They say there are no words, but that’s a lie. A fucking lie. See? “Fuck” There’s a word right there. A word I rarely (if ever) used in print, but my dad’s dead now, so what’s he going to do, haunt me with a ghostly bar of soap to wash my mouth out? I’d say his name five times in front of a mirror if I thought it’d bring him back.
I actually meant to write this a year ago, back when he was still alive and it would have meant something to him. Now it’s a pointless gesture I’m doing to maybe make myself feel better. Maybe because he was a fan of my work in life, maybe he’ll be one in death too.
My dad was a complicated man. We discovered the depth of that when we had to clean out his apartment. I clearly get my sense of humor and irony from him. He had a Ralph Nader yard sign in his closet. Not only is Nader not an actual candidate, my father lives (lived) in an apartment. No yard in which to put said sign. It turns out that he also used to collect shiny things on the sides of roads, like some kind of vehicular magpie. I had to throw away a million watches that had no watchbands. Why did he own those? What was his master plan? I’ll never know.
When I say complicated, I mean he had more than one side. He was a high school assistant principal for decades (I made sure I never went to that high school). He loved breaking up fights because he got to shove kids up against lockers Joe Clark-style. But I guess, not being able to always physically discipline other people’s kids kind of built up in him. He used to drink. And he used to beat me. Meh, I take it in stride now, but I still have the scars, physical and in my brain parts. I guess it did kind of help make me the guy I am today. I just haven’t figured out what kind of guy that is yet, (I’d better do it soon, I’m running out of time myself!)
I didn’t just get my sense of humor from my dad, I also got my love of reading. Science fiction and fantasy mostly, but hell, I’ll read anything, (except the dictionary, the characters are so lifeless and the plot is terrible!) and I haven’t put books down since I first learned what letters are. Hell, I’m a writer now too, that’s also thanks to him.
In the house I grew up in, we had our main television in the basement. That place was mostly his domain, especially when the drinking got to be too much and my parents’ separation was eminent. I got to take over at 6 am Saturday mornings, (for obvious reasons, if you know me) I’d just lay there nestled up against his snoring body, kind of sharing my Saturday Morning Cartoons with him. Sometimes I wasn’t so lucky, sometimes he was awake. One time he held me down and forced me to watch the end of Day of the Living Dead. Ever seen it? At the end of the movie a few dozen zombies tear a guy apart while he’s still alive and eat all of his organs and body parts while he’s screaming. I was maybe eight or nine. My dad lived for freaking me out like that. On the bright side, it gave birth to a lifelong hatred/fascination with zombies. Trust me kids, if the Zombie Apocalypse ever goes down, fuck finding guys with sheriff hats with sons named after underwater reefs. I’m your man.
He was a loner too. I certainly get that from him. He lived alone, he died alone. But I guess the difference is that he at least tried out the whole family life thing first. He had a wife and kids and decided to go at it alone anyway. That’s kind of a Siddhartha move, right? You can’t know what you want, until you try different versions of it. I don’t have a family yet. Not entirely sure I want one. That makes everybody worried for me. I kind of get it, but I wish they wouldn’t. I’m not saying I’m fine or anything, just that I’m one of those special cases. Worry about the lady who thinks buying dogs will make her happy and fill holes in her life. I have no holes to fill, so I’m groovy.
Even though he was a loner, my dad influenced more lives than anybody who reads this. Not just because he was an assistant principal who dealt with thousands of kids, (by the way, he confiscated so many water guns, my basement looked like a super villain’s aqua armory*) helping them through adolescence and the various pitfalls therein (in contrast, my mom gave me some Judy Bloom books and told me to knock myself out). But he also played a greater role on the global stage. Ever hear of Bruce Springsteen? My dad discovered him.
In fact, my dad has so far appeared in at least two autobiographies of famous people and was once (kinds) portrayed in a made-for-tv-movie. We had a contest, him and I. To see who could appear in the most autobiographies. Do you know how hard that is? You can’t Forrest Gump that shit and just randomly appear in famous points in history. You have to recognize somebody and what they have to offer the world when they’re young and stick by that person, helping them to achieve the potential you’ve always seen in then (or, if you’re my dad, you manage a coffee shop and you need to hire an act for open mic night). Right now, my dad is winning with the two autos and the tv movie, but I’m in a few books myself (which I don’t really count, because they’re either by fellow Soldiers and I just happened to be in Iraq with them, or they’re self-published by family members) but I am in a couple of comic strips, a car commercial and I’m gonna have that IMDB page before the end of the year, so that’s kinda something?
Anyway, I think that’s all I have to say. I’m not going to read over this or edit it. Any mistakes I made are staying. I don’t think I could read this again without my eyes getting blurry. Sorry if I spoke ill of the dead, but I’m a chip off the old block, and the last thing he would have wanted was some schmaltzy bullshit. Bye Father Person.
*That’s a thing, right?