A lot of people thought my Dad was scary. He really wasn’t (for the most part) but he way he carried himself seemed to convey otherwise. Growing up, all my boyfriends/male friends were always at least a little afraid of him. We always laughed about it and now that I’m grown, I also embrace my bitchy resting face and sometimes hostile-looking demeanor.
Another trait I share with my Dad is the tendency to randomly break out in song, especially silly ones. I was well into my 20s before I realized he didn’t make up “Gene, Gene made a machine” and “They’re coming to take me away, hoo-hoo-hee-hee-ha-ha” himself.
My Dad was talented and artistic. He could draw, played the guitar, and built things. I currently have the old bird feeder he and his father built together when my Dad was a kid hanging over my balcony. It has resulted in quite a few nests in the eaves and surrounding trees, including crows, robins, sparrows, cardinals (a male and female…good-looking couple) and even red-winged blackbirds. It’s worth all the bird shit (picture that one scene from Fight Club) but I’m not sure the neighbours feel the same. He always encouraged my artistic side, whether it was drawing, painting, or singing. He cheered me on at my first singing contest. I didn’t place (came in fourth…ah, so close!) but he still thought I was cool as shit.
My Dad was handy; like Red Green with more of a potty mouth. He’d take assorted motorcycle parts from junkyards and flea markets down to the basement and a few weeks later, roll a fully functional motorcycle back outside. My first motorcycle ride happened when I was probably two years old. A slow spin around the block, sitting in front, holding onto the tank for dear life. Ah, the ‘80s. Many, many rides with my Dad followed. One year on a Ride For Dad poker run, we took a shortcut on his 100th Anniversary Harley-Davidson Fatboy with some dudes on Suzuki sport bikes. They led us up this mountain with very narrow roads…easy on their bikes, not so easy on his. We took a switchback over a cliff and almost took a spill. That sure got the ol’ ticker racing. The actual spill happened a year or two later (around eight years ago, not off a cliff). I came out of it with a small scrape on the knee, but we were otherwise fine.
My Dad always nurtured my masculine side. I can remember staying up late when I was four years old to watch The Benny Hill Show. He taught me to stand up for myself, throw a punch, and recognize when someone was trying to fuck me around. He always maintained the importance of a critical mind and questioning what doesn’t make sense, even if others disagree.
My Dad was all about the rock n’ roll. My love of good music was always encouraged. He got me into Steppenwolf and George Thorogood and I got him into AC/DC, Metallica, and the Headstones.
As an animal lover, my Dad always took in all sorts of strays; dogs, cats, a rat, a hamster, even a lost homing pigeon. His heart was bigger than our home so we couldn’t save them all, but he always tried. Pretty much every pet I wanted as a child was encouraged; more hamsters (up to fifty at one point), turtles, and fish, to name a few. I think we even had a couple of pet chickens for a while. Animals just loved him and I proudly share that trait. I love meeting new doggies, kitties, etc. I’m able to fight the impulse to take ‘em all home just a little more than my Dad could!
There are so many things that escape my memory at the moment but in reality, it would probably take me the rest of my life to list everything my Dad taught or passed along to me. I’ve only come to realize in recent years how alike we really were. In the few years before he passed, I was the only one he’d still allow into his life and I think it’s because when someone is a mirror image of yourself, you are able to connect and empathize on a level no one else can. Many people tried to be there for him without success. I think it’s important for those of you to remember that he knew you cared but you couldn’t have done anything different. Now that the dust has settled and most of the pieces have been picked up, find peace in the songs he liked, the absurd jokes he laughed at, or something weird he taught you.
If your Dad is still alive, give him a hug. It’s Father’s Day, after all.