Sunday, June 20, 2004

Old spice and whiskers

My Dad.
Where to start.
My dad is a cranky, cantankerous, old man. And the sad thing is, I'm not trying to be funny. He really is the picture of grumpy old man that sits on the park bench tossing poisoned peanuts to the squirrels and scratching his ass. And that's him when he's having a good day.
Some background on my dad. My father was the first born child of two boys and 2 girls living in a 3 bedroom, 1 bath ranch with a nice sized yard. He was raised roman catholic and had an old world Italian work ethic instilled in him from birth. Since he was 6 he was always working in some manor or other.
When he was younger, he never really had a chance to play with other kids his age because in the mornings, he worked on his grandparents farm mucking out stalls, cleaning chicken coups, collecting eggs, and anything farm related before he was off to school. When his school day was through, he would help take care of his brother and sisters. His father was always working (overtime, nights, weekends) at Eye-Bee-M , so my dad would do all of the yard work and was pretty much the stand-in father figure.
When he got into high school and his father was working less, he got an after school/weekend job with an oil company in High Falls. He claims that he worked there solely to buy a car, but my mom said it was to fund his dates with his ever growing fan base of teenage girls wanting to go out with a cute guy that looked exactly like James Dean. He met my mom, (who likes to tell the story that she dated him only for that car) fell in love and got married. He's still working for that same oil company to this day.
When I was growing up I didn't see to much of my dad. He had turned into his own father, working non-stop at a job that he hated. When I did see him, he was worn out and tired.
One of my fondest memories as a child with my father were the ones in the folds of his leather arm chair. On the odd night that my Dad wasn't working, he would take the newspaper and sit in that arm chair after dinner. Then, after I finished my chore of drying the supper dishes, I would climb up in his lap and we'd watch the news together. Or I'd read a book to him. He would be freshly showered and smell of old spice and wearing flannel pajamas. I'd snuggle next to him not caring what we did, and we'd just sit and relax. (I'd also play with his beard stubble. It was just completely fascinating to me.)
I also used to get up early just to watch him shave in the morning. He'd always put a tuft of shave cream on my nose just after he had finished lathering up his face. I'd sit on the toilet tank and watch with awe as he put that sharp blade next to his face and took away the stubble that I played with the night before. Then he put me back to bed, told me to learn tons in school that day, and kissed me goodbye.
I've pretty much gotten over the fact that he wasn't there for me much growing up, I've come to terms with it and moved on. He had to do what he thought was right, and the only thing that he knew was that providing for your family meant sacrificing the time that he had to spend with us as children. I don't think he even thought for a second that there had to be a better way to raise children and be a part of their lives at the same time.
I think that he's finally realizing all of this now. With my sister and I all grown up, living our own lives, having children of our own (or dogs in my case), and not really needing him anymore has really has hit him like a brick. I think he's finally realized that he missed watching us grow up, and that he even missed his own childhood as well.
So, now my dad is cranky. I'm sure that he'll get over this phase of his life, once he comes to terms with everything. But from now until that day comes when he can truly feel genuinely happy about life, watch out for that guy scratching his ass on the park bench. That could be my father. Oh, and if he offers you a peanut, kindly decline.


Paul said...

Wait. You have a sister?

Sheila said...

I also have a niece and a brother-in-law with a glass eye.

Brooks said...

As a new dad, well, almost two years now, I really loved this story. It makes me think of how much work I really need to do in order to keep a roof over our head and how much more time I can spend with Lily. Although I can tell that you love your dad and he loves you, I don't ever want my daughter to feel like I don't spend enough time with her. Sure, there are days like today where I spend the whole day in the studio and only see her for a short while in the morning, but I try to keep those days to a minimum. I want so badly to have the kind of relationship with her, that I didn't have with my own dad.
Brooks Blog

Gilday said...

New post! New post! We want a new post!