It’s not Father’s Day weekend but I’m not going to let that stand in the way of writing a column about my dear, old (well, oldish) dad.
It’s kind of like I tell my wife and kids: “You know, you guys don’t have to wait until Christmas, my birthday, or Father’s Day to give me a gift. I’ll take one at any time, OK?”
It might be a little self-indulgent to ramble on about Pops for 600 words or so, but columns are a self-indulgent exercise. Besides, maybe you have read down this far and decided to yourself that you need to call up your dad.
My dad lives way out in Cleveland, TN (that’s in the SE corner of the state close to Chattanooga for any geography-types out there) and even though I get to see him often enough to know what he looks like today he’ll always, in my mind’s eye, look to me as he did when I was a kid coming up in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
To wit: Sort of a Kris Kristofferson look with the beard and long-ish hair, but more of a baby-face and always wearing Wranglers and cowboy boots.
Dad also sported a pair of green-tinted aviator-type sunglasses. Even though the mirrored frames were the vogue back then Dad never wore them because, “I don’t trust a man if I can’t see his eyes.”
Dad had a lot of cool hobbies and interests back then, some of which he has grown out of, and some that he still practices today.
One year he took me with him on a deer hunt in Colorado. Dad could track them down; shoot them and field dress them all on the spot. The thing I remember the most from that trip was walking back to camp and seeing bear prints on top of the footprints we had made going out. I didn’t sleep very well for the rest of the trip.
Dad doesn’t hunt anymore but he still enjoys fishing. Back in the days when contestants at fishing contests wore normal clothes as opposed to looking like a NASCAR crew chief, Dad won a big contest and had the fish stuffed and mounted. To a kid like me that was a huge deal but he was kind of embarrassed about the whole thing and gave the mounted fish to my grandma.
Dad had, and still has, some quirks like that. A few years ago he and I were trout fishing out in Tennessee when a man approached us giving out advice. He had a can of corn with him and said if we’d bait our hooks with the corn then we’d catch all we wanted and then some. I had no qualms about it and gladly took up the offer but Dad wasn’t impressed.
“It’s cheating,” he said as he watched the man and me haul them in. I can’t be sure but later I think I saw Dad stealing a few niblets out of the can when he thought no one was looking.
A few weeks after that Dad told me he saw the Corn-Guy, as I had come to call him, at the mall.
“Really? How’s he doing?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Dad replied. “I didn’t talk to him.”
“What? Well, why not?”
“I don’t know,” Dad said. “I just figured not to bother him.”
Dad raced motor-cross bikes back then, too. He had a 250cc Yamaha and then traded it for a 250cc Honda. “Worst mistake I ever made,” he told me later.
Dad’s racing wasn’t anything like we see on TV today- you know, guys jumping 100 feet in the air. But, he did race at a Grand National event at the Astrodome and finished 14th.
Dad was also a big picker and grinner when I was a kid. He still plays the banjo and the guitar but he was really into it back then. He’s pretty good, too, if I do say so myself.
Dad was the person who introduced me to the music of people like Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson. I’ve tried at various times to introduce him to some music a little different than what he usually listens to. I bought him an iPod for Christmas and gave him a CD with many, many mp3 songs on it. Last I heard the iPod player was still sitting in the box on top of a shelf in his bedroom.
Here’s a pro-tip: That kind of action is a sure fire way to guarantee that any and all future Christmas gifts consist of a bottle of Old Spice.
It’s because of Dad that there is, occasionally, the un-mistakable odor of Old Spice wafting from my son’s bathroom at home. A seven year old indulging in the Old Spice thanks to his grandpa who bought him a bottle of it during a visit last year.
One activity that Dad and I did together when I was a kid was the father/son wrestling league. Dad helped coach and he always made me go to the practices with the older kids. I got whipped up on a lot but working with the faster, stronger, and just better, kids improved my skills, too. Dad taught me about seven moves and we’d practice those same moves, over and over, all week until I could do them in my sleep.
Even though Dad was, and still is, pretty skinny, he had particulars about eating. He likes the traditional type of meal: a meat, two or three vegetables, bread, tea; you know, the kind of meal that I consider the works. He also likes to mix his foods together on the plate.
If I come waltzing home late my wife, on a good day, will say, “There’s frozen pizzas in the freezer if you want to make one.” And I’d be thankful!
That would never fly with Dad. I’ve heard him say to his long-suffering wife, “Well it’s a good thing I like spaghetti since we seem to have it so often.”
And this zinger once, said with a voice of extreme somberness: “Store bought biscuits?” On that one I asked him, “Is there any other kind?”
But don’t get the wrong idea from that. Dad isn’t a tyrant at the dinner table, he’s just spoiled, and he knows it.
So, that’s a little bit about my dad. I’ll have to cut this out and mail it to him if I want him to see it. He could look it up on our newspaper web-site but that’s just not his speed. He does at least have a computer and he can do a few things on it, too, but he doesn’t really like them. He’s doing better with the technology than my mother. It’s a point of pride for her that she doesn’t even know how to turn on a computer.