Who’s Your Daddy???
To all the Daddies out there, I’d like to wish you a great Father’s Day!! Sit back and relax. No lawn work.. no NADA. Enjoy your day. You deserve it!!!!
My Daddy is Joe, and how I wish I could be with my Dad today, but, like every year, I have to content myself with a phone call. Although, this year, I will give him a special present, I think. Later today when I call I’m going to tell him that I’m coming for a visit in October.
Big deal you say?
Well… he HAS been asking me to come visit for a while now, and there is the little fact that I haven’t physically seen him since my high school graduation. Yeah, back in June1989. Hey! He lived on the other side of the country. A few years later I did try and do a surprise visit…sort of. I flew down to Miami for another reason all together and, when I tried to call him from my hotel… answering machine. Over and over again. For Days. I must have left a trillion messages. (And no you wise-asses, I couldn’t just show up on the doorstep… he had moved.. and I didn’t have the house address, just the P.O. Box, okay?) So back to Los Angeles I went. Would you believe that the house was being fumigated at the time? My damn luck.
After that, well, we went through some very, and I mean EXTREMELY tough times financially, and I just wasn’t able to fly down again, although I wanted to. His health is very poor, so he is forbidden to set foot on a plane. His heart just couldn’t take it. So there he sits and there I sat. Then I moved here to the other side of the planet six plus years ago. And I haven’t gone home to the U.S. since. Till now. It is way past time.
I am the youngest of my Dad’s four children. Two boys, two girls. They were all pretty much grown by the time I was born. I didn’t grow up with them They were living with their mother, well, Joey came to live with us when I was one until I was about 4 when he got way out of control and his mom couldn’t handle him. So I was close with him. My dad’s firstborn, my “half” sister Shelly, is dead. Gone in the prime of her life at 38 under suspicious circumstances. My two “half” brothers Joey and Jeff are not the same after Shelly’s death. They have spent the years since obsessed with trying to ferret out the truth of her death, whatever that may actually be, to no avail.
Then there is me. My Dad was 41 when I was born. My siblings have said that I’m his favorite and it is true that I was, ok and still am, in my heart - Daddy’s Girl. Apparently I got the mellowed version of Dad too. Which is frightening in the extreme, since I remember him as capable of being a total hard-ass. Meaning.. I can still feel my ass sting and burn from a spanking. And he gave bare-assed spankings too. No clothes to soften the blow. Nope. And if you made a peep… you got more. I tell you that if he were able to turn me over his knee today… his hand would STILL cover the majority of my posterior.. and that’s saying SOMETHING. So we are talking serious ass-whoopin here. Dad was a hard taskmaster. And very strict about many things. And OH-MY-GOD his temper. Snap temper. The type of temper that makes you freeze in your tracks and feel ice shoot down your spine. For a child as exuberant as I was he devised a fit, if not necessarily appropriate punishment. The time-out from hell. Sitting in a chair… unmoving (cause then you were in some deep trouble then) for anywhere for 30 minutes to over an hour; and NO, you could not get up to go pee either. You had to hold it. I’d rather not relieve the times I ended up with the belt, if it’s all right by you? Although, in all fairness, as squirrelly as I could be, (one of my uncles told me when I was pregnant that his main memories of me as a young child are of a very blond blur of motion. Yes, a blur.) for as long as I can remember, my parents were always complimented on what a polite, well-behaved child I was. Which I liked. A lot. Cause then, well, I got brownie points with my parents. What I didn’t like was all the old people squeezing my face in Mass every Sunday calling me precious. I loved old people, but NOT the squeezing my face part. I still love sitting with old people and listening to them tell be about “back in my day”, just stay the hell away from my cheeks is all!
He was and still is a stickler for pushing you to do things you thought you couldn’t do. Test your limits. Which at the time, I resented like hell, but now, at almost 33, I’m profoundly grateful for.
When I was around eight or nine… I read the book Jaws. Have you ever read the damn book? The movie was nothing. Trust me. Anyway, I, like most of America and the world, developed a healthy fear of sharks. Ok, I was terrified. So what did he do? He took me to the beach. Then, he said “lets go swimming Friss!”… I said, “Ok, but not too far out.”(Because I figured, those big sharks need deep water to maneuver.. well, that was my logic anyway) “Sure honey!”. So, out we went. Then as usual, we were playing.. and I was hanging on his neck… then he started swimming with powerful strokes…..out into the deep water. I was too terrified to speak, but hell if I know how he could swim with me clutching his neck so tight.(lack of air). Anyway, when the beach was just a thin white ribbon of sand and the people on it no more than specks… he stopped and started treading water. No shark. He stayed out there for a while. Just treading water with me around his neck and talking to me. (Although I vaguely seem to recall trying to climb on his shoulders!)
Out there he taught me about being prepared by both his words and by his actions. If you understand the worst that can happen, then if it does happen, you know what to expect, the worst possible scenario. Still, it could not be as bad as you were expecting. Understand why if at all possible. If it doesn’t happen at all, then be grateful.
So way out in the ocean, treading water he was fearless. He stayed out there until, I suppose, he finished with his lesson and until I calmed down. Me, I figured at least we’d die together and then thought how sad my Mom would be when I didn’t come back from Summer visitation with my Dad this year, being her only child and all. No shark. Well, not any that came to visit us that day anyway. So back we went to shore. Before we reached, I told him my big fear (since I would never go out as deep as we were on my own!) the shallow water. I can still hear him telling me as clear as if he were here with me now as I type, “sharks don’t come up near the beach and attack. Especially not here at Miami or Ft. Lauderdale beaches.” I was insistent that they could. This has actually been an ongoing thing with us all these years. You know, I’m really sorry that a few years ago, someone had to die to prove I was right. Cause a damn shark came up on the very beach, into the very shallows close to the sand, and snatched himself some damn lunch. And yes, you bet your sweet ass I called my Dad and told him that all those years ago, for once, I was right and he was wrong. Ah, he conceded. Wooohoooooo!!!! Point for Cyn!
He taught me that “Where there is a will, there is a way.” One of the biggest compliments, to my mind, that I ever received from my Dad was when I was around 19. He told me, “You know, at least I don’t have to worry too much about you honey, now that you’re grown. You are smart, and so determined and resourceful, I know that if you want something bad enough, that once you’ve put your mind to it, you won’t rest until you get it or achieve it. And if you don’t reach your goal, I know and you know that you gave it your everything and that there was not any other way left to you.” Man, that blew me away. Thinking about it, it still does blow me away. Awwww, I feel all warm and fuzzy inside now.
But, for all the strict disciplinarian ways, he was equally loving and giving. He never was too busy to teach something. To explain why, how, etc… I suppose some of it is from the fact that he spent part of his life as a teacher. He is definitely a natural educator, that is for sure.H taught every grade at least once except for Kindergarten and I think 3rd grade. Yes, he was also a college professor at both University of Southern California (USC) and University of Mississippi. When he decided that he could do more for the youth of America, he pooled his efforts into.. well, you know those damn bubble tests you took as kids in school every year? The national tests? With your No 2 pencil? Um, my Dad is partly to blame for that. Yeah, I know, I know. So anyway, back to my reminiscing. I learned to apply logic and reason to my everyday life at his knee. So well in fact, that sometimes I would leave him at a loss for words or an appropriate argument to refute whatever I was after. (eh, sound familiar Genuine?) heh.
I was always my Daddy’s shadow. ALWAYS. I mean, he couldn’t even shave in peace. I totally worshiped him. Still do actually. He is as funny as anything. A real crack up. And he was blessed with extra helpings of Irish charm too. He is also a natural salesman.. , which, coupled with his gorgeous looks (6’3, thick jet blue-black hair, laughing green eyes and a killer smile) and his charm and intelligence, explains his, ahem, problem with the ladies. Well, HE didn’t think it was a problem I’m sure!!
On the weekends, he would grab his toolbox and head off to the junkyard or “car graveyard” as he liked to call it. That is where I overcame my fear of the big dogs that guarded them. “They can smell your fear and will use it against you. Show them who is master. Be kind, talk in a soft voice. I’m not saying go hug them, but, don’t show your fear.” That is also where I learned about cars and stuff. I am, well, quite mechanically inclined. I understood from an early age how car engines worked. He and I would tinker around there for hours. Him calling for tools from the toolbox teaching me the difference between screwdrivers and different types of pliers and wrenches, etc... as I got older, he would take great joy when he had a car problem, taking me with him. And on the way asking me to look at what seemed to be wrong and give my opinion. He would then have me explain my theory to the poor hapless mechanic. One such instance was the timing chain. The car kept breaking down, and I said from the beginning I thought it was the timing chain. The mechanic unwisely blew my little 8 and a half year self off as a wise ass. Ok, well maybe I was a bit of a wise ass, but…. Anyway, the idiot said it was a hundred other things OTHER than the timing chain. Even though I had EXPLAINED my reasons for suspecting the damn timing chain. A few hundred bucks and 3 breakdowns later… and still the problem persisted. This ruined our whole freaking road trip to Graceland, just me and my daddy, which really pissed me off to no end. (Cause, I SO TOTALLY love the KING, the one and only ELVIS PRESLEY. Got it?) The car finally totally bit it in the middle of the damn highway in Jackson, Mississippi in the left turn lane pulling our 39 foot long Airstream. You’ve never seen so many pissed off people in your life. “Daddy, what does it mean when they stick this finger up at you shouting??” I never got to see Graceland and I had to fly home to Los Angeles, bummed. My dad called me later after I got home, about in 2 weeks and was laughing his ass off. Guess what was wrong with the car?
The FUCKING TIMING CHAIN.
Instead of ALL that money he spent on other things… a $15 timing chain. You can bet your last buck he went back to the original mechanic back in Ft. Lauderdale and rubbed it in his face. “You should have listened to MY DAUGHTER, a child that will be 9 years old in a few weeks, she knows more about cars than YOU DO!”. Heh. Dad loved doing things like that too. By the way, that road trip? I was the navigator. I had the maps and the highlighter pen. I had to figure out the most logical route to where we wanted to go across a few states. Dad’s orders. Even with all the breakdowns of the car.. it was still a great trip. Just me and Dad. Did I mention that my Dad would drive with his knees sometimes? On Cruise Control. (Although, it is MORE fun to watch him drive like that with my mom in the car freaking out!!) 8-track blaring. You know, to this day, every time I hear George Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun” and “A Kind of Hush” by Herman’s Hermits, I think of that road trip. So much fun.
I have very early memories of my dad. Like from the time I was 2. When he would come home from work, I would get him a beer (cause I was too little to get him a scotch and water, ok? That was later). Budweiser. Mom would open it, and (shhh! Don’t tell. I would taste it to make sure it was ok on my way to him! Probably explains why I hate beer now!) He would sit in his recliner and pull me on his lap. At this time of my life, he had a handlebar moustache. He’d rest me on his stomach on my back with my toes facing his face, and would crack me up by kissing my toes, doing “Dis widdle piggy” then I would wiggle my toes in his moustache and make Him laugh. Both of us laughing like lunatics with my mom in the kitchen shaking her head at us, laughing too. This was the daily routine.
I always, always, until I was almost 4, would ride on my Dads shoulders, with fistfuls of his thick hair in my hands. Now remember, he’s 6’3! That is WAAAY high up. Many nights, as a result of his spinal surgery, the pain would keep him awake. It still does to this day. He would get the midnight munchies. I would hear him awake, and I would wake up. Sometimes, I would open my eyes, and find him sitting near my bed, watching me sleep. Off for a midnight snack! Up on his shoulders I would go for my ride through the house to the kitchen; ducking at the last moment to avoid getting brained by the doorways and light fixtures. There we would always make sandwiches for us…me on his shoulders issuing orders. Joking and chatting away. I still make killer sandwiches. Believe me or not, there is a fine art to the sandwich. It’s all about placement, you realize? Well it is. Trust me on this.
When I was with my Dad, I knew no harm could come to me. And if by some chance I had managed to do some injury to myself, he was there to fix it and dry my tears. One instance, we were on our way back from the beach. In florida, the bridges open up to allow ships to pass, and in one such instance, we got stuck and were parked. All of a sudden we were rear ended from behind. Next thing I knew, my dad was out of that car like a flash, at the drivers side door and yanking the laughing drunk teenage driver out of the car, physically, and shoving him up against the car all up in his face. (Ahem, Irish temper. Insert imagination here, please) Actually, I vaguely recall my dad shaking this probably 18 year old boy like a rag doll. Then he physically drug the guy back to our car and made him look at me. “You see my little daughter? If you’ve hurt her, you’ll wish your mother never birthed you. And he meant it too. Now the guy is terrified and apologizing up, down left right and center. Next thing I remember I’m at the pediatricians learning that I had a mild concussion. Everything else is kind of a blur after that. So much for a nice day at the beach!
I can still recall the little diner that overlooked the runway of Miami International Airport. We would go for breakfast just so I could watch the airplanes take off and land. Whenever he asked where I wanted to go for breakfast, that was my answer. Every time. I would be so happy just sitting there watching the planes. We would sit for hours and talk and watch the airplane traffic.
Another memory once just a shadow, now burned into my mind forever was brought back full force in the most horrible of ways On September 11, 2001. A trip to New York that had many purposes, when I was about 8. #1 an excuse to see my Nana. #2 to introduce my Nana and I to the wonderful lady that would become my stepmother. #3, for my Dad to show me New York., where he grew up. He took me sightseeing. I walked up the stairs inside the Statue of Liberty. And all the way back down. There are a lot of damn stairs. I still have a serious aversion to those tight black iron circular stairs. Shudder.
That was also the year that they finished construction on the Twin Towers. I thought they were beautiful, with so many pretty lights. So tall thrusting up into the night sky. Every night, my eyes would seek them out. My dad decided one night to take Naoemi (step mom) and I to dinner at Windows On The World in Trade Center Tower 1, I believe. I wanted to go, but I was so scared, cause it was so tall. At the time, the tallest building in the world. My Dad made me go. I am forever grateful he did. Memories that were once vague to me came crashing into my consciousness as I watched the tower burn that horrible day, then as I watched it collapse. As I heard it collapse. Yes, I heard it collapse. I was on the phone with my brother-in-law who lived fairly close to it. I was with him on the line as the second plane hit. I was with him when the buildings started collapsing. I heard it. And I heard the horror in his voice, describing to me what he saw from his windows. I will never forget it.
Later that night, as I watched it replayed on TV, I was, like everyone else, in a state of shock. I had been in those buildings when they were new. And now I remembered quite clearly the lobby ... the elevator rides… getting out and changing elevators to continue on up inside the massive building. Up to the very top. And I still remember, seeing the clouds floating by outside the windows. In the restaurant, along the inside of the windows all around the perimeter of it, was a metal railing. I was ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED to go near the windows. I was afraid I would fall. Yeah, you guessed it. He dragged me over, and held me up to the window so I could see the lights and overcome my fear. He held me up, on my knees on the railing and said in my ear “I’ve got you Friss, I won’t let you fall. Look out at the pretty lights from the highest building in the world” And I did. I could see lights as far as you could imagine seeing. All the beautiful lights of New York City and beyond. I looked down a little; to see the clouds, then back out again. He finally let me down when the food arrived at the table. I’m glad he made me go. And I’m glad he made me look out. It was such a beautiful sight. Shortly after 9/11, I called my Dad, and in a choked up voice, I thanked him. For taking me to see the Twins. For making me go inside, and for holding me up to that window. And do you know what he told me? In a voice full of tears, he said: “I was glad to do it honey. I was glad then, and even more so today, now that they are gone.” See, he immediately remembered that trip while watching the news unfold too.
I will always, for as long as I live, remember my Dad singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” to me just because, and the traditional Irish lullaby at night when he tucked me in “as snug as a bug in a rug”. Our goodbyes when we had to part from my earliest years.. “See ya later alligator”, and my reply “After while crocodile”.
Lee posted the other day about daddies and being “left out” of the equation, but that always isn’t the case. I wanted my Daddy for everything. Don’t get me wrong, I was and am, so very close to my Mama. But I know now that it hurt my Mom by always wanting Daddy to “fix it”.
But nothing can ever replace a Daddy. (Well unless you mess the kid up really badly psychologically I mean) Every man that enters your daughter’s life once she is grown will have to measure up to you, whether she realizes it or not, and most of them will probably come up wanting in her eyes. Your son, if you were a good role model, will want to emulate all the good things you taught him, by observation as well the things you taught him, as a man, and later as a husband and father to his own children.
So to all of you I say again… A very Happy Father’s Day to all of you.
See ya later alligators!