Sunday, June 17, 2012

On my dad

Okay, so sometimes, I've found myself inspired to sit down and write an actual letter or card to one of my parents and put it in the actual mail, because it can be nice to have something tangible and handwritten that outlines in great detail exactly how much you're loved. Inevitably, I'll get a call a few days later: "What a sweet card! It made me want to cry. You're such a good daughter. … I'm not dying, am I? Dying and no one's told me?"

So: No, dad, you're not dying. Happy Father's Day.

1. When I was little--sevenish? Eightish?--my mom went back to work as a nurse part-time. Frequently, her wonky hours would leave my dad responsible for getting my brother and me off to school in the morning. This meant that my dad had to learn to curl my hair. There were a few mornings when I'd head off to school with little pink lines across my forehead and the tops of my ears, but it didn't take him long to get the hang of it and curl my hair like a pro.

2. At one point, our family had a weekly night when we'd all sit down in the family room and Dad would read aloud to us. No, I'm quite serious. We did that. We had these big, thick paperback books--Mark Twain and Sherlock Holmes are two that jump out at me--and we'd sit and listen. I spent my entire childhood surrounded by books, and I blame my current reading addiction entirely on my parents.

3. In an an older post about my mom, I mentioned a road trip we all took to northern Virginia in which Dad, Doug, and I drove home together. While we were passing around DJ-ing duties, Doug put in the soundtrack to Avenue Q. It was somewhere around "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" that Doug and I started wondering if it was a good idea to do this with Dad in the car, and by the middle of "My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada," we were holding our breath. I think it was the line "And I can't wait to eat her pussy again!" that set Dad off--laughing so hard he nearly drove off the road.

4. My dad is brilliant at math. I don't just mean that he has a trick for calculating the tip at a restaurant--he remembers every equation and rule and formula he's ever known, he can do mental calculations like a boss, and he almost majored in math in college until he realized that Calculus IV is a horrible, horrible thing to engage in voluntarily. But that's not the kind of thing you leave behind. He and I were in the car, heading home from somewhere I don't recall, and a lottery billboard had recently been updated with the newest bajillion-dollar jackpot. He and I started figuring out odds of winning for various games, estimated payouts, annuities, and bizarre Rain Man-type math, and when we got home we kept coming up with new puzzles for ourselves and solving them. By the time we'd abandoned statistics and started pulling out Mensa puzzle books, we'd been at it for probably two hours. I spent two hours doing math with my Dad. On purpose. And I still catch myself doing math for fun sometimes. It's a sickness.

5. My parents had very different styles of teaching my brother and me to drive a stick shift. Mom explained the process, gave cues as best she could, and jumped and winced a lot whenever we'd grind a gear. Dad would explain the mechanics of the manual transmission and relate it to the act of using the clutch, the gas, and the shifter--which is great, except he'd do it at the same time, while we were driving. So I'd be driving along, approaching a right turn, listening to his calmly delivered instructions whilst piling through brake-clutch-turn-shift-turn-brake-clutch-gas-shit-clutch-gas-clutch-sputter-sputter-sputter… And then Dad would say, "Above all, just fly the plane." And now, 15 years later, I remember 1) how a manual transmission works, 2) what it looks like, 3) how to drive a car that has one, and 4) to just fly the plane.

Love you, Dad.


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