One of my favourite parts in Disney’s Robin Hood is the part at the archery tournament where they introduce the turtle guy and his son, the little turtle guy, is like “Yay Dad!” And he waves a little flag. You had to be there, okay? Thank goodness for youtube. Here’s a visual on exactly what I’m talking about :
Sometimes I feel like that little turtle waving a flag and going “yay Dad!” is a metaphor for my life.
How to explain my father? He is a truck driver who majors in philosophy, taught junior high for a couple decades, and is now a worship pastor. He has the dead-pannest sense of humour and often likes to repeat jokes at five minute intervals. Here a few of those gems :
“These are premium victuals.”
“She took a right turn.” (referencing the one time I said about one girl – “She took a right turn down skank alley.”
“Your mother is a premium broad.”
“I know what will fix this. Broccoli, water, exercise.”
“Do you know what I like about you? Nothing.”
“Do you have 25 cents?” (indicating that we should “call someone who cared”)
“Your mother’s been hiding the booze again.”
“Megan, you never want to talk to me.”
“I look like George Clooney.”
“Yeah, but he listens to heavy metal.”
“You don’t even care, do you?”
“I’m a jesuit, and jesuits mow their lawns.”
“I am a rock star.”
“I’m the closest guy to Jesus in this room.”
He hates it when anyone tells him what to do. I suggested he go on a Sea-to-Sea bike riding program and he called me back and said “I ain’t going on that! You have to wear a helmet.” He’s sensitive to the hurtful remarks of teenage girls, such as “Mr. Biggs is stupid and he smells like fish” – an infamous line that will forever be written in the history books of our family. He’s confused about gay people. “Megan, when Portia and Ellen want to buy each other flowers, who buys the flowers? Who receives the flowers?” He’s neurotic. He’s smart and wise. He’s eccentric and bizarre. He once told me he would sell his soul to the devil if he thought it would make the flowers on the church lawn flourish. He’s got metaphorical itchy feet. He flies by the seat of his pants. He doesn’t make plans, he executes them. He’s got a Saviour complex. He paces a lot. He has psoriasis. He has no patience whatsoever. As children, on 16 hour road trips we would maybe stop twice, and that’s if we were lucky. He’d drive for so long that we’d be crying because we were so hungry and we had to pee. When we did stop, if we weren’t back in the car by the time he had paid for the gas and gone to the bathroom, he would leave without us. As an adult, this has had the adverse effect of making me a road trip nazi. My friends are afraid to go places with me now, but I don’t even care. I have a legacy to uphold.
When I was growing up, I don’t remember much except that he was the fun guy. My mom often complains how it was good cop bad cop, but then there were the times he would get into his “moods.” Although in his old age he has mellowed out considerably, in the good old days we could count on these moods always before leaving for a family trip. “Dad’s packing the car” were the most terrifying words you could hear in our house. He was a moody guy, and passed this trait on to my brothers. Kevin’s grown out of it, sort of. Martin works in the oilfield.
However, his bad moods were often reason for secret mirth between the other family members, so I never minded overly, except when he got in a cleaning mood. A “cleaning mood” consisted of him determining in his mind that there was “too much junk.” He would then put on Elton John and go around throwing everything out. He didn’t differentiate between things that needed to be thrown out and things that we needed, he just threw stuff out until it looked “clean” to him.
One time I asked him what he would want to be if money, time, competition etc was no objection and he said without hesitation, “Rhythm guitar player in Celine Dion’s band.”
A few weeks ago him and Mom were up visiting. I decided that I would drive mom’s car because I love driving mom’s car. 10 minutes later, he was in a pout that lasted until 3-4 hours. Once he emerged from that, he kept calling himself a bad father. My friend Robert Nutting once referred to him as “the pivotal driver of the 21st century.”
He is highly competitive. When we were little, we would drive out to this cabin my mom’s relatives owned every summer. One summer my mom said that whoever got in the lake first would get five dollars from her. My father immediately started stripping (while driving) so that he would be the first in the lake. My brothers and I followed suit. Unfortunately, excited about the prospect of winning something (five dollars, dream big Dad) he started speeding, more so than usual. Five minutes later, we heard a cop siren. The cop rolled down the window and saw one man in his underwear, three naked children and one fully clothed woman. I think he was so confused that he just kind of reminded my dad to drive the speed limit before stumbling back to his vehicle in a disoriented haze.
When on road trips, he refuses to use gas station bathrooms, or restaurant bathrooms, or any kind of public restroom. He always goes once we’re 5-10 k down the road from wherever we’ve just left. He’ll just pull over, hop out, and without any sort of announcement or communication take off like a wild antelope into the forest. Once he did this in between Fox Creek and GP. He pulled over and my mom kept saying, “Jim, I think this is somebody’s property!” He just grinned nefariously and took off. 2 minutes later, he came barreling back towards us with his pants undone and hopped in the van. Five seconds after that, a truck with a grizzled old woman WITH A SHOTGUN pulled up beside us. I took one look at her face and burst out laughing. He rolled down the window and they exchanged a terse conversation. I kept laughing the whole time. I couldn’t not. It was just too funny. After, I wondered what would have happened if she had shot him – what would I tell people? He died doing what he loved best?
My father is notoriously impatient, as mentioned before. One time, while I was getting in the van, he started backing up while I had one foot in the van. I screamed and fell on my butt, on the pavement. Then, in an ironic twist of fate, he got mad at me – demanded, “Well, what’d you do that for?!” Kevin laughed all the way to the hotel room. Laugh it up, Kev. Laugh it up.
At Christmas Time, there is one ornament and one ornament only that Dad likes on the Christmas Trees – Red Balls. “I think we should put more red balls on.” “There’s not enough red balls on this tree. “Gail, you ought to go out and get some more red balls.” Every year for a lot of years, my mom would say, “Jim, we should get a fake tree this year.” And he would nod and smile and say “Yes, absolutely. I think we absolutely should do that.” And the next day, without fail, he would return with a real one – each one more expensive than the last.
He vacuums for audiences. He makes slightly racist jokes. He wrote “Devil Worshipper” on my NDP sign when I brought it home. He is highly musical. He can hear a song a couple of times and then play it, without music. When I would practise the piano, he’d come up behind me and play whatever I was playing, only ten thousand times better. Then he’d give me his cheshire cat grin.
He has always paid attention to me. Always. I’ve always felt like I’m the most important thing in his sight. He is a grumpy bear, yes, but he’s also a loving and protective and giving bear. There has been times when he’s driven 4-8 hours to pick me up from somewhere, and drive me home. When I was in high school and failing, he made a contract with me. On my birthday, he would buy me flowers. He takes me out for lunch. He bought me a car. I always felt like spending time with him would be a treat for him, when with so many girls it’s the other way around. I didn’t count my blessings.
When he’s uncomfortable with a subject, he ALWAYS reverts to his default line : “How about them blue jays?”
He loves my mom and my mom loves him. Still. Sometimes they cavort about like hormonally driven teenagers. I complain, but I secretly know I’m lucky. Although I wish they wouldn’t do the touching thing in front of me, it’s weird. Not cool, you guys.
We’ve been emailing this week.
I’ve always felt somewhat inept when it came to addressing the issues of your life…My bwe formula ( broccoli water exercise ), it seems, has not been useful to you. So along comes Hoc, and they do understand your life, and they know about it, and they are involved. Looking on, I am happy for you. I don’t think you could have found a better situation. That said, I do feel wistful when I think of you in Calgary…. ” sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the years/ One season following another, laden with happiness and tears…” I wonder if it would be any better or any different if we had it to do over.
I think, would I want to wade into all this controversial stuff and get my ass shot off when I could be sipping a cool one at Earl’s? Is that a bad attitude? There’s a guy on youtube from England who regularly gets involved in things like this…he’s an atheist, anti-Muslim, anti-religion anti-everything kind of guy, and he’s my age. I get to wondering why he would want to be hated by a zillion Muslims and all the women in the world, but it seems to cheer him up.