Things I learned from my dad:
Folding the perforated paper on the dotted line, both ways, before ripping it out of the notebook. Invaluable still. Keeps me from wasting paper, cursing more, and making a ragged mess out of a should-be perfect piece of parchment.
Blowing into the edge of the stick side of the (carefully opened) popsicle bag before lifting the popsicle out of said crinkly sheath. Keeps the popsicle pristine and the little ice crystals from sticking to the bag. And red or orange or purple no. 5 from sticking to your hand, which also causes more cursing.
Having a spotless car. Dad drove me crazy with his meticulous top-to-bottom, left-to-right way of washing vehicles throughout the years. But there was never a spot on the El Camino, Datsun, Caprice Estate, Cressida, or ’87 Toyota Pickup when he was finished with them. I wish I could say my Prius is the same. I’m lazy and run it through the automatic. But if I did grab a hose and proper sponge, soap, and tire brush, that girl would look like an Amsterdam black diamond.
Singing in church. Dad wasn’t considered Johnny Cash but he was definitely not tone-deaf. His baritone timbre vibrated around a 2-3 pew radius and his timing impeccable. If I got off track during “It is Well” I could always count on him to steer me back. There was no big screen with a PowerPoint flow of lyrics to follow. It was old school hymnals and Dad could read music good enough to keep that mass of naked voices around us sounding like, well, a choir at church!
Pushing me to get out of my comfort zone. When I was a kid I wanted to be an actor. When I got into high school I wanted to be in the school play. When I told my dad I wanted to act he replied, “You can’t act.” I was crushed. He was usually my advocate. But because I was a shy girl and never liked to put myself out there I guess he thought it was a pipe dream. So I took that lack of faith and made it my goal to prove him wrong. I ended up not only being in the play, but being the female lead. And guess who was in that audience every single night of performance? And with a camcorder to boot.
I could go on and on about all the things Dad taught me. How to gas up and start a lawn mower. How to use an old bed sheet to rake leaves on and dispose of lawn waste. How to do a proper cannonball. How to play “Chopsticks” on the piano. And I could go on and on about all the things he tried to teach me that just did not compute. Using the weed-eater. Math beyond 4th grade. The proper way to pack a car trunk. How to dive.
I hope he knows how much his presence in my childhood and into mid-adulthood means to me. A lot of other kids weren’t and aren’t so fortunate. And I know I don’t tell him enough.
Thank you Dad for not only teaching me things but for being present along the way. You were there for me even when I did stupid stuff. You held my hand and let me know you did dumb things too and everything would be okay.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.