Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day for Dads

So, it's Father's Day. I don't usually do special Mother's Day or Father's Day posts, but heck, I've been posting less frequently here lately, and I needed a topic, so, here goes.

My father is a very active octogenarian. I would wish him a Happy Father's Day here, but he would never see it, so there's no point in doing so. He has an old, hand-me-down computer he uses for a database for his collections (stamps and autographs, mostly). I apparently inherited my obsessive collecting from him. He's never been online though, even though I think he'd enjoy emailing and chatting with his fellow collectors around the world, or checking out the space sites, NASA et al.

See, my father's a space buff, and he and my mother (who died back in the early-'80s) appreciated science fiction, so I got my love of space and science fiction from them, especially from my father. We watched space launches as a family. The moon landing in July 1969 became a family event as we watched it on TV. And I'll never forget the night a few years before that when my father announced we were watching a new space show called Star Trek. My younger sister made herself scarce, but watching Star Trek became a weekly activity for me, my father, and my mother.

We went on a lot of family trips. We'd fill our station wagon with us, another family, and suitcases, and hit the road, as far north as Canada (twice! once for Expo '67) and as far south as Virginia. My father could smell out historical markers and covered bridges from miles away, or so it seemed. And we traveled without reservations. Literally. Around 5 pm, my father would announce it was time to look for vacancy signs. My best memories of childhood and adolescence are from those trips. We were regular visitors as a family to museums, too, especially NY's American Museum of Natural History, a place I visited with my family years before it became a stop on school excursions.

My father was far from being a perfect father, but he gave it his best and he helped me make memories to last a lifetime. Every one of those trips has a story in it. And there were other memories that stuck over time. He was fairly self-sufficient, being a decent cook, which was often required. My father refused to cook the fish he caught on his infrequent fishing trips back when he was in his 20s and 30s. And he was a barbecuing fiend. But he also had an annoying tendency to not listen to advice.

One moment shines in my memory. My mother always cautioned that when pouring hot water into a cup or mug, you should place a spoon in the cup first and pour the water onto that so it would absorb most of the heat. My father laughed that off and one day under my mother's watchful eyes, he poured hot water into a mug of instant coffee, lifted the mug, and left the bottom behind. Damn thing melted right off. My mother and I were convulsed in laughter. As long as he wasn't burned -- he wasn't! -- it was a cause for laughter and mockery. My father laughed, too. I think he's been careful when pouring hot water ever since.

See, my parents taught me a lot of valuable lessons and instilled in me the most important values: honesty, integrity, a sense of ethics and fair play, that people should be treated equal. But most important, to me, was the value of a sense of humor, the ability to not take oneself too seriously. To be able to laugh at oneself. That was hard for me, being a shy kid, easily embarrassed. But somehow, that lesson did stick.

Oh, one more thing I learned from my father: sarcasm is a virtue. It's the only language other than standard English that I speak. For what that's worth.

Feeling: half-asleep