school diploma at the age of 37; I never saw him happier or more proud.
Any one of his children can order for him in a restaurant. He always gets the same thing.
He has a penchant for giving “foul weather gear” as gifts. He believes in preparedness.
He makes lists. Constantly. They are all over the house, the fridge, the car. He doesn’t cotton to Post-Its. He’s like a modern-day William Carlos Williams.
He’s funny, but not deliberately so.
He loves baby powder. He uses it every day, but seldom wipes it from the bathroom floor. The path from the bathroom to the bedroom looks like something from an old-time detective movie. He smells good.
He clicks his middle nail and his thumbnail together when he’s anxious. He does a lot of clicking.
He will laugh heartily at the dumbest joke told to him by anyone under the age of 5, after that it better be well-crafted.
He used to collect coats and give them out to homeless people. When I started driving he made me his co-conspirator in this activity. He rode shotgun because it was easier for him to jump out of the car; he knew where they were hiding. I suspect he gave them food and money, too. They knew the car. They trusted him. He swore me to secrecy. He thought my mother didn’t know what he was up to. She did. He taught me compassion.
He’s often on to the next thing before he finishes the task at hand. He has a restless mind, probably undiagnosed ADHD.
He’s religious. I am not. He respects that.
He never quite mastered the VCR, but he spent hours making paper dolls for his daughters.
He has the gnarliest toenails in the world. He wears sandals anyway.
My mother has never brought the groceries in from the car. Ever. Even when his foot was broken that snowy Winter.
He inadvertently reveals surprises. He doesn’t understand subterfuge.
He if often annoyed, but seldom angry.
No matter how many field hockey games he has been forced to endure (both mine and my daughter’s) he will never understand the game. He still cheers like he knows what he’s talking about.
He has never gotten over the death of his son. It was over forty years ago. I can respect that.
He enjoys reading the paper aloud. My mother enjoys reading the paper silently. That always made for fun mornings.
He loves all of the British detective series’ on PBS. So do I. We often discuss the characters as if they are real people with whom we are on a first-name basis (the recent discovery of Inspector Morse’s first name thrilled him no end. “Endeavor. Hmm. I never would have guessed that!”). This name-dropping is often confusing to others.
He hates to talk on the phone. He thinks texting and email are the greatest inventions since the wheel. He embraced these new technologies immediately and with uncharacteristic gusto.
He slips me $20s with the proviso that I will only spend them on myself. Fat chance, Dad.
He once taught a gang of gangly misfits and rejects to play softball. Everybody played equally, even the girl who was blind in one eye. We lost every game that year. We won the championship the next year. He taught us the importance of fundamentals, fairness, and perseverence. He learned how easy it is to influence preadolescent girls with the promise of hair ribbons.
When my youngest sister was little she took to calling him her “soft and sweet” Daddy. That about sums him up.