June 28, 2008

My Dad


My dad, Tom, is one of the funniest men I know, not counting my sons, John and Adam.

Dad's sayings started off pretty low key when I was really young.  I am the oldest of three, but whenever he was asked how many kids he had, Dad would always answer, "4! There's Toni, Michael, Sherree and Nahme!"

He shared with every one what a scamp his fourth child was. "Every time I ask the kids who was responsible for mischief around the house the answer is always,"Nah ME!" When I see that child, he is going to be in a heap of trouble!"

There were all the usual sayings, "Because I'm the Dad, that's why!" and "If Bobby jumped off a bridge would you jump to?" "Don't make me come in there!" but he had some pretty original stuff too. You've heard the expressions, "You can take a horse to water but you can't make him drink" and "Buy them books and buy them books and all they do is read the covers"?  Well, Dad has his own twist to them.

He can often be heard exclaiming, "You can take a horse to water but all he does is chew the covers."  or
"Buy them books and buy them books but all they do is drink the water!"  or "You can lead a horse to water but all he does is read the books." And variations there of!

When I was 14, Dad and Mom purchased a brand new station wagon, beautiful light blue, dark blue two-tone. When our shiny blue car was about 6 weeks old, we decided to pack it up for an excursion to Mexico.  My mom, sister and I took a quick trip to the mall to pick up a couple of last-minute items.

While driving through the parking lot, a woman  in a big car ran a stop sign when she turned to her back seat to tell her two little boys to stop fighting. We were right in front of her when she turned forward. Slamming on her brakes she punched the accelerator instead and slammed into our front passenger door, where I was sitting, then in slow motion her car and our car started a slide sideways. She turned around to see if her boys were okay, turned back around and saw that she was going to hit us again! She tried to hit her brakes and (again) hit the accelerator.  Her car slammed into our rear passenger door where my sister was sitting.  Our brand new station wagon had a crushed in front door and a crushed in back door.

After the whole ordeal, we made it back home before my dad got home from work. Mom had parked the car in the garage, she hadn't called my dad about the accident. She felt overwhelmingly guilty about wrecking the car, even though it wasn't her fault.

So, that evening, my dad is dropped off by his buddy (carpool) and lifts the garage door and comes in right past the car. (He usually comes in the front door so we were all freaked!) He walks in the family room door, takes off his boots, sits at the dining room table to read the paper and talk with Mom as she cooks dinner.

After about 3 or 4 minutes he pauses from reading, puts the newspaper down and walks back into the garage; he just realized what he had seen in his peripheral vision. He walks over to the car and stares at it, remember, he had seen all of us so he knew we were all okay.

He walks back into the house, sits at the table, picks the newspaper back up and tells Mom, "Gee, Irene, if you had wanted an accordian you should have asked for an accordian!"

We had a pool when I was growing up, right next to it was a Mamosa tree. Pretty tree if its in someone else's yard, just a junk tree if it's growing adjacent to your pool. It was definitely not a friend of our pool filter. Mamosas are also famous for their incredibly fast growth. Mom loved the tree;  Dad hated it.

Every two or three years, my dad and my brother would be sitting in the family room watching  college football or shooting pool. Mom would be checking fridge and pantry while putting together a grocery list. With list in hand she would head out to the car. The moment she backed out of the garage, Mike and Dad would leap out the back door, grab the saws stashed in the bushes and start sawing down the Mamosa. In the one to two hours that Mom was gone, they would chop the tree down and cut all the branches into small enough pieces to go into the wood pile. By the time Mom came home there would be little evidence that a Mamosa tree was ever there, sometimes it was weeks before Mom noticed it was gone. In 2 or 3 years it would happen all over again.

Our house sat on a little rise on a dead-end road, backed by Bing Cherry and Plum orchards. (Oh, yeah, remind to tell you about the time I got shot in the tush with rock salt by the farmer for sitting up in his trees and eating cherries while I read my books). The kids in the neighborhood would congregate in the dead-end and we would play kick-the-can, (full-contact hide and seek if you haven't heard of it). Every now and then we kids would hear a full out Tarzan yell.  We'd look up and there was my dad, charging out the patio door, jumping over the hedge around our patio, he would disappear for a moment then reappear as he vaulted over the back fence. He would run into the street, kick the can and vault back over the fence.

He played the piano really well. Only problem was that he could only play 3 songs, Chopin's Pollinaise, the Boogie Woogie (Tommy Dorsey style) and the Hamm's beer song, you know the one that goes, "in the land of sky blue waters....!"

Whenever there is a floor fan blowing he gets behind it and does his Gepetto-searching-for-Pinochio impersonation, into the fan he calls, "Pinocchio"! It does sound like he's underwater.

Speaking of water; when my oldest son was about 2 years old, he would help my dad with his yard work. They would set the sprinkler out on the lawn and Dad would ask Little John to remind him in 20 minutes to change the water. One time they let the water sit in the same place a couple of hours and my son jumped up and yelled, "Good God the Water!" They both ran out the door to change the position of the sprinkler. After that every time my mom would get annoyed with my dad and start to pick on him or nag him, he would jump up and yell, "Good God the water" and run out the back door!

Every time we kids had to stay home with a baby sitter while Mom and Dad went to some grown-up-event we would ask Dad how the event was when they returned home. Dad would answer as if it had been the most annoying experience ever! "It was okay except there was a midget who had his nose in everyone's business and a big tall guy who had his business in everyone's nose!"

Dad came up with a question every night at dinner. What do I think about affirmative action?
Where do I stand on abortion? He insisted that I take a side and he always, ALWAYS, took the opposite side. He made me support my thoughts with facts, he taught me critical thinking.

He also taught me to never support a football team south of the Mason-Dixon line, how to cook killer beef stroganoff and lasagne, how to shoot, how to play the boogie-woogie on the piano and that I was completely capable of accomplishing anything I wanted.


Yup, that's my dad!

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