Last Sunday was the day of fathers—the Zeus to the Hercules, the Odin to the Thor, the Heathcliff Huxtable to the Theo. I would sing the praises of my Allfather. Why deserveth he of mention? Well, good pilgrim, pour yourself a tall, frothy glass of SHUTUP AND LISTEN and I will count the ways…
To the man who, to impress my mom on a date, froze an escalator by kicking it in a secret place (known only to him and Erasmus of Rotterdam). That is some serious fucking Fonzie mojo! Despite what she says to this day, I think my mother was impressed. As physical evidence, I submit my existence, if it pleases the court.
To the man who, when I was a boy, would ask questions like, “What were you thinking about just then?” in such a way that it somehow projected admiration for the fact that I often get lost in my own head. Not everyone in my life has projected admiration for that particular character trait.
To the man who introduced me to story. He did it in a number of ways. There were the bedtime readings—sadistic cliffhangers in Hardy Boys novels that would have to wait until tomorrow night. He introduced me to audio fiction. I remember the first audio book I listened to (on a family road trip to Florida), Darker Than Amber, by John D. MacDonald. Then there were the movies, countless classic movies. He introduced me to Aliens when I was maybe just a little too young, and chestbursters became part of pantheon of childhood thrills (a childhood without the occasional sharp spikes of terror cutting through the happy line…would be a sad and boring thing to look back on).
To the man who worked hard, at jobs he did not always like, to support us, and the man who never let his day job define him. Mark the photographer. Mark the magician. Mark the jolly pirate (200 years too late).
To the man who took me on countless photo safaris into the Everglades. Some of my earliest friends were alligators—God’s consolation prize for not keeping the dinosaurs around.
To the man who introduced me to Key West.
To the man who is the model for how I deal with the world. I don’t always get it right, but I at least have an outline.
To the man who taught me how to make a tastier daiquiri than the one you’re drinking now.
To the cool Dad. That is how he was known. That is how he remains to be known. They say he’s the cool Dad. They say mom is the hot mom. They say he’s the cool dad who married the hot mom. So…king’s to you, good sir!
To the man who serves as a model of fatherhood to friends who were less fortunate in that department. It’s been brought to my attention, more than once, by independent parties. He should know that.
To the man who (among others) showed me, by example, that some angels have course mouths, and some devils have perfect, politically-correct vocabularies. You have to separate the stuff from the stuff.
To the man willing to go to the last place on earth he wanted to be. It’s easy to fantasize about finding oneself interceding in a child abuse scenario—rescuing the child—kicking the abuser’s ass. The reality is much messier, when it is unclear who is at fault or if abuse actually happened or if something’s been exaggerated. I remember the night when all he wanted was to stay in bed, but when a friend of one of his sons (someone he didn’t really know) showed up hysterical on the doorstep, he got us all in the car and we went to somewhere he really did not want to be. This was in my head the night, years later at a Buffetf concert, my brother and I stepped between a very huge, very violent biker (who had no neck) and the man he was beating senseless. It was the last place I wanted to be (but that’s another story, and I only mention it for my own self-satisfaction).
To the man who taught me that fault is the thing others assign to you and responsibility is the thing you assign yourself. He never put it that way, but showed me by example.
To the man who taught me some of the most virtuous things you’ll do in this life are not the big, theoretical, faraway ones people shriek shrilly about on Facebook (when everyone is looking)—they’re often the things no one will likely ever notice.
But I noticed, Dad.
It’s one of the things I was thinking about when I was lost in my head.