Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Good Dad

"Here comes Uncle Mistletoe, " my dad  would cheerfully announce.  Although that was before my time, it was part of a repertoire of voices he did for me.  Talking Tree.  Elmer Fudd.  Bugs Bunny.  Daffy Duck.  He would also read me the Sunday funnies.  As I got older that shifted to naming 100 knights and their 100 horses, and with that, my dad introduced me to word play and puns.  He also gave me a love of shaggy dog stories.

When I was very little, my mom went back to work.  My dad would drop me off at my grandparents for the morning.  He would return around noon to drop me off at nursery school.  Sometimes he would bring tiny cupcakes with various plastic sticks in them, depending on the holiday. Shamrocks. Halloween decorations.   I remember my eyes growing wide as I stood in front of the coffee table, looking at those beautiful cupcakes. He would always tell me they were all for me.

"Give me some skin," he'd say to me,  as we crawled along in traffic on the way to one of his accounting clients.  Since I took things literally,  I would open up my palm, pretend to pinch a piece of skin and hand it to him.  Years later I realized he really was asking me to give him five.  I suppose that he never had the heart to tell me how badly I had misunderstood him.  

Sometimes he'd take me along with him to the eye care clinic where he was the part-time accountant.  I'd get to talk to the eye doctors, my dad's boss and  the bookkeeper.  Joining them for lunch always made me feel so grown up.

Somewhere between Iowa City and the Chicago suburbs, we sat in a restaurant off of I-80.  My dad apologized to me for not being around much while I was growing up. It was not his fault. He was working during the day and going to school at night, so he could change careers.  Even so it was gracious of him to tell me that.  He must have given some thought to how lonely I was. 

My dad and I had a kind of quiet companionship.  He would unwind from teaching by watching late night TV.  Since my bed was right above where he watched TV, I would adopt an "if you can't beat him, join him" attitude.  We would watch Johnny Carson.  Tom Snyder.  Dick Cavett.  Whatever talk show was on. 

Over the years my dad and I shared jokes.  We would give our best deadpan delivery, and wait for my mother to get the joke.  After a few minutes she would finally say with mock annoyance, "you two pixies." 

Two days after my dad died, we had a blizzard.  As soon as the memorial service was over, the California grandchildren went off to play in the snow. I can't help but think my fellow pixie just couldn't help himself.   

I wonder if my dear ol' Daddio is floating around somewhere.  I'd like to think that whenever we get hit by a  blizzard that he roars with laughter. I'd like to think that he saved me when the brake lines went out on our '89 Crown Vic.  I'd like to think he was riding shotgun with me, as I went through cancer treatment.  

One of my favorite memories was watching The Carol Burnett Show with my dad.  This sketch of commercials left us rolling on the floor particularly the part where Harvey Korman asks her, "How about calling my Aunt Bertha in Chicago?"  (starting at about 2:11)  Although I never had the pleasure of meeting him, Harvey and my dad were second cousins.  His Aunt Bertha was my grandma's first cousin.  By the time that sketch aired, she had been dead for at least five years. That would have been some long distance call.  We were undoubtedly the only two viewers who enjoyed the unintentional irony.  

As long as I still have memories of moments like these, my fellow pixie will always remain in my heart.