I spent many years pissed off at my Dad, mostly for killing himself and removing himself from my life at age eight. Still I find things that he taught me, that remind me of what he was trying to communicate about being alive and being human during the short time we were together. I write this here, and I'm glad for the time we had together.
he taught me:
- to tie a tie
- I was raised by WASP lawyer parents in the midwest; I had a suit from a very early age, and my dad taught me how to tie a double-windsor knot tie. Since then I've been told that's a very formal knot - there are more casual ways to tie a tie. Dad didn't concern himself with teaching me those other knots. I believe he taught me to tie my tie without a mirror; that's something I do today.
- to enjoy the rain
- One time during a severe midwestern thunderstorm, I came downstairs to find my Dad in his boxershorts outside in the pouring rain. Being a confused youngin, I asked him what the heck he was doing. He came in to tell me that he was enjoying the rain; he took his drink and went outside and danced a little jig.
- to play games
- Dad spent a lot of time in the "coach house" a small building behind our house. I would go over there and visit him a few nights a week; it usually meant a few no-holds-barred hands of gin rummy, poker, or often Chess.
- Around our dinner table, whether we were at home or on the road, we often played a mean game of 20 questions (usually, you pick a historical character and people guess who you are thinking of). Even at the age of six or seven I was expected to come up with cultural figures, and I was encouraged to play along; to ask questions.
- When we got our Apple ][+, I can remember some nights sitting up with Dad as he watched me tinker with the machine, exploring a gameworld like Odessey.
- that my penis was okay
- Outside of Chicago, I went to camp with a lot of Jewish kids; they were all circumcised and I wasn't. I remember one day after a softball game we were gathered around a log peeing. The kids saw my penis and made fun of me cuz it looked different. I asked Dad about it later that night, and he told me my penis was perfectly normal. He unzipped his blue shorts and showed me that his dick was the same as mine. I felt better about myself.
- to light a fire
- We had a fireplace in our old house; Dad put me in charge of making the fire at some early age. So I learned to pile two logs parallel with a space between them, and another log over the top. I wadded up two sheets of newspaper into balls and stuffed them under the grate. I still make a fire this way, and it usually works just fine.
- to love reading
- Late at night, if you ever saw my Dad, you would find him in some quiet part of the house, sitting alone reading something. Usually a spy novel or a mystery, by the time I was in his life, though it was clear from his conversation and the large number of books throughout the house that he had read beyond pulp. He made a point of reading books to me, including the Hardy Boys and Treasure Island.
- the best music is passionate
- For a conservative republican, my Dad had lively taste in music. He loved Duke Ellington, Jazz, and he listened to a lot of folk, and even protest music when I was growing up. I can remember a lot of Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez and Peter Paul and Mary. Our family went to a Peter Paul and Mary concert. I can remember him playing "If you take my hand my son" and "Lemon Tree" off records as he looked at me and sang along, sometimes holding my hand.
dad | life
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