Thanks Dad

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
A memory of how special my Dad was and the little things I stumbled upon to to prove it.

Submitted: August 03, 2012

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Submitted: August 03, 2012

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I didn’t know my father very well at all which is something I deeply regret. There were things about him everyone knew, such as, he was always ready with a joke. It wasn’t the joke you enjoyed but more the way he told it. He was very animated and extremely funny.I knew he wasn’t shy. He would sashay up to anyone and strike up a conversation. I also know he loved my mother very much and he enjoyed spending time with her more than anyone else. But, it was the little gentle moments I saw from him which truly won my heart.  He socialized and had friends but if given the choice I think he would much rather has stayed at home to watch a game on TV. Weekends were usually spent with my mother. They had a small group of friends they would meet with to play cards. He would take my mother on a marathon of grocery shopping trips which often took up his Saturdays... She insisted on going to all the shops promising the best specials or which paid out on double coupons. During the week he would come home from work , eat dinner with us, then retire to his bedroom to watch any sports channel he could get from his nine inch black and white TV. The first true glimpse I got of him was when I was seventeen and I needed to borrow his car. I was scheduled to get my license. Finally, I would be able to drive without restrictions. He couldn’t miss work so a buddy offered to go with menthe DMV required me to have a licensed driver and my own transportation for the test. I was really excited. My schedule was tight but I had a plan. If I dropped my dad off at his co- worker Bahney’s house by eight.  That would get him to work. Then I could to swing by my buddy’s place pick him up and arrive just in time for my appointment.  The weather had me a little concerned. So did borrowing dad’s car. He owned so very little. The only thing he could claim as his own  was the car. It was, as were any of his clunkers, old and unreliable... Bald tires with a flat spare in the trunk, or a dead battery needing a boost from a neighbor’s jumping cables... It was always something. It seemed daily he would be cranking that engine over and over again, when it finally started he would quickly pop it in gear and gun it. As if he was tricking it into running. Like the owl that doesn’t know he shouldn’t be able to fly, my father tricked that car into moving. My asking for it was a big deal. I hated to ask but I needed it.  It was mid-February in New England. It was cold and wet. One of those winter storms when rain and snow fell at the same time. It was as if the snow was falling sideways to keep from being hit by the heavy raindrops. My dad was dressed in his usual winter attire. It always puzzled me why this man never caught pneumonia. A New England blizzard and he leaves the house in a sweater. Not even a smart looking turtle neck, but, some ungodly looking winter wonderland design and nearly two sizes too small for him. Stretched to the limit it barely covered his sizable pot belly. To add insult to injury a frayed tee shirt joined the party as it peered out from under it all. The under shirt could also go up a size. .He pushed his feet into a pair of black snow boots, the kind that had metal clasps which he never buckled. To complete the ensemble was a small knit cap just perched upon the top of his head. Barely big enough to cover his bald spot and flattened slightly with the weight of an oversized pom pom.

 I am sure my mother knitted it for him. She loved to knit. She used to sit for hours with huge knitting needles. In a smooth steady motion she would draw one needle down while pushing the other one up. I watched intently as the yarn danced on her index finger. With a boost from her finger the wool rose up only to be pulled back down again by the other needle. I was amazed at how mindless a task this seemed. She didn’t even have to look at it and only stopped to yank more yarn from the bag at her feet. Before the first drop of snow, we were all fitted for our winter gloves. There they were. Five pair, all different colors, all the same size. Have you ever tried to make snowballs with knit gloves? Impossible and cold...

I waited patiently, behind the driver’s seat of the old Belair as his boots jingled their way to the car. He reached for the door then retreated. He walked to the front of the car, cleared the dusting of snow from the windshield with his sleeve then climbed inside. As we headed out he gave me a list of specific instructions on what not to do with the car. Of course I anticipated the standard lecture. No speeding, no picking up strangers, fill the tank. But what I got was, don’t use the high beams, don’t move the mirrors, and don’t change the radio stations. I understood the radio rule, because I know he didn’t know how to reset it, but the other requests were anyone’s guess. We no sooner merged onto route 128 when he told me to pull off onto the shoulder. What are you doing? I asked. I’m going to wait here for my friend, Barney, he said with his thick Boston accent. You hurry and go before the roads get too bad. I’ll be alright he said reassuringly. I was concerned about the roads. My driving test would free me from restricted driving and give me the freedom all teenagers live for. Reluctantly, I did as he asked.  I stretched my neck a bit so as not to move the mirror just in time to see his image fade quickly through the drifting snow. I was ten minutes into the ride home when I saw on the bench seat beside me his little knitted cap. He will catch pneumonia I thought as I pulled onto an exit and turned the car around. I pulled back onto the shoulder where I left him, my tracks nearly covered now by the continuing snow, but he was gone. He’s all, Bahney’s, now I thought to myself.  I pulled back onto the highway and got about a mile down the road when I saw a man, walking, on the highway. He was walking backwards, one hand tucked deep under his arm pit, the other stretched toward the road with his thumb extended. I quickly pulled the car over and sat there, overcome with emotion. He climbed in and didn’t say a word .He didn’t have to. It must have been ten minutes before either one of us was brave enough to speak. I was seventeen, for god sake. My mind raced. I was trying to recall every time in my past when I couldn’t account for my father’s whereabouts.  How many other sacrifices has he made for me? I wanted so badly to hug him.  To let him know how much I loved him. Teenage boys don’t hug their fathers. They don’t tell their father’s they love them. They shake hands and pat each other on the back.  But now all that has changed. I will never look at my father the same way again, at that moment he took me from being a child looking at his Dad to being a man looking at his father. How do you thank someone for that? I know at that very moment I loved my father more than I have ever loved anyone . It was good.

I think my brothers would agree with me when I say the girls in my family were odd .I’m not  sure if it is a little boys don’t like girls thing, or if in fact they were weird. My sister, Jean, had a special relationship with my dad. She was five years older than me so I just chalked her foolishness up to female adolescence. A school day morning in our house was like being at a Frazier, Ali boxing ring. . In this corner, the three stooges blared from the console TV, and in this corner, my sister, Edi, was screaming at anyone who dared to sit in the only comfortable chair we owned? Round two, my brother yelling hurry up out of the bathroom. It’s a wonder any of us got out of the house at all. The three blind mice refrain signaled the end of the three stooges. That sounded the official sound of the amazing race.  Edi relinquishes her control of the rocker and like a game of musical chairs, Billy and I jockey for it. We both know we won’t see an empty bathroom for a good fifteen minutes and this was the prime location to finish a bowl of Rice Krispies. My dad dawns his signature knit cap and heads for the door. As if she has a sixth sense, Jean screams for him to wait. Let’s go, Ginny,( a nickname only he used) I’m going to be late, he screamed into the air. This portion of the show came complete with song and dance.  He would open the door then close it again pretending to head out for work. Stumbling down the stairs, in mid dress, Jean would sing wait, knowing he would still be there. She wrapped her arms around his legs and pulls him close. She acted like she’d never see him again. He peeled her away reassuring her he would be back soon. I’ll see you when I get home, he repeated over and over again. She surrendered and allowed him to go. It’s in these next few minutes that truly puzzled me. She would stand at the door, one half of her hair teased to the heavens the other side flat and untouched .From well inside the house I could feel the winter’s cold air sweeping through the room. I watched in wonder as I tried to understand what in god’s name she was doing. I hated to forfeit my chair but my curiosity got the best of me. I peered over her shoulder trying to get a peek at what she was looking at. There was nothing, absolutely nothing out there. He was long gone and she stood there, as my mother would say, heating the whole outdoors. This had gone on for weeks. I snatched every opportunity to spy on her to see what she was doing. I concluded she was just strange. In the mad dash to get dressed and out, I charged up stairs to my bedroom. Wait a minute, hollered, Edi from the top of the stairs. Edi had a habit of changing clothes in a very tiny common area between the two upstairs bedrooms. Now I find myself sitting on the stairs waiting for her highness to finish dressing in the hall while the cold outside air sweeps through my pajamas from the open front door. What’s wrong with these people I thought? The cookoo clock sounds the eight o’clock hour and I concurred. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Finally, Jean slams the door shut and races past me up the stairs. I learned long ago this didn’t necessarily mean the coast was clear. With the ears of a wild dog and often the temperament of one she could hear the creak of the lightest step. By now the line had grown. Like the three stooges, me, Billy, and now W.J. stood waiting for permission to pass... The wait was short when W.J. arrived. Edi was stripped of her powers when W.J. yelled “enough, we’re coming up. A scream a few curse words and then the slam of a bedroom door usually followed.

I was upstairs in my room one day when I heard the show begin. Wait, Jeanette yelled from above then raced her way downstairs to the front door. I peered out my bedroom window which was just above the front door. My dad gave a quick wipe on the windshield with his sleeve then jumped into the Belair. Off he drove. I listened intently for the front door to close but heard nothing. I looked again out the bedroom window and then I saw it. Across the street, through a break in the row of townhomes, clear through to Oakland Street.  A car, a Belair, for a few short seconds and only visible from this angle slowly came into view. The driver’s side window was down and protruding from it a tacky winter wonderland arm waving as if he were the Grand Marshall. The front door slammed shut. Jean danced upstairs with a contented smile on her face and hopefully heading for a brush to that hair. Mystery solved.


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