Dads, you know?
Poor dads. Us kids ruined their lives.
Every dad reading this knows that’s true. Before we entered your lives you were
cool. Then we arrived. As infants we puked all over your shirts, as grade-schoolers we destroyed your social lives with our incessant “needs,” and a few short years later as teenagers we crashed your car, because we’re idiots.
We understand this now.
So Happy Father’s Day! On behalf of all children everywhere (which is every single person in the entire universe whom I feel qualified to answer for): We’re sorry we were idiots!
My wife’s side of the family is still funnier than mine, but fuck them. They got top billing on Mother’s Day and until they get their own blog my side of the family is going first this time.
My dad worked three jobs for many of my formative years and, holy shit, that’s a lot of jobs. There was a job before the real job (delivering newspapers), followed by the real job (sales), and then an after-hours job (sales again). I believe he slept for like only 15 minutes each night when I was between the ages of 3 and 13.
And there I was, being all kid-like and shit, thanking him for his sacrifices by drinking his beer when I was 16, mouthing off because I knew it all and yes, crashing his car. I did these things because I was an idiot.
You’re welcome, Dad. With any luck I’ll find a 2-year-old guzzling coffee on my doorstep as payback.
What I remember about the time he was working three jobs though is this –between the real daytime job in sales and the after-hours job, Dad came home for dinner and then, still dressed in his business suit and tie, played soccer with me in the backyard.
As an adult I realize what that means. He likely had only enough “free” time between Job 2 and Job 3 to scarf down a bit of dinner and hit up a few luke-warm leads to whatever shitty thing he was selling, before crashing, exhausted, into bed, only to rise at zero-dark-zero the next morning and live the nightmare again. And he did all of this so my brother and I could have the latest Bionic Man action figure with telescoping eye sight or whatever sparkling new Big-Wheel Chad was eyeballing that week.
My dad — up at 4 a.m. and comatose at 10 p.m. — still found time to play soccer with his snot-nosed 10-year-old brat. That’s love, no matter how you cut it.
Dad, I’m not the man you are. I’m not sure I could do that. Frankly, I haven’t met another man who matches up to your caliber. I mean that.
There’s one last thing I have to say because it vibrates in my head to this day — I don’t know if you and Mom were hippies and during a bong-smoking session under a black-lit Jimmy Hendrix poster, you came to the realization that racism is bullshit.
But I recall one time, when Chad was about 5 and I was about 10 and the three of us were riding in the car. Chad, in his tiny preschool voice, made some remark about not liking black people. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, Chad’s lot in life at the time was as an idiot. All kids are idiots.
Following the revelation, Dad, in all his brilliance, didn’t miss a beat.
“You didn’t get that from your mom or me. We don’t think it matters what color your skin is,” he said nonchalantly.
Then he steered the car left onto Indian School Road and the conversation was over.
That one moment in time made a huge impact on my life. To this day I still subscribe to my dad’s value system in that regard and all others.
Being able to grow up under the tutelage of such a decent, loving, hardworking man, has a value beyond measure.
You know what else I got from my dad? My sense of humor. One time at the start of a camping trip, we were unloading the car and Mom put a cake she baked on the bench of a picnic table. Then someone (likely a retarded boy) placed a blanket on top of it. Dad promptly sat on that cushy looking spot, and found it was a lot softer than he’d anticipated. For the duration of the camping trip, the cake was referred to as, “Dad’s butt cake,” as in, “Would you like some of Dad’s butt cake?”
Butt cake is still funny to us.
Now, dear reader, you’re about to dive into the deep end of my wife’s side of the family and the crazy there descends to bends-inducing depths.
Dagmar’s first story is sickeningly full of sweetness covered in a layer honey and then dunked into the kind of sweetness that leaves you going, “awwwwwwww,” long after the story is over.
For those of you who don’t know, the military’s opinion of families used to boil down to — “Fuck ’em.” Literally. If the Army (insert your service here) wanted you to have a family they would have issued you one. They just didn’t give a shit about your wife (the military was pretty dude-centric back then) or your kids, and if your kids had special needs, well double fuck them then.
In the military’s eyes no one told you to get married, no one told you to have kids and if your kid’s have special needs well, that’s your fucking problem, not theirs.
The tides are very different from today’s but really, that was the idea back then.
Dagmar’s father was a staff sergeant, or sergeant, or staff sergeant again or … well rank wasn’t really important back then. You could go up or down in rank back then and that shit was OK. Point is he was a junior NCO in the Army when his wife gave birth to a special needs child.
Dagmar’s sister Sherry couldn’t walk and, as it turns out, was mentally disabled as well. She had one thing going for her though, she was a cute kid. Being cute helped the situation because, as I said, the Army couldn’t give a shit about her or her needs. At the time Dagmar’s dad was friends with the Shriners who, besides driving clown cars in various parades across our nation, happen to give a shit about cute kids and their special needs.
Long story shortened, the Shriners raised money and her sister was flown to Houston where doctors did their best to repair her legs. It worked because she did walk for a time. After the surgery, Dagmar’s Dad had to drive Sherry home in the back of his station wagon because for the next few months she was in a cast from the waist down.
Dagmar, being the oldest, road with her dad to help out. During this trip, a then-10-year-old Dagmar discovered several things: Truck stop apple butter was great, Houston was big and two kids with special needs on an extended car ride was a giant pain in the ass…
See, not only was Dagmar’s dad taking care of his own baby, he’d volunteered to give another little girl a ride home who, it turns out, got really, really, really car sick. Between a daughter who was completely helpless and another child who vomited constantly, Dagmar’s dad, a grizzled veteran who saw combat in Vietnam, mothered them both all the way back home to El Paso.
Dagmar and her other sister Sheila related another story to me that I found rather amusing and perhaps a bit telling.
Dagmar and Sheila as children were playing in the backyard when they discovered a mouse trapped in a bucket. To Dagmar, 10, and Sheila, 8, this was deemed a monumental discovery. At that age I’m sure it ranked right up there with the cure for cancer and free boy-band concert tickets, because, holy shit, there’s a mouse in this bucket! The girls decided that the prudent thing to do with this discovery was to present it to Dad. In their grade-school minds it made perfect sense. Dad not only needs to know about this, but he has to see this shit!
Unfortunately, dad was drunk and not at all impressed with the mouse in a bucket. In fact he was pissed that NOW there was a mouse in a bucket inside his house. And displaying a drunken bit of logic (which I can completely understand) he decided that the best course of action was to fling the bucket and its contents against the wall. This, I can only imagine, led to the girls bawling like, well, little girls.
In the morning, a sobered dad regretted his violent bucket-smashing decision and set out to make things right for his girls. In an effort to atone for yesterday’s misfortunes Dad went out and bought his girls bunny rabbits, one for each of them.
If all the cartoons I watched as a kid are at all accurate, bunnies like to make sweet, sweet love.
And that’s how, in a just a few short months, the story of the mouse in the bucket morphed into a collection of hutches in the backyard containing dozens and dozens of rabbits. Dad ran a bit of a side business for a few years selling bunnies.
No word on what happened to the mouse.
Finally Dagmar’s brother, who was previously introduced here, came up with a handy Top-10 List of things he learned from his father. So here’s Ray. (Note how bunnies kick off the list.)
Here’s a narrowed down list of 10 things my Dad taught me. No particular ranking, just etched in my memory. Political correctness does not apply since the term did not exist when I was growing up. Disciplining your child was not considered abuse, and the only treatment war veteran’s with PTSD usually received was self-medication from a bottle of booze.
1. Bunny rabbits are pets for some people, but for most of the world they are food. Don’t make friends with them because they may be dinner one day. They’re also good for making rabbit-foot key chains.
2. Why give a shit if your kid uses foul language? Pops always said “They gonna learn every fuckin’ bad word there is anyway.” When the hell did parents become the profanity cops?
3. Flush the toilet after you take a shit. Anyone that can’t remember should be required to write “I will flush after using the toilet” 100 times (My Dad made me do this even though I wasn’t the culprit).
4. Follow proper etiquette when fishing. Casting a line and tangling the lines of everybody on the boat is grounds to be kicked-off the boat. A lesson I learned the hard way when my dad took me fishing in Mexico with his buddies when I was 5 years old. I knew I screwed up as soon as I released my line, but all I could do is watch in what seemed like slow motion it crossed over the lines of my dad and his buddies. Pops brought me back to shore and just said, “Get off,” and told Albert, “You watch him or it’s your ass.” Me and Al spent the remainder of the trip at La Boquilla running wild and getting into mischief.
5. Don’t waste money of cheap tools made in China, and especially don’t ever make them a Father’s Day gift unless you want your feelings hurt when they are tossed aside and called “cheap crap”.
6. After shooting three or four rounds, ear plugs won’t make a difference even if you had a pair. The ringing will go away in a couple days.
7. Your bed is a good place to put all the dirty dishes if you don’t wash them when you were told to wash them.
8. If you stay up late drinking, you better be ready to work early. Found this out early in life when I was underage drinking, got wasted and the cops brought me home. Pops woke me up at 6:00 A.M. and made me ride my bike to the store to get him some soda water for his Vodka.
9. Don’t half ass anything you do. Either do it right the first time or you will have the pleasure of doing it again until it is done right.
10. I could easily add ten more things, but probably the most prophetic thing my Dad told me was, “The saying that Men don’t cry is bullshit, you ain’t a man unless you can cry”.
Happy Father’s Day!