Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Daddy Dozen

I've been going back and forth quite a bit on whether I should write this father's day post about Daddymatic or my very own father, Bee-bee's often-silent partner in the southern parental unit referred to as "mamandiddy." Since I figure most of you are probably thoroughly nauseated by my constant blabbing about what a perfect spouse and parent the big DM is, I figured it was time to introduce you to my Dad.

For much of my young life, my dad was indeed the silent member of the parenting partnership. I don't think this is because he wanted to be excluded, but more because my mother felt that kids were her domain and, like me, didn't want to be accused of fobbing her responsibilities off onto anyone else. So Dad was always there, always supportive, always crazy about his girls, but not really the one who was able to answer Important Queries like whether Mary Katherine could spend the night and why we always have to shop at K-Mart, where none of the cool kids would be caught dead. It wasn't until I was in 8th grade and met a girl who really, really loved her father (not in a gross way--ew!) and actually rhapsodized about how cool he was that I started to think, "Well, crap, my dad's WAY cooler than hers. Maybe I should look into this." And so my dad and I became friends. And now I want you to meet him. And just so I don't blather on all night, I'll only list twelve of the things I just adore about my Pops.

1) My dad's first date with my mom was a double-feature of Oedipus Rex and Finnegan's Wake. (While I'm at it, let me add that one of the things I love about my mother was that she agreed to go out with him AGAIN. ) Dad also is reported to have eyed her thigh-high boots and curdoroy mini-skirt and told her, "Uhhh--my mother warned me about girls like you." To her credit, my mother, a young widow not about to take any flak from some math nerd, no matter how cute, smiled and said, "Honey, your mother doesn't know any girls like me."

2) Dad's not a letter-writer. The first letter he ever wrote me was when I was living in Germany and casually mentioned on the phone with my parents that now that I was at the ripe old age of 14, it was probably time I started experiementing with smoking. Daddy wrote me a letter explaining his disappointment with my choice but of course added that he'd still love me even if I opted for tar-filled lungs and stinky hair and clothes. He's also not usually much of a talker: if my mother's within a 500-ft radius when I call, our conversation often consists of an exchange of pleasantries followed immediately by, "Here's your mother." But we have debated about lots and lots of things, and every time I'm amazed at how smart and thoughtful he is.

3) Food is often equated with love in our house, so it should be no surprise that Daddy has purchased Lucky Charms, gallons of Breyer's ice cream, and enough salty snacks to help a marathon runner recover whenever we go to visit. One time Dad traveled to Philly on business and brought back hoagies from his and my mother's favorite deli packed in his suitcase. I remember feeling that I should take note, as such acts of kindness seemed to be an important part of a healthy marriage.

4) You know those Laura Ingalls-type stories where people say "we didn't have a lot of money, but we had everything we needed?" Well, my early childhood was very much that, and my present-day, child-having self is proud of my parents' decision to eschew rampant materialism. My seven-year-old self was not as understanding, and thus I remember vividly that back in the days of sticker collecting, which I was into in a big way, my dad brought me back a liquid crystal sticker (remember when they were all the rage? anyone?) of a dolphin, and I thought he was the coolest guy ever for getting me something so cool and something my mother would not have labelled "necessary."

5) When I was 13, Dad took my sister and me to DisneyWorld. My mom stayed home because she had to work and because the cat was dying, and dad was in charge of herding us around Epcot. I was horrified when a band of "Renaissance" traveling actors accosted us and asked my dad to be in a skit. Not only did he agree to be in the skit, he wore a mophead as a wig and pranced around like a princess. Wait for it: he made everybody laugh!! MY dad.

6) My dad rode his bike to work every day for about a year a few years ago. This is amazing for a number of reasons, two of which are: one, my folks' town is notoriously bike-unfriendly, and he ended up having to ride on the sidewalk most of the time. Two, my dad's physique is not what most people think of as "streamlined." In fact, many people might compare him favorably with a box. But he kicks butt. Obviously.

7) My dad told me once that he didn't smoke, use drugs or drink, ever, even when he was serving in Vietnam. Like most children, I assumed he was lying to set an example of moral piety, so I asked him why the heck he wouldn't do it in 'Nam, for heaven's sake. I'll never forget his answer. He said "There were a lot of guys there who were really hooked on that stuff, and just in case any of them ever wanted to stop, I wanted them to know it was possible to survive there without it." I am not making this up.

8) Dad's a pathological fixer: As a young driver, I didn't realize what a huge chunk of my income would be eaten up by mechanic's bills because I was spoiled by a man with a garage full of tools. My first car was a 1977 Honda CVCC (the Civic prequel, if you will), and we fixed it up together, which is to say, he fixed it up, and I popped gum on the phone with my friends. He also re-caulked our bathroom in while I was in the hospital after D was born, because he was bored. He's also quite the woodworker: he made me a beautiful toy chest that is still in use by Mister D himself, and a dollhouse and two canopied doll beds that I am trying to find an excuse to move back into my home.

9) Until I was in high school, the only music my parents had that was ostensibly my dad's contribution were all of Ray Charles's albums and some by the Kingston Trio. Now, he evidently listens to the Bee-Gees and still to this day calls my mother Mamma-jamma, as in "She's a bad...." *sigh* Parents these days.

10) When I was little, Dad would watch Bugs Bunny with my sister and me and his favorites were always the Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons. He would laugh so hard tears would run down his face, and I remember wanting more than anything to understand why it was so funny. We still watch TV together sometimes. During high season, we are like teenaged girls, calling each other after episodes of the Gilmore Girls and the new-defunct West Wing and Joan of Arcadia.

11) My dad is the undisputed King of the Non-sequitur. He's probably not actually worse than anyone else in our family, but when I was an angsty pre-teen (as opposed to an angsty thirtysomething), I was in the middle of a Long and Very Important Story about my love life, and my dad looked up and said, "Did you know they grow a lot of cabbage in Korea?" There was a moment of silence, and then he started to explain about the importance of kimchee in Korean culture, and my mother, sister and I all looked at each other and cracked up. "Cabbage in Korea" is now family slang for all random conversational tidbits.

12) D's first name is also my dad's (and his dad's) middle name. Of course, when I told him we were naming D after him, he said "Huh. I always wished my middle name was something else." Um, okay. But he was the only person to know immediately that A. Daddymatic was The One (I think he knew even before I was sure) and B. That D was a boy. So he's forgiven.

So what can I say? In addition to helping finance my first two years as a stay-at-home mom, my dad has been my cheerleader and support system for so long that I can't imagine ever having to be without him. And I can't wait until D feels the same way.