Tuesday, March 22, 2011
An Ode to Dad - Part 1
by Amy Lignor of The Write Companion
There was always one parent in my family who was the owner of “the look.” You know “the look?” The one that when it comes over their face even the cat jumps off the couch and runs from the room saying, “I’m outta’ here!” In our family, Mom was the bearer of that face. When she aimed that look at me, I literally felt like my mother had become Darth Vader and had headed to the “Dark Side of the Force.” The look came at odd times, like when she would go for a glass of milk, open the refrigerator, and see an empty bottle staring back at her. No one in the house had the common decency to throw the carton in the garbage…and that woman really wanted some milk The other parent was Dad. He was the calm, quiet, funny one who, nine times out of ten, was the one who left the milk carton in the fridge just to see Mom get that look.
My dad was a caretaker. My sister and I grew up in the caretaker’s cottage that was set on an estate that would remind some of Tara, that was owned by the wealthy New Yorkers who came to visit it every weekend when they had the time. My dad made their gardens grow, the grounds look perfect, planted and seeded every flower, vegetable, nook and cranny, so that when anyone drove down that long pathway they could see the beds of daffodils dancing in the breeze. The huge lawn was cut with absolute precision - one dark strip beside one lighter strip that made it appear as if it were a perfect football field - not one blade of grass out of place. Dad was an artist.
When my dad was very young he took a kick in the teeth, literally, from a cow who was just not happy about being milked one day, and lost his choppers for good. Growing up, every time he sneezed the dentures popped out a little bit, and when he sat behind me at his desk typing, I always imagined that they were flying across the room toward the back of my head. When he took them out at night he had that silly, punched grin on his face when he came to kiss me goodnight. He looked like a child at recess who was up to something, and always made me laugh. Dad was a comedian.
When the garbage can was full, my dad loved to take a little extra something and balance it precariously on the top of the heap, so that when Mom came in she would, most likely, bring down the pile. He’d wink at me while we sat in the living room listening to Mom’s diatribe about how no one cleaned up after themselves. He also loved popcorn. At night I would make a batch for him so he could enjoy it while watching the news, and when I told him once to get his own bowl, he came shuffling back in with a huge smile and the largest roasting pan I’ve ever seen. That was the last time I told him to get his own bowl. Dad was a trouble-maker.
Watching and talking sports and politics was a big thing for my dad. He would sit with his friends and go on and on about the newest schmuck running for office, or the greatest team headed for the Super Bowl that year. He knew football like some people know about art or poetry; he had all the statistics in the vault inside his brain and could pull them out at a moment’s notice. Same for baseball, bowling…you name it, he knew it. And…the weather. Forget the Farmer’s Almanac, he knew exactly when that snowstorm was coming and how many disgusting inches of that white stuff was going to fall and ruin our plans. Dad was an intellectual.
Animals flocked to my dad wherever he went. As if he were Dr. Doolittle, deer would come up to the house and peek in the window at him. Dogs would rub up against him and wag their tails with joy when the man walked up to their home to feed them and play. Even a surly horse that no one could get back to the barn - an equine with fire in his eyes - would allow my dad to walk towards him, put the rope around his neck, and lead him back to the safety of his home. When we went to Catskill Game Farm the goats, deer…everybody, raced over to my dad and fed from the bottle of milk he was carrying, or sat beside him and chomped on the food he always had in his pocket for them. I swear, even a lion would quiet his roar to sit beside him in the sun and listen to his stories. Dad was a friend.