Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Father's Day!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Rainbow Pop

I am seven and have just endured a day of yard work under the tortuous leadership of my sadistic older brother Jeb. He hit Francine with the rake and she sulked in tears under the tree refusing to continue. Kay tried to smooth it over, but Jeb threw her in the pile of leaves. Miraculously, we somehow made enough progress for Dad to pile us into the back of the suburban and drive us down the street to the gas station where we each get to pick out our favorite flavor of rainbow pop. It is a sunny spring day and Jeb, Kay, Francine and I are all allies while we sip our pop out of old fashioned glass bottles leaning against the car in the gravel driveway. Dad buys a case and we all drive home. I get to sit in the front seat. Next to Dad.


The winter means ski trips and stolen moments with Dad on the chairlift between runs down Crystal mountain. Dad has me giving him a book report on Ramon Quimby, Age 8, which is one of my favorite books, because I am also eight. It's so cold that my nose is running and I can't feel it. He looks at me, removes a leather glove, pulls a Kleenex from a pack of tissues in his pocket and puts it over my face.

"You got a runny nose kid."

When he pulls it away, I feel as if half my face has been removed.

"Well you have snot icicles hanging from your moustache."

Devo Dad

The Schmo residence is the first on the block to get MTV and my father has seen a video of a song he wants to find. Arriving at the door to Tower Records, he disperses his seven children with the mission to locate a cassette tape by a group of five or so men with slicked back hair, one wearing an oversized white suit jacket. We scour the store before I find a record cover with five men wearing funny red hats. He takes a look at it and declares the search over. He buys all of Devo's cassettes and once in the car, we play thirty seconds of every song, fast forwarding to the next to try and find the right tune. Dad doesn't have to try very hard to make the experience fun for everyone. By the time we arrive home, we have discovered that Devo is not the right band. Dad hands all the cassettes to me and Devo becomes my favorite eighties band of all time.

It is the following week when we are watching MTV and the video reappears. Dad jumps off the couch. We kids sit with our jaws dropped, staring as our dignified and serious Neurosurgeon father uses his right hand to karate chop across his left forearm singing along with The Talking Heads, "...this aint my beautiful wife, these aren't my beautiful kids...".


It is the awkward years. Dad and I had not spent much time together since I had turned 16. I came home, he left the room. I phoned, he handed the receiver to my mother. We just didn't have much to talk about. But I insist on staying connected to the family and at least trying, no matter how disastrously I fail. This year, I have decided to make Thanksgiving dinner and include everyone in the event. The idea of his children in his kitchen messing up the order of his spice rack is enough for Dad to offer to take us all out to the Yacht Club for turkey and gravy. But I am determined. I've planned out the menu, assigned each sibling a dish, timed out the items and began chopping and prepping at nine AM that morning. Dad has been up since 5 am and coming in and out of the kitchen to periodically throw a discerning glance over my shoulder. As the afternoon wears on, each one of my siblings reluctantly begins their contributory dish. But then they get bored and leave the kitchen. So five various projects have begun in different corners of the kitchen. Dad enters, he sees me, I haven't left the kitchen since I arrived. I'm smiling. This is me happy.

He puts on an apron. We don't speak, at first. But he begins looking over my shoulder at the recipes and next I know he is beside me. Chopping. The other siblings wander into the room, Mom begins a puzzle on the kitchen table. Dad and I are rolling dough, talking about apple consistency. Tigersmiles is popping green beans over the sink. Joe begins peeling potatoes for his contribution of mashed potatoes. Georg is reading through his recipe, one step at a time. He thought he was making stuffing, but in the end it turns out to be a frisee salad.

Dad and I are working in tandem to have everything perfectly timed. I line the wok with oil, a few red pepper flakes, some garlic and a pinch of salt. He is over my shoulder with the beans ready to drop them on my cue.

"Not yet Dad. I'm letting the oil absorb the seasoning."

"Where did you learn that?"

"In culinary school."


Dad cuts the onion up for Georg's stuffing/salad. He dices into identical thin slivers, his hand working the knife with expert precision.

"Where did you learn that?"

"Practicing on peoples brains."


Grandpa's Fritters

I am home for Christmas and there is a strange older version of my father living in my parents house. Dad moved Grandpa home a few weeks after his 100th birthday. I've met Grandpa three times in my life, and now he is shuffling about in a wing of my parents house, designed for his comfort and ease. Dad gutted two rooms, lay wood floors, and installed bars to make the bathroom handicap accessible.

Christmas morning finds my father up at 3 am to start making my Grandfather fritters the way my Grandmother used to make them. When Grandpa joins Dad in the kitchen, I can hear them talking as Dad buzzes about with the dough, the oil and the powdered sugar.

They talk for a few hours. No one talks to Dad for a few hours. You are lucky if you get a few minutes. I peek my head around the corner to stare. Yes, it's true, my father is someone elses son. A son who just wants to make his father happy. And I get that.

Half a Euro

I've just returned from a walk across Bryant Park to grab my lunch and head back to eat at my temporary desk located in the Board Room of the New York office of my firm. I'm sharing the room with four colleagues when my cell phone rings.

A deep and barely audible voice. "Hello from Italy."

"Who is this?"

"It's your father."

And I'm sure it is some imposter, because in thirty one years of life I have never once received a phone call from my father. And now, hundreds of miles away on a Rick Steves tour of Italy, my father has decided to place an expensive long distance call to me on his cell phone. To say hello. He must have gotten the number from my mother.

"Uh, hello."

"Jane, your mother and I are having a wonderful time in your country. And I wanted to let you know that you can call the search party off. Stop looking. I have found your future husband."

Now I am sure that our planet had been invaded by aliens that have taken my fathers human form and this man speaking to me is but a pod from some other world. My father doesn't call me on the phone, he doesn't address me by name, he doesn't think of me when on vacation in Italy, and he certainly doesn't care about the state of my love life. Unless it means he has to pay for a wedding. Which he had already told me he had no intention of financing after I turned 30. No, this man was definitely not my father.

"That's great. I'm so relieved. Is the food good?

"Better than when you make it."

Maybe it was my father. And in the background I hear my mother saying, "Oh stop it Joseph. Be nice."

"So you are enjoying Italy?"

"Immensely. We have met the greatest group of people. But it's the tour director that I've picked out for you. He's seven feet tall. Right?"

And I hear a group of about twelve or so people chiming in behind him.

"And I know you like 'em tall. He's right here. I'll put him on."

"Dad. Dad. I'm at work. It's not really a good time." I look anxiously at the faces of my co-workers who pretend to be lost in their e-mail but are sucking up every word that I am saying.

I get up and start to head for an empty room in the office. But before I can find one, my Dad has put someone else on the phone.

"Buongiorno. I am Alfio. Your parents are delightful."

After a short chat, my father gets back on the phone.

"Dad. What is going on?"

"Don't worry honey, If you don't like him I've got a few more that I met in Germany. I gave them your e-mail so you could follow up with them at another time. But I took their photos so I could show you what they look like when I get home. So take care, we will likely call you again from France. Especially if we meet some men on the train."

There are howls of laughter in the background and I swear I hear the clinking of glasses, wine being poured and my father smiling.

"Okay then. Bye."

"Yes. Ciao. And Alfio says he will call you later."

Happy Father's Day Pops!!
Look how much you have changed over the years...
I'm grateful for your presence in my life. Hope your day leaves you feeling appreciated.
Love, --- Your Favorite Child

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails