Father’s Day / Birthday 2018: Celebrating Dad

This year for Father’s Day, I called Dad and asked for a mulligan. The website’s not ready to be updated, I told him. I was sick of the old coding, and I wanted to write something spectacular, when the inspiration hit. Not on deadline. I asked if I could have an extension. He agreed to give me to his birthday. On August 29, 2018, Dad will be 85 years old! That’s something to celebrate!

Dad has two new grandsons since last year, Cameron and Liam. That’s something else to celebrate! Cameron is Marty’s third child and first son. Liam is Corryn’s first child. I heard about Marty and Vicky’s relationship from Dad. Back in highschool, Marty briefly dated Victoria’s older sister, Gretchen, who is now happily married to a nice LDS man and has I think five kids. Dad told me that Marty asked Vicky on a karaoke date, after some kind of Facebook exchange, just thinking it would be fun. When he heard Vicky sing, he fell in love with her beautiful voice. Dad says Vicky later confessed that even as a little girl, she’d always had a crush on Marty. The Harrisons were one of the only other LDS families in Monona, Wisconsin, and our families interacted frequently from the time they moved to town, when I was in sixth grade. But I never thought my brother would procreate with a Harrison. When I expressed my shock to Mom, she said, “Oh, come on, it was bound to happen.” I guess Mom has a Spidey Sense that escapes me.

Most of my relationship with Dad is on the phone. We only get to see each other about once a year, generally, at Christmas. I’ve tried to remember what we say to eachother, but most of our conversations I forget the details pretty quickly. What I remember is how I feel talking to Dad. The last time we talked was Monday. My relationship with Bruce gets better and better as we’re starting to grow mature-ish psychologically if not fully mature (do you ever grow up?) but occassionally we spat. At time of this writing, I was embarrassed to pick up the phone, because I’d said something awful enough that Bruce pulled Dad in to referee. I got the call from Dad while on hold with Great Lakes Borrowers Services. I didn’t answer. I accused Bruce of calling my dad, which he denied, so then I said, “You emailed him,” which he also denied, and then I said “you texted him,” which he admitted. There’s no way to more effectively make me feel ashamed of myself than to think of Dad seeing me behave badly. Dad never, ever shamed me for my bad behavior. Sure, he used the phrase “damned fool of yourself” but never during an immediate crisis. The fact that he is calm, gentle, patient, and nonjudgmental, dispensing homilies without a hint of saccharine insincerity, is the most potent shaming mechanism.

The potency of Dad’s involvement in an argument has only intensified over time. The mere knowledge that he had been alerted to an argument forced me to swallow my pride and apologize after I called Dad back after I pushed the button for Great Lakes to call me back, which they did the first time I called Dad back, and informed him that Bruce was overreacting. Between the first call, and the next time I called Dad back, after I finished relaying a long personal account of my student loan truancy excuses, we made up. So I could call him back the second time and tell him we made up. “Good,” he said, then added he knew we would. I remember he said it was a good day because he was pulling up dandelions instead of pushing them up. He also relayed some of the issues he’s had since his fall this past winter, which the doctors blamed on a too high dose of Gabapentin for his restless leg syndrome. Unfortunately my mother was convinced it may have been a small stroke instead, and Dad was willing to go along with that, whether it was a deux-a-folie or not.

He asked about Miss Mousie, about Bruce attending the American Film Market event in October. Something to really, really celebrate is that we now have 80% funding for Dad’s film trilogy. I am certain we can get the rest when Bruce attends AFM. We’re trying to get a company he is associated with to pay his ticket. Dad asked how much the tickets were. I told him they were $600. He didn’t know where he’d get an extra $600 if the company won’t buy it, but I assured him I could pay it myself if they won’t. It’s as good as a done deal. I’m confident. Dad has been saying “thank you” in his prayers, even if he vacillates between hope and gratitude, the direction toward belief is going in a clear trajectory.

The call ended with me telling him I had to go, because I’d promised Bruce we’d hike to Mallard Falls before it got dark. I felt bad, cutting him off, when he was explaining the arcana of the Catholic faith and the Council of Nicea, and how he was almost a Catholic until they wanted him to buy a suit that looked like a St. Vincent’s used car salesmen’s rejected donation, for $75, just to take Communion. That was about a week’s pay, and it was the last straw.

The second to last time we talked, on 8/1/18, I don’t remember what one of us said, after about thirty minutes of talking, but it was so funny that we both laughed. I was standing over the cutting board he made for me, I don’t know what I was going to cut, or if I was wiping the board down, but I remember being in the kitchen and knowing it was time to hang up, and something being so funny we just both bust out in belly laughs, feel-good belly laughs in the best feel-good part of the belly, made specifically for laughing with your father when you can’t be in the same state. I wish I could be in Wisconsin more often.

This Christmas (12/2017) was one of my favorites ever. I bought Dad a book that he liked! Dad is really tough to find presents for. He’s not the kind of guy who gets excited over having more stuff. Not to mention, when it comes to tools and things like that, I wouldn’t know what to buy. So when I bought Dad an exotic travel book, called Atlas Obsucra, he admitted he didn’t think he would like it at first. When I saw him reading the book in his chair it made me so happy. The book is chock-full of little known historical details about remote locations. The Today Show says, “This is the perfect gift for the person who thinks they’ve done it all and seen it all because this shows that there’s so much more in the world to explore.”

And that describes Dad to a T. He even admitted, “There’s actually things I didn’t know in here!” And he was delighted. (Sidenote: Christmas was also fun because Lauren and Rachel were there. It was the year about 50 people watched me FB live Mom making an omelet, we learned that Corryn means “spider” in Welsh, and Marty and I independently bought Lauren the exact same Cheddar Head foam cowboy hat. What are the chances?!?!?)

Umberto Eco (according to Dictionary dot com) says that “…what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us.” Of the many things that Dad has taught me, it’s hard to say any one is more important than another. Humility, devotion, fidelity, self-control, self-sacrifice—Dad exemplifies all of these things. Looking back at this singular happy memory, though, what stands out is his love of knowledge and lifelong excitement over learning about the world.

This post is being updated for Dad’s 85th Birthday. On our call earlier this week, Dad also talked about taking a writer’s course via the UW extension classes. He was eagerly anticipating being in the classroom, and, unwittingly, taught me again that the willingness to learn new things and devotion to lifelong learning is key to living a great life.

Dad, Happy Father’s Day, and Happy Birthday! Wishing you many, many more opportunities to discover new things—most especially, to discover how loved, how precious, and how valuable you are to so many. Because there’s no way you could possibly know how wonderful you are and how many lives you’ve touched with your goodness. But I hope you’ll keep trying to find out.

Love,
Pumpkin

Three Degrees Beyond Reality: Dad’s Book Self-Published (Father’s Day 2017)

Last year, I tried to write a funny Father’s Day message. It didn’t work. It just wasn’t my best writing. Our air conditioner had broken, and it was before we’d gotten extra window units for the house. It was before we had wicker patio furniture, before the second bed in the spare bedroom, before the washer and dryer. Before we’d discovered the local pool, or had a flat screen tv, or Netflix. Our lives were less rich.

It was about 90 degrees inside, and I didn’t want to be inside at all, and wasn’t feeling well. This Father’s Day weekend by contrast was exquisite. The local pool, gourmet food, and the series finale of Marvel’s Daredevil. Sitting now at the 7th and Fig plaza, near the gym, which itsself has gone through years of a rough renovation followed by a facelift and the recent addition of incrediby comfortable patio furniture, though I can’t connect to WiFi.

I’ve been thinking all week about what I was going to say. What can I say that I haven’t said before? Today I was telling Dad about Daredevil from Marvel. “If they ever do Blue Beetle, let me know.” He didn’t remember Iron Fist (thought he might, who knows?) or the Punisher (maybe Marty had it in the 80’s and he’d borrowed Marty’s comics) but he remembered the Blue Beetle, a cop with a second uniform, skin tight, like a beetle. And then he said he had to mow the kitchen grass, which put me in a panic (is Dad losing his verbal acuity?) and I called Mom, and she said, that’s what he calls it. The grass you can see from the kitchen window. A little odd, but he’s still driving to the Temple three hours across state lines, though he had to go to the doctor this week. They said he was dehydrated, and deficient in Vitamin D; problems that I have had myself. Dad has been prescribed (was it 250 mg? 500 mg?) Vitamin D; my blood work came back last month, and my doctor put me on 1,000 mg. a day. “Is he drinking enough water?” I asked Mom. “But don’t let him drink too much.” I’m worried least he become delerious from too much water. “You can lose your sodium potassium balance, and become disoriented.” I have to remind my mother that I was once hospitalized from drinking too much water. She asks how much I drank, I don’t remember, I was a starving art student, and drinking water to fill up. She assures me Dad is fine, kitchen grass notwithstanding.

My conversations with Dad can be anywhere from two minutes to sometimes, as much as thirty or forty. I remember hearing on NPR yesterday about a father who lived downstairs from his daughter, and would call, and not say anything, but if the line was busy, would walk down to the first floor of the apartment, and hit the buzzer, instead of walking up the stairs.

So, there are weirder father-daughter relationships out there. The music at the plaza is awful, and makes it hard to be eloquent.

I think the first memory of my father is when we lived at the house on Raymond Road. There are photos of me before then, platinum haired, feeding goats at the San Diego zoo or sitting in drawers after removing the pots and pans, but I don’t remember much about Southern California. I remember the house on Raymond Road, where we lived when I was three and a half all the way to my first year in kindergarten. I remember that Dad told me not to be afraid of Daddy Long Legs, because they were “good spiders” who ate other bugs. I remember the lilies of the valley that popped up in the spring under the lilac bush, and the white hydrangeas in the front of the house, as well as peonies. I called them snowball bushes and ant flowers; the former, for obvious reasons, and the latter because they were crawling in carpenter ants. And I remember going to the store one day, it was the grocery store I believe, at least, we weren’t there for toys. And I saw a plastic vanity set, with a little comb, and little mirror, like it had been made for a doll. And I wanted it, and begged for it, and Dad said no, but either I put it in the cart anyway or he snuck it in the cart, I’m not sure. I just remember he looked surprised when it appeared on the conveyor belt, and that I pouted, and he looked at me, and couldn’t say no. Dad’s diaries from that time say that the wind was blowing hard one evening and I said the trees were dancing. I was fixated on dancing. Wanted to be a ballerina. Dad still keeps diaries, or journals, I am not sure the difference. He likes fancy notebooks, the kind that looks like leather or has some type of engraving on it, and nice paper, and good pens. Not insanely expensive pens, or outrageously ornate notebooks, but not spiral bound like the kind you use in school and cheap ballpoints, either.

I have a teacup rose that I bought rose food for this weekend, which I hope helps. The flowers are tiny and bright red. The varietal is Daddy’s Little Girl. She hasn’t been in bloom for months. I bought her last year, when the first, tiniest one of the feral kittens died, the little girl we named Teacup, as a remembrance. And the bush bloomed and bloomed and bloomed, from May to January or February, and then stopped. And I don’t know if I was supposed to prune it differently, or should have fertilized earlier, but I hope to see it bloom again.

I also got my iPhone screen fixed on Friday, finally, after breaking it while visiting Marty at Memorial High School, where he was building a theatre set, in December. Reminding me of all the broken phones somewhere on my shelves, which are in cell phone limbo, neither active nor en route to a recycler. I save them because they have messages from Dad that I never deleted, going back years, and the thought of throwing them away or selling them or wiping the data clean means letting go of the possibility of retrieving the messages one day.

The voicemails, like the scripts, or the books, are done and not done. More years ago than I care to recall my partner came across a film funder looking for animated. I had told him about the Miss Mousie stories my father told me as a little girl. Miss Mousie, who lived under the brambleberry bush, had one door for every day of the week and carried porcupine quills to defend the defenseless against C-A-T-S. My dad turned the story into a trilogy, and the funder turned out to be some kind of escrow scam if I remember correctly. Then we took it a few places, not too many, over the years, but the script is still in limbo. And then there was the book. Three Degrees Beyond Reality (click link to buy a copy!). In 2015, at Christmas, I told Dad I would help him self publish a collection of short stories. It ended up taking until last Christmas before the book was free of glitches. I kept screwing up. Page numbers off, the table of contents, one thing after another. And it all took me forever. And ever. So the first couple books were printed in 2017, and I wanted to do a press release, and that’s taken forever too. Even writing the Father’s Day message; usually I get it up ON Father’s Day. Looks like it will be late in the evening this year, if not, tomorrow morning. Maybe I think if I leave things in limbo, he will live forever. But no one does. Then again, maybe Dad will be the first. Even if Dad lives, as he plans, to 102 before being shot by a jealous husband in a case of mistaken identity, I will only be 60 years old. Much too young and tender to face the world without Dad, but I guess that’s the whole cycle of life thing that does no good to buck up against.

Between last Father’s Day, and this, my older brother almost died. I don’t remember which internal organ. I just remember my father is the one who found him on the basement floor, doubled over in agony, and the way I understand it, if Dad hadn’t been there I might be short one family member. Dad’s the kind of guy that will scrape you off the bathroom floor even though he’s eighty plus years old and it’s some ungodly hour of the morning and everyone else would have slept through it. Don’t expect him to toot his own horn though, unless it’s part of some colorful story. He would tell a story for the sake of a good story, but not for the sake of tooting his own horn. He was optimistic, too, that Marty would take better care of himself after that incident. “Maybe this is the Lord’s way of sending a blessing in disguise.” Marty was in pain in the hospital, and the doctor had some suggestions which he’s at least half taken to heart. It’s the other half I’m worried about. I’m a Cancer. I worry. About the ones I love, that I will fail them, that being the only one in my family who lives in California while they all live near each other in Wisconsin, because I wanted to make something of myself, was stupid and a waste of time. Because even though I love the ocean, the mountains, the movies, the city—at times I get so homesick it’s like being an iceberg floating out in the middle of nowhere, when you should be up in the Arctic stuck in a big mass capping the North Pole, and you’re just drifing, and melting away, bit by bit.

Or maybe that’s a bit melodramatic. But I’m -2 years old, and the stardom I imagined, hasn’t materialized. Bruce doesn’t like when I say, I’m old and I’m fat. He has to drag me to red carpet events now, even though at least I haven’t had the recent embarrassment of showing up and not making the wires. It seems childish to pout about not getting what 10,000 other show up wanting every month, not realizing, if you’re not a millionaire or related to somebody already famous, your chances are slim. I know how bad some people have it. Like Daryl, the panhandler who sits at the corner three levels up (from where I am now). I’d been giving him money for years when I asked how he became homeless. He witnessed his mother’s murder as a child, and ran away, and has been living on the street ever since. He has the intellectual and emotional development of a ten year old, trapped in a fifty year old man’s body. So for me, things are not completely awful, things are pretty darn good. Sure, even without some grandiose success, things could be better, but seem to be on path of getting better rather than worse.

Earlier this year, I participated in a Fitness Challenge. The winner would make a couple thousand dollars. I lost 18.8 pounds in 12 weeks, some of which I have regained, but it was not enough for a cash prize. The winners who got cash prizes lost a couple more pounds. Maybe they used steroids (LOL) or maybe they didn’t have day jobs, IDK. I had two competing ideas about what I was going to do with the prize money. One idea was invest in a booth at a women’s convention and boost my Sunrider business. That would have been for Mom as much as me. The other idea was a trip to Ireland, with Dad. He’s never been there, and neither have I.

If I could take Dad to Ireland, and Scottland (not sure actually if we’re Scottish or Irish or Scotts-Irish; it’s been a long time—at least 400 years—since John McCue killed the British noblemen who came to take his land, then crossed the Atlantic and dropped the “Mc” in the ocean) I imagine we would have the most fun we’ve ever had together. I imagine everywhere we went, he would wear his leprechaun outfit, even though he only wears it now on St. Patrick’s Day. And even though he doesn’t drink, I imagine us in a pub, surrounded by strangers, competing to tell the biggest whopper of a story. Of course, when it came Dad’s turn, the whole pub would grow quiet, spellbound. And when he was done, they’d declare he’d been kissed by the blarney stone, that he was the King of the Leprechauns, returned to his mythical home.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

One of these days I will do a site upgrade. The design, I know, needs work. (Editor’s note: Site updated to WordPress theme in 2018.)

Love,

-Pumpkin

Top Ten Quotes From My Dad – Father’s Day 2016

My dad has a lot of sayings that I will always remember. Things he used to say, things he still says. Things that remind me that he was an “Okie,” or person raised in Oklahoma; that his background is colorful, to say the least; and in some cases, that political correctedness is something that came into being well after he had matured. I’ll skip commentary on the politically incorrect things that sometimes spout of his mouth. It’s an election year, the strangest election year I’ve ever seen, and I’ve had enough of politics, and talk about what people should and shouldn’t say.

Here are ten of my favorite things my dad has said repeatedly, in no particular order:

1. “Come and get it, before I throw it out to the hogs…” My father used to yell to us kids to get us to come to supper. There was most always a threat to feed our dinner to the hogs. This was largely an idle threat; we did not live on a farm. (Yes, I was raised in Wisconsin, and yes, there are actual cities—though they may not be far from places with tractors and manure smells, none of our neighbors had any hogs, either.) I don’t think he had any hogs growing up. His father was a salesman (among other things) and I don’t know who had the hogs, or where the saying came from, but obviously, this is something he heard from someone else at some point, because who would threaten to feed hogs over their own children unless they heard it somewhere else? True, my father is extraordinarily creative. But I suspect a grandparent or uncle actually had hogs, or the neighbors had hogs, or people just went around saying this. Our dinner was never given to the hogs. Or dogs. Or anyone else, but we loved hearing him clang a fork around the inside of a glass and yell at us, and we never gave him the chance to fed our dinner to hogs, just in case he wasn’t bluffing.

2. “There’s a whole world out there waiting to throw rocks at you.” This is a two part saying. My larger-than-life dad reminds me of a number of iconic characters from film and television rolled into one. Most times, I think of Andy Griffith in Mayberry: the gentle, agreeable, unpresuming but wise sheriff. But there’s a little Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry, because my dad is a tough guy and a bit of a cowboy; and quite a lot of Ewan McGregor in the movie Big Fish, about a dad who loves to tell stories that he actually lived in a remarkable life that his children had assumed was mostly fiction. (This leads to favorite quote #3, but I don’t want to jump ahead.) So when my dad says “There’s a whole world…” it is usually a Mayberry moment; the point in the sitcom where the lesson has been learned and Andy is about to preach and teach. I turn to my dad when I feel blue. And he says, “There’s no reason you have to help them out any.” This is a saying his grandfather told him. There’s a whole world waiting to throw rocks at you. Stop beating yourself up, kid.

3. “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” Not sure where Dad got this one from, but I assign full responsibility for the outcome of accepting my father’s mantra as a commandment squarely on his shoulders. Thankfully, he’s done enough good deeds over the years that when the tally is done, he’ll still probably get away with the many lives that have been ruined as the result of his bad influence. Besides, old Billy H doesn’t want anybody down there who can compete with HIM in the whopper department.

4. “So hot you could crack an egg on the pavement.” This one more or less speaks for itself. It’s an idiom. As opposed to an idiot. An idiot is someone who actually tries to fry on egg on the pavement after hearing it’s hot enough to do so.

5. This one is a song. It’s probably a drinking song, because I can’t imagine sober people, other than my father, willingly singing this. It goes: “I eat when I’m hungry, I drink when I’m dry; if a tree don’t fall over me, I’ll live til I die.” This goes on the list because I must have heard my father sing this song at least one hundred times. Yes. Over the course of many years, this morbidly bizarre canticle would just stream out of his mouth intermittently and without warning. As my mother and father would both tell you, warning that my father was about to sing would have been enough to clear a room.

6. Actually, that’s not very nice—what I just said about his singing voice. (I’m not trying to be nice though, because after so many years of cloying Father’s Day drivel, I thought my father deserved something less predictable, and I thought I would try my hand at being funny.) It’s a lot more pressure to be funny, and I blame Dad for this too. A couple of weeks ago, he reminded me about the my dad is the best dad ever website, just mentioned how he keeps reading it when ever he wants to feel good, how it makes him feel warm all over—and oh, this just happened to be less than two weeks before Father’s Day, so it’s not as if he was hinting that he expected THIS YEAR to be EVEN BETTER than all the other years combined? Oh, sure, no pressure. None whatsoever. So for number six, I am going to list another song. “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.” There may not be another human on earth who would say the same thing, but I would rather listen to Jim Cue sing “Irish Eyes” (or “Too La Lu La Loo Ra”) a Capella than Bing Crosby with a full orchestra any day. But, since the rest of the world may not be ready for that, here’s Bing Crosby:

My dad’s version may not be quite so polished, but hearing this song brings my dad’s voice to mind and to me there is no person who could ever sound so beautiful singing this song. And so there you have it, love is not only blind, but it’s tone deaf, to boot.

7. “Okie dokey.” I read on a website of Okie-isms that Okies actually say “okie dokie.” At least I think it was an Okie-ism website, and not someone’s list of “things old people say,” but if it was “things old people say,” we can just make that our little secret. Dad is NOT old. He’s had so many of those days you “wouldn’t wish on a dog,” that he figures the calendar doesn’t deserve them either. He’s in his mid-fifties by this rational form of chronological tabulation. My dad calls while I am working on this list, and he actually says “okie dokey” twice. Along with telling me they had milk and cookies for the priesthood holders at church today, and then all the men told stories about how great their fathers were, and my dad had nothing to say. “I couldn’t tell them how he came after me with a switch a few weeks after my seventeenth birthday and I picked up a baseball bat and told him if he ever touched me again I would break his g-d legs,” he said. “I didn’t want to talk about that in church. Or anywhere.” So that was kind of a buzzkill for the funny fest I was having while making this list, but it didn’t escape me that he said “okie dokey” as I had just been reading the list of things old people—eh, I mean Okies, say, and trying to remember if he said that or not or if I was just imagining he said that.

Nor does it escape me that my dad was fun, and funny, because the one thing he wanted out of life was to be a better example of a man than the one he was born to. His dad cheated on his mom; he was loyal to my mother. His dad took advantage of young, women; he helped young women escape abusive situations and went above and beyond the call of duty on several instances as a taxi driver. But now this list is starting to sound all mushy and kind of like the last few years of posts, all serious and dramatic, and I don’t want anyone crying, I just want everyone to have a good laugh. It’s a hundred degrees in Los Angeles today. That is way too hot for heavy emotion. It’s also too hot for my computer to work properly: it shut down for 90 minutes and gave continual error messages about calling the technicians in Bangladesh and promising to sacrifice a chicken while I ignored the error messages that said my computer was never, ever, ever going to work again by putting my ears over my head and saying “blah blah blah I can’t hear you” while holding my laptop directly in front of the air conditioner and restarting it over until I finally gave up and starting screaming that I needed to go to a mall or a swimming pool because “I can’t take it anymore, my computer isn’t working and the only thing I wanted to do is this website update for my dad and now everything is ruined and it’s so hot we’re all going to die!” While wallowing in my paroxysm of heat-induced melodrama, my computer decided to be normal again. Tricky psychological voodoo, used I. (Yes, that’s me talking like Yoda.) During the same phone call with my dad I said I was working on “something” on my computer, “I bet you can’t guess what,” and he ignored me and kept on telling me a story that allegedly occurred in 1951, when turn signals were optional in cars, and a woman got hit by a man who claimed to not see her put her hand out the window. “If it had been my leg, you wouldn’t have missed it,” the cheeky broad wisecracked. I don’t know how many times I have heard this story from my dad, it’s one that has popped up a few times in the last 12 months. Also in the last 12 months, I did something almost right, I helped my dad get his book published on Lulu…Still needs a few minor edits because I screwed up the table of contents and misspelled “acknowledgements,” but no one’s perfect. That thing about rocks, right Dad? Anyway, I’ll fix it, soon. Promise. Capiche? That’s Italian, not Okie, but he seems to have picked it up somewhere, and he says it all the time. He also picked up “whatever” back in the ’90s. And, finally, last year, my mom made him get a smart phone. But he still hates Facebook.

8. “One, two, tree!” When I was learning to count, and long after I had learned to count, my dad would ask what that big number that comes after two is. Trees, he would explain, have leaves and grow outside. Trees are wonderful, but they have nothing to do with ones and twos. Later, much much later, my acting coach made me say “this, that, and these” over and over—apparently there was something wrong by that time with the way I pronounced the “th” sound. I’m sure this is my father’s fault, too. As is my innate confidence that men will adore me, no matter how stupidly I behave. As the only daughter, I was “the apple of” my father’s eye. Angels undoubtedly brought me down from heaven on a deluxe cloud-mobile and right into Daddy’s arms. (That’s sort of true: my father was in the delivery room; it was my younger brother, born at home, that he actually delivered, but, hey, see #3.)

9. “Madder than a wet hen.” The only time in my life I have heard anyone use the phrase “madder than a wet hen” was when my father was warning me to steer clear of mother. Mom doesn’t get too angry too often, but he liked having an excuse to say “madder than a wet hen.” This is apparently an actual thing, where farmers used to dunk female chickens in cold water to calm them down so they could take their eggs, but it seems to have been counter productive or the phrase wouldn’t exist. So these cruel farmers just liked to take the eggs and get the chickens mad too.

10. “Cost you a nickel.” I owe Dad approximately 1300 nickels for every time I’ve asked to talk to Mom on the phone. I tell him to put it on my tab. He hasn’t figured out yet that I have no intention of paying. Ever.

BONUS ITEMS: Yes, this was supposed to be a list of ten things, because the Internet loves lists of ten and top ten lists, but I am on a roll of sorts, so I’ll keep going.

11. There’s a standard response to the question, “Hi Dad, how are you?” It is “Oh, as big as life and about twice again as onery.” When I manage to throw it back at him, by saying it first in another conversation, it makes him laugh.

12. “Love you.” This was not something my dad heard growing up, and for a long time, he had a hard time saying it. He didn’t say it to his first wife, who died of cancer, before he met my mom, or had any children of his own. But he made sure that she, I, and my brothers, heard it every day. There’s probably no phrase that he said more often, except…

13. “Our Father in Heaven, we thank Thee, Oh Lord, for Thy many blessings…” My parents are LDS, which means they literally cannot get enough church. We went to church for three hours on Sundays. That is a very, very long time to sit in a building that smells like baby diapers, because everyone is always having babies. We had Family Home Evenings on Mondays, and as often as not, special events on Wednesdays and Saturdays, too. I don’t think any group out there can out-church the Mormons. There are morning prayers, prayers before meals, and evening prayers. That is just the basic bare minimum amount of prayers. Then when things go wrong, you have special kinds of prayers, and blessings. Though I am, by my own admission, a lousy Mormon today, I still get blessings from my dad because it makes me feel good, though so far it has not been effective in transforming me into a person who can voluntarily endure the sheer amount of churching required by the faith more than a couple times a year, on holidays. But I have heard my dad pray so many times, that it is probably the one thing aside from his Okie-isms and other forms of malarkey that I most associate with Dad and with being loved. Because (deep down) I never really had to wonder if my Dad loved me (oh drat, there’s that sentimental tear starting to well up). Most 99% of the time, Dad’s prayers start with being thankful for our blessings. I heard it so many times and maybe it was like I heard it so many times I never heard it, so just to rub it in, this year on New Year’s when I went to church with Mom and Dad, he got up and bore his testimony about how thankful he was for all that Heavenly Father had done and will do for him. I guess that Dad doesn’t take anything for granted, he appreciates life, and he gives God all the credit. I don’t know what else to say to that because I didn’t want to start crying, because just thinking about my dad and how much I love him sometimes does that to me, makes me cry. I didn’t make a separate website for my mom, not yet anyway, but I also feel that way about her, she’s just not as corny as my dad so I send her orchids on Mother’s Day instead of pouring my heart out on a blog. Most of the time when I pray though, I thank God first off for my parents being alive and well, because I love them so much, and I am so thankful for the time we have to spend together. That’s it.

Happy Father’s Day!

One of these days I will do a site upgrade. The design, I know, needs work. (Editor’s note: side was switched over to WordPress in 2018; all posts are wrongly dated 2018 as a result.)

Love,

Pumpkin

Going Strong in 2015

In order to start writing my Father’s Day Message to Dad, I had to log on to my computer, enter a password, and close out the already open documents and applications. In addition to closing out my Facebook account while watching our cat explore the closet and hoping she wouldn’t wander from my air conditioned den into the bedroom where my fiance is sleeping, I closed a text document titled “To Do Fix Life.”

This is a list of things that are the ramifications of my bailing out of my last job without a clear plan in place—unplanned medical expenses, credit cards now in the hands of debt collectors, student loans, and taxes not filed on time.* Like the proverbial cat, I did manage, eventually, to land on my feet and get another job despite putting very little effort into doing so, and a lot of effort into “anti-commercial, anti-art, anti-social performance art.” I’m blessed with a nice office with a view of the Hollywood sign, and regular paychecks that cover my car payments and leasing a three-bedroom home with an outdoor private patio for painting and an amazing view of the San Gabriel Mountains. Yeah, there’s still that “To Do Fix Life” list, a screenplay I wrote during my hiatus from corporate America, and the chasm between the dreams I moved to Los Angeles to pursue and my waking “so-called” reality, which involves a lot of time investing in doing and achieving things I never consciously set out to achieve. However, I know it is possible to close the gap very quickly, with the power of transformation (remind me to tell you the story about Chinese bamboo). And overall, compared to where I was at a year ago, when I tried moving this website over from one domain host to another and lost all my files (thanks Yahoo!), I have been blessed. I have found a modicum of faith. And chief among my blessings, my mother and father are alive, possessing sound minds and sound health, and receiving enough income to maintain a comfortable life.

I interrupted my father with a phone call in the middle of something he was doing with bookshelves and a compression gun in his woodshop yesterday. When my father gets in his mind to start a task, very little can take his attention away, and he was polite but was on the phone for all of two minutes before he was ready to hang up and get back to work. I understand because I’m the same way. I like to read books start to finish. If I decide I’m going to climb a mountain I don’t want to stop and rest until I get to the top. But there’s one sure diversion my father cannot resist: the opportunity to tell a good story. So, since I hadn’t spoken to him in at least a week and didn’t want him to hang up, I asked him about the veracity of some advice I’d received for handling rattlesnakes on the trails. This provided an opportunity he could not resist to delve into the time he came face-to-face with a copperhead snake, and I was blessed with twice as much phone time with Dad.

The story was pretty simple. He was in the desert climbing rocks probably before this was a fashionable thing to do but that’s only a speculative embellishment, and as he grabbed both hands around a rock to pull himself up, came face-to-face with a copperhead. Well, he let go of the rock “right pretty darn quicklike” and sped away from the copperhead at the fastest speed possible, which involves the equation for mass of a falling body near the gravitational pull of the earth. These sorts of equations my father quotes regularly whether discussing carpentry or a near-death experience, and, viewed through a haze of what could very well be estrogen impairment, are recorded in my mind like Charlie Brown’s teacher “blah blah, blah blah blah blah…”

However it doesn’t matter what my dad is talking about when he talks to me. He could be speaking from the Koran in Arabic for all I care or reading a one thousand page manual on how to watch paint dry that repeated a three word sentence over and over. When Dad talks, I fall into a trance. Just the sound of his voice reassures me that everything is ok.

Father’s Day is a rough day for some people. People who never had dads, people who are feuding with their dads, or people who have lost their fathers. On my Facebook page, I’m sure I have all of these. Last night I met with a friend from All Saints who had been born with Spina Bifida and placed in an orphanage because at that time, sixty years ago, poor African-American parents were encouraged not to keep children who were too expensive to care for. I have another friend who is currently angry at his father, because he came into a little money and his dad sent an email suggesting now he could repay him for a loan that was so old my friend had forgotten about it. But my friend hadn’t forgotten the abuse he suffered at his father’s hands, and the request for money brought up all those old feelings about his father owing him restitution of some kind, and all the old bitterness of being thrown out of the house and forced to fend for himself at seventeen.

Just a few weeks ago, we had a scare that reminded me what Father’s Day must feel like for those who have lost their fathers. Dad was taking a painkiller that caused side effects which sent him into the ER. The first message I received was on Facebook, from Mom, stating that they were in the ER and didn’t know what was wrong. As much as my rational mind knows not to jump to conclusions, my emotional being accelerated into overdrive and I had to leave work, tears streaming down my face, certain that Dad was being taken away from us. I can tell you that just the memory of the slight increase of possibility of Dad going away makes me cry at the keyboard. And sometimes, when I get homesick after months of separation, I cry just because the family in Wisconsin is too far away. At such times, hearing my father’s voice is a balm that soothes all wounds.

My father’s stories put me to sleep when I was a little girl. He showed his love by the way he spoke, and the things he built. My father built swings and treehouses, custom bookshelves that followed pictures I’d drawn of how I wanted them to look, a bed frame for a futon in my early twenties, and countless vases and boxes made of pieces of wood he finds interesting. My father also cooked; “sawed” potatoes, cowboy cocoa (made with carob powder instead of chocolate; they were “health freaks”), popcorn in coconut milk, and vegan biscuits. His fathering started when I was an infant in Southern California and had to be driven up and down the 405 in order to fall asleep, and continues today, when I call him and ask him stupid questions hoping they’ll spur something in his memory and keep him talking, talking about anything at all, just so I can hang on to the sound of his voice.

For anyone who needs an image of a good dad, let me share my dad with you. His love is big enough. I woke up this morning, after dreaming I’d magically transported my parents Madison, Wisconsin, home into downtown Los Angeles, and was upset that (in the dream) Dad had donated the recliner he’d gotten for Christmas one year to the local LDS ward. He said it was getting creaky. And for some reason the first thing I thought of when I woke up was the time he picked up a long haired hitchhiker, thinking it was a woman, and it turned out to be a hippie. Dad explained, with my brother and me in the car, that he wouldn’t have picked up the man if he hadn’t thought it was a woman, and he wouldn’t have picked up a woman in the car without us there or our mom there, because it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to be alone with another woman. Although he was surprised when it turned out to be a guy, he still gave the guy a ride. Just like he still made a frame for a painting I’d sold when the partner of the purchaser turned out to be another man—he may be conservative, but he’s never been an out-and-out bigot. He is the best example I know of what it means to be Christian. He is slow to anger, quick to forgive, and helps those in need whenever he can, without asking anything in return.

As a three year old, I wasn’t so willing to share my dad. I caught him with one of my cousins on his lap, telling that OTHER little girl a Miss Mousie story, the story about a fearless mouse who stood up to C-A-T-s and protected other mice from harm. For three days, I didn’t speak—not to him,not to anyone. For a child who was “vaccinated by a phonograph needle” as he used to say, this must have taken serious resolve. Finally, I told him that I didn’t like it when he put other little girls on his lap and told them MY Miss Mousie stories. Now I understand that the Miss Mousie stories are not mine at all. They belong to all of us, (or will, or should, or can….) We have been working for years now on three Miss Mousie scripts, and the greatest desire in my heart is to see these scripts turned into animated feature films. Perhaps the “little me” has been sulking, not wanting to share MY dad, and MY stories. But I’m nearing the age Napoleon Hill calls the age of “mental maturity,” which sounds so much better than “over the hill.” And from my vantage point of newfound, budding maturity, I want to share, to let the “BIG ME” put the little selfish me in her place.

The story of the Chinese bamboo tells of a farmer who buys some seeds and waters them year after year after year. He carries buckets of water to his “spots,” and the rest of the village thinks he’s crazy. They laugh at him, and then they stop laughing and stop talking to him altogether. It takes seven years of watering the bamboo before anything happens. Then when the sprouts finally appear, the bamboo, which has been secretly growing underground and putting down roots, shoots up ninety feet in just a few weeks. Wikipedia tells us “Bamboos are some of the fastest-growing plants in the world, due to a unique rhizome-dependent system. Certain species of bamboo can grow 35 inches within a 24-hour period, at a rate of 3 cm/h (a growth of approximately 1 millimeter (or 0.02 inches) every 2 minutes).Bamboos are of notable economic and cultural significance in South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia, being used for building materials, as a food source, and as a versatile raw product. Bamboo has a higher compressive strength than wood, brick or concrete and a tensile strength that rivals steel.”

The story of the Chinese bamboo farmer has a happy ending: the farmer is rich, his harvest enough to provide amply and abundantly for his entire family. His “fruitless” effort is rewarded only after his faith has been tested and he has continued to persevere, not only out of faith, but out of the habit of nurturing his dream harvest through watering.

In my own life, in my own self-measurement, I’ve only begun to show a few signs of success—perhaps the little bamboo shoots are just barely poking through the mud. I’ve overcome some self-destructive habits and ways of thinking. I’ve paid off a few debts and expect to be able to continue to pay off my debts. Hopefully, I’ve become less selfish and more like my dad.

The love of my father, through my entire life, has been like that Chinese farmer watering on barren ground. Oh sure, I produced a few early works of prodigy, but I held the entire society and system of accomplishment, reward and recognition in contempt. I needed to do a lot of work on the inside. My being required roots in the world. No matter how much I screwed up, no matter how terrible my moods and rage that the way things were was not the way things should be, my father never stopped showing me his caring concern. Those three a.m. phone calls a parent might expect during a child’s teens or early twenties didn’t stop until I was well into my thirties. My father, in his eighties, answered those calls with the same loving kindness and selfless patience he would have used when I was an infant, and he was in his mid-forties. There were even a few Miss Mousie stories given long, long, long after I should have been too old to need to be soothed back to sleep by my father, though these later stories came over the telephone rather than snuggling in his favorite recliner.

I can’t locate the earlier versions of this site, where I talked about the costumes and sets Dad made for our Playtime Productions theatre group, or his knowledge of songbirds. I don’t remember if I talked about Mac the gentle giant, the farmer whose land he inadvertently trespassed on and the various stories that involved guns, criminal threats, and bluffing to cheat death. Or the time he was almost elected Mayor of Oakland, or how it was Dad who coined the term “the soaring sixties.”

I could go on.
But you get the point.

Dad, I love you.

Happy Father’s Day.

My Dad Gives me Strength During my Trials (2014)

Every year for a few years in a row now, I try to come up with a Father’s Day Message that tops the one before. I don’t think it’s going to happen this year, but I’ll at least try to be honest and tell it from the heart. Last year, I was a month out of of my “boring, corporate” job I’d just quit after six years, and my hopes that “something better” would come along were still high. The year turned out to be one of the most challenging I’d had since prior to starting with my old firm, due to an issue with marijuana dependency that led to a biochemical imbalance which was compounded by multiple adverse and abnormal reactions to psychiatric intervention. I tried quitting pot cold turkey, couldn’t sleep, was too embarrassed to tell my physician I’d just stopped smoking weed, and was placed on medications that were not appropriate for someone who was *merely* going through withdrawal.

Although some people have nothing but positive experience with marijuana, I had to come to terms with the fact that I have never used marijuana without a pattern of increasing use over months and years, and life sooner or later getting out of control. For me, it’s like Kryptonite. And psych meds are even worse. For me, 90% of the medications I’ve tried made the problems that they are supposed to cure ten times worse, and in the other 10% of the time, created side effects, some of which, like lactation, that are rare enough to only ccur in 1-3% of all users, and some of which, like tremors and rashes, which medical professionals decided were indicators that I should be switched to something else.

When I was switched in April from a medication that seemed to calm me down, due to side effects, to a medication I abreacted to, the abreaction was so severe I didn’t know if I could take it. This medication made me feel like there were bugs crawling inside my skull and the discomfort made every second literally unbearable. I went home to visit my mother and father and started to taper off of the medication while getting plenty of sleep, a quiet place to recover, and daily prayer with my mother and father.

I had to find another route to wellness, and it came to me through alternative herbal “brain food,” prayer, my father’s blessings, and abstinence from mood-altering substances including marijuana (and to a lesser extent booze and caffeine, which I indulge in abstemiously and should probably avoid altogether just to be safe). There were times I was afraid I would never be able to function normally again, times I worried about becoming homeless, or that I would be a “medicated zombie.”

It is only through the grace of God that I am here today, 102 days without marijuana and 30 days without psych meds. I have been able to pick up a part time job, and I have a gallery show next month at a prestigious venue in Culver City. This is a pretty rotten Father’s Day message, since, mostly, so far, it’s been about me.

What I want to say is that without my father and mother and Sunrider food, I could not have gotten through this past year. I am also grateful for the welcoming community at St. John’s Cathedral, especially Father Lee who counseled me as a second father. I am also grateful for St. Vincent’s church, which was always open for me to go and say my prayers, for All Saints, which is in my new neighborhood and open for prayer every day, as well as for the assistance of the Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena. My gratitude for these things is the kind of gratitude and indebtedness you feel when someone saves your life.

During my crises, whenever my anger—sometimes justified, but all too often over nothing, and almost always inappropriately expressed—was too much for my fiance to handle, he called my dad. My dad treated Bruce like his own son, and I know it meant, and still means, a lot to Bruce.

Sometimes my dad would talk to Bruce in a soothing tone, and sometimes he would talk to me. I’m pushing forty, and yet, there were times when he didn’t know what else to do during the time when I was agitated and couldn’t sleep. Dad got on the phone in the middle of the night after we’d woken him with panic, and he told me Miss Mousie stories, just like he had when I was a little girl. I remember in our old loft, one story he told me about Miss Mousie’s job at the bakery, selling mousecakes for the Harvest Moon festival. He even did a spot-on Swedish accent when imitating the bakery owner.

I remember during my trip to Madison this spring, sitting in the prayer / piano room in my parents’ home, listening with my father to my mother play Chopin. In the Mormon church, LDS patriarchal “priesthood holders” give blessings, which is done by placing their hands on the head of the person receiving a blessing. My father gave me two of these blessings while I was home, and both times, as when he’s done this over the phone, it gave me a sense of peace and calm.

While I was home I also enjoyed hearing my father read some of his other stories in the fantasy category to me while I relaxed. I enjoyed hugs from Mom and Dad each morning, and prayers in the morning and evening. Most of all, I was blessed with the sure knowledge that my mother and father love me and want what’s best for me. They’ve tried to be more caring, more communicative, and kinder than their own parents. I hope they know that I love them as much as they love me. I hope they know how badly I want to finally and fully “grow up” and how sorry I am for all the mistakes I’ve made.

Finally, I haven’t given up on those Miss Mousie screenplays. Last year on Father’s Day I pleaded with God directly for Divine Intervention in getting those scripts funded – and fast. Today, the funding through a major player in the international world of animation, is still, and has been for many months, “pending.” It’s been so long it feels like it might not be real. And in Hollywood, you never know. You meet people every day whose “sure thing” turns out to be nothing more than a pipe dream. Of course I would like to think that the difficulties I went through since last Father’s Day were some kind of test to prepare me for success. I certainly learned that I should have been more grateful for my previous employer, instead of focusing on what I didn’t have.

My dad never turned up his nose at a low-paying job. My dad is eighty years old, and still shovels his own snow and takes odd jobs to earn extra income, then turns around and gives it to one of his kids who can’t pay for gas or the cell phone bill. As recently as a few weeks ago, when I was thinking I’d have to pack it up and move home, my dad was willing to jump in the minivan and drive 3,000 miles across country to come get me and move all my things. He won’t let us make an old man out of him. But he can’t help it if I would like to make an example of him.

The funny thing is, I know I get my temper from my dad, but he’s the calmest person I’ve ever met. Maybe there’s hope for me. Maybe someday I can develop the level of self-discipline, humility, and self-control that he exhibits. Someday, Dad, I want to be just like you.

Thank you for framing my paintings, picking me up from the airport, picking me up when I’m feeling blue, paying my cell phone bill when the phone is going to get shut off otherwise and it’s my own damn fault, never cursing in front of ladies, refusing to let us make an old man out of you, never troubling others with your pain and suffering, never turning up your nose at an honest day’s work, and telling us the same stories over and over. Thank you for deciding to be a different kind of man than your father who was violent and a “skirt chaser.” Thank you for loving Mom so much and writing her love notes every day that you sign, “Your Secret Admirer.” Thank you for being you—even if it means forwarding me political e-mails about Benghazi or President Obama’s birth certificate that I’ll never agree with, it couldn’t make me love you any less. Every time I hear your voice, my heart melts a little and I’m so grateful for every moment we spend together, especially in person, but even on the phone. You always make the hard things a little more bearable. You never met a stranger who you didn’t treat like a friend. You are, once again, the “best dad ever.”

Love you!

-Pumpkin

My Dad is Some Kind of Wonderful (2013)

You could call me a Daddy’s girl. All through high school, instead of taking a bus, Dad drove me to school—in our, ahem, Mercedes-Benz. We’d arrive about five minutes before class started, which, of course, meant I would have an audience for my arrival, and I would always kiss him on the cheek, self-consciously aware of the boys I was ignoring on my way in. Sometimes I’d toss my Benetton scarf over my shoulder. Since we’d never had much money in my elementary school days, and I was awkward and bookish during middle school, I relished my new role as a born again princess when my parents’ business took off and other students started to treat me differently. There was no such change in my father’s personality, but I do happily recall the day he brought home a stack of hundred dollar bills after cashing a large check and literally showered them over my brother’s head.

My older brother, Marty, used to wear a trench coat and combat boots during the years I was fashion and status obsessed. While getting me up and out of bed was never an issue, Dad had to resort to all sorts of tricks to get Marty out of bed. I still feel the sort of vicarious pleasure that only a sibling can muster when I think of the marbles he kept in the freezer overnight, and the loud expression of shock that came from Marty’s bedroom when Dad used the marbles as a last resort. It’s pretty cool that this trench coat rebel has turned into a polo shirt wearing awesome dad himself.

In my younger days, after leaving high school falling in love with a modern day hippy, I went from suburban princess to granola princess, and my attitude toward my father changed from entitlement tinged with occasional annoyance to outright contempt. In those days, I saw him as a two-dimensional bad guy. Sexist. Racist. Homophobic. Those were the labels I used to dismiss anyone whose attitude, clothing, and lifestyle was not on the fringe of social norms. My father’s actions of service and acceptance toward others regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation mattered little: his participation in a religion which used the word “patriarchal” in a positive context, and the wealth and status he and my mother had worked so diligently to acquire, were proof of a sinister compliance with the Evil Empire. (This is an oversimplification, but the truth about my state of mind during these years is not pleasant, and perhaps not fully appropriate to describe here— after all, this site is about honoring my father, not embarrassing myself or exposing old wounds.)

I did everything I could to sever my association with my family and former self. During those hedonistic early years, when I didn’t visit or call home, for quite some time, my father still met me in public places to drop off monthly checks of several hundred dollars. I wasn’t speaking to my mother. (Mom and I have since not only reconciled, but continue to grow closer all the time. Her love and friendship now sustains me.) When things in my life and relationship went sour, he offered me his blessings, an LDS tradition where male priesthood holders, as they are called, lay their hands on the recipient and say a special form of prayer that is seen as a direct, individual message from God, who LDS people, commonly known as “Mormons,” refer to as our Heavenly Father. Those early blessings I accepted as a form of comfort, but the authority he invoked to “command” me to return to the faith of my youth fell on deaf ears, at best.

Although my father, before he met my highly religious mother, used to chase the Mormon missionaries away from the door by feigning intoxication and swearing profusely, today his personality is inseparable from his faith. He was not raised to fear or know God. He suffered the early betrayal of two wives to whom he was married only briefly and the death, by cancer, of his third wife. Sometimes he still tells me stories about his twenties and thirties that involve bar fights, itinerant wandering, and characters best described as “colorful,” like the one about Mac, the gentle giant, or the tough scrapes he got out of with nothing more than good old Irish moxie. (“….And so I pointed the gun,” he says, “and I said “I’ve only got five bullets and there’s six of you…so who gets to live?” I’m pretty sure I’m conflating the exact details of this quotation, but it’s close enough.)

Not a day went by that I do not recall hearing my father pray out loud. We prayed before meals. We often prayed at bedtime. Today he and Mom pray together in the morning and he prays before a road trip, for safety. The informal template for these prayers start out something like this:

“Our dear kind Heavenly Father, we thank thee, oh Lord, for Thy many blessings…” and then they continue with more thanks, for our health, for our togetherness, for things that God has yet to give. My father’s gratitude for divine providence is never insincere, and always precedes any request for healing or protection.

As I have aged, the judgment and bitterness I once held has softened, gradually transforming into respect and admiration. I see it now as only a temporary stage in my development as a human being: Before puberty, I idealized and worshiped my parents. During puberty and well into my twenties I vilified them. Black and white give way to gray, and today I see my parents as human, but even more remarkable as such. My love for them both, in moments of solitude, moves me to tears.

The last few months, admittedly, I’ve been having an early mid-life crisis. I left my job, where I was well treated and well regarded, after six years, multiple raises, and a promotion, not only out of hope to finally “succeed” in my chosen fields of art and entertainment, but also out of a feeling of the increase in compensation not being enough to feel financially secure. I am still grieving for the loss of so many professional relationships where I knew I was valued and appreciated for my talent. I lost two close friends who I very much enjoyed serving with no strings attached, but who more and more often made verbal jabs that showed an undercurrent of cruelty and a lack of reciprocal care and respect. It helps to remember that my father’s act of standing up to unfair treatment that my family endured among our own religious community preceded the miraculous reversal of fortune that my parents’ commitment to an herbal food company called Sunrider enabled.

It can be painful to stand up for yourself, because you have to admit the price you pay for selling yourself short. I’ve been reading a book about miracles, stories where people in times of hardship or pain were given gifts of emotional, financial, and creative support. The first several chapters, all I could do was pity myself, and replay in my mind traumas where, over the years, in my darkest hour, I felt abandoned and victimized. The prayers of everyone else seemed so much more effective than my own. I literally cried out, “Why has God forsaken me?” When I came to a page describing “giving exhaustion,” I realized I’ve been overcompensating for the years in which I was arrogant and selfish. And again, I think about my dad.

I’ve never seen tears roll down his face (that I can remember. Maybe a couple misty-eyed moments in church, but not …you know, full-blown tears… and certainly not tears of pain, fear, or sadness.) His stoicism, suffering, forgiving and selflessness make my own martyr complex seem nothing more than the self-deception of an overgrown spoiled brat whose own narcissism and pride brought the inevitable fall from grace. My parents gave me every advantage, and I spit on all of it. For them, in their wisdom and maturity, it’s all “water under the bridge.” Yet I find it difficult to forgive myself—not only for my self-centered behavior in my teens and twenties, but also for allowing myself to give well past the point of hurting. I wish I could be more like Dad.

My father is a woodworker. While I was in elementary school, he somehow got his leg caught in a sanding belt and it sanded off a good deal of skin. I didn’t know it had happened until several weeks after the fact. My mother and we kids were home, and he simply didn’t yell or scream because he was more concerned about scaring us than the pain he was in. I don’t, like Marty, have kids of my own, but if I did, I don’t know that I would be able to show such courage.

At the same time, even after Dad’s hopes to go to college and medical school were squashed by the unethical behavior of his own father and stepmother, no matter what demeaning, back-breaking labor he performed, he never another man verbally abuse him or mistreat a woman in his presence. He is humble as dirt and proud as a king.

I’ve had a lot more time to think lately. My mom is probably right when she suggests that is why I’ve been having these strong emotions: I also have time to feel. The thing I feel worst about is not yet being in a position to give back to my mom and dad, and, frankly, starting to doubt my ability to rise to such a position. If I could have one thing on earth, I would no longer wish for a recording contract or a breakout part in a really great movie. Of course I still want these things. But I’ve been waiting half as long as Dad for greater recognition of my talents. My father, who writes all kinds of stories, remains essentially unpublished, and still collects rejection letters. He takes joy in my growing appreciation for his talent, but he deserves so much more—not only because of his goodness, which is admirable, but because of his greatness as a story teller. They don’t make men like him anymore, and the world needs them now more than ever.

The screenplays I cajoled him into writing, based on a unique world he created for me during the early years of my early childhood, were dismissed as “too morally unambiguous” by one production company. They are written as family entertainment, of the animated variety, and they don’t include sexist or sexually or culturally inappropriate stereotypes or the kind of banal humor, based on one character hurting another, that I see in so many popular animated movies. The female heroine is strong and her romantic relationship, though tragic, is enshrined with a chaste spirituality that much of Hollywood sees as irrelevant and commercially nonviable despite the blockbuster success of films such as the Twilight series. (I once read that there are about ten R-rated movies made for every G-rated movie, despite the fact that many of the top-grossing films have been G-rated, because there is no structural accountability to balance supply and demand.)

My strategy for getting these films made is admittedly as pathetic as much of my attitude and behavior. I have done very little other than cheering Dad on during the writing process and enlisting the help of someone who has great knowledge of producing and A-list contacts, most of which have little or no experience in animation. And I’m so embarrassed by the confessions on this page, I’ve coded it “no index, no follow,” (meaning it will not show up in Google searches) and hand-selected only my Facebook friends I trust enough to be gentle and kind to share the link with. Which may end up being nobody but you and me Dad (even though I was talking like I’m not addressing you directly, this is really, truly, made for you.) We’ll see.

The following prayer is not for those friends and family, but to feed the small seed of hope inside me and Dad, that someone up there can help us do more and be more. I pray the way I was shown not out of faith, but out of tradition and familial respect.

Our Dear, Kind, Heavenly Father: I thank Thee, oh Lord, for my many blessings. I thank Thee for the opportunities and privileges I have received; for my car, my loft, my education, my health, my talents and the many friendships that have nurtured me. I thank Thee for the beauty of the parks and trails in this beautiful city I call home. I thank Thee for angels I have yet to encounter, for the day I will accept and know the love and recognition I so crave but in a healthy way. Forgive me, Lord, my weaknesses and transgressions, and bless me with a heart of forgiveness forgive those who have transgressed against me, including myself. Lord, I ask Thee, for the love of my father, that Thou wilst help me find the way to give back to my dad a gift that not only returns, but magnifies, the thousands of acts of compassion and service which he has performed, with no thought of his own reward, for the many decades he has devoted himself to Thy will, and to my mother and us kids. A gift that will restore him to his proverbial throne, and allow him to positively influence millions of children and parents all over the world. A gift that will allow him to give the gifts you’ve given him to so many others. Specifically, please, God, allow me to serve Thee by getting Miss Mousie the movie funded by August 31, 2013 and in the theatres in time for Christmas (December 25) of 2013. I would gladly sacrifice anything Thou asks of me to make this happen. I am fully committed to serve Thee, and to serve my father, in this regard with no higher priority in my life. Please guide me so that I may know what to do and how to do it. Please forgive me when I fail or am slow to heed the prompting of Thy spirit, and help me improve. God, if you’re anything like my dad, you rock. So thanks in advance for listening and giving me a hand. I love you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you more than a leprechaun loves gold.

Love you!

-Pumpkin

My Dad is the Best Dad Ever, 2012 Essay

My father didn’t have the easiest childhood, to say the least. He was born into the Great Depression, and remembers his mother setting out an extra dinner plate on the back step for hobos, because they were always stopping through town while hitching rides on the railway. Sadly, his mother wasn’t around very long. She was a beautiful, delicate woman whose birth name was Blanche Rose Wilder. Everyone called her “Joy” because of her sunny disposition. We only have one photo of her. When I saw it the first time, I thought someone had Photoshopped Dad’s head onto the body of a woman. They look that much alike; he must take after her. That’s probably why his Dad, my grandfather, treated him particularly hard. Back then there were no domestic violence shelters, and the phrase “child abuse” had had yet to enter the popular lexicon with the ubiquity we see today. There was no tv yet, and most telephones were shared lines. You learned by the ring if you should pick it up or not.

Dad remembers his father striking his mother, and that she went to the hospital and didn’t come back. Grandpa Cue was a skirt-chaser; there had been another woman and he was remarried within an indecently short time of my grandmother’s death.

I had known about this history since I was a child, but my father suffered another tragedy in his early years that I never knew about until just a few Christmases ago, when he mentioned that he’d had a baby brother who died in a fire. Dad’s father was a forest ranger at the time, and the family was living in a little cabin with an outlook. My Dad told me that they didn’t have enough beds so his baby brother was in a drawer when the fire started. Dad was only five years old, and too small to save his baby brother, but he tried.

Most adults would be shocked to find that their parent had such a significant event occur that had never been revealed. But in my family, bombshells are greeted with nonchalance. We’ve gotten used to it. See, when I was a kid, I tried to figure out how many different jobs my dad has held. Every time I asked him the question, it invariably led to another story when he got to a job that I never knew he’d held. If I asked “You were a taxi driver in Salt Lake City?” it would end up turning into a story about the time he met a real giant, the kind who worked as a circus freak and had to have specially made shoes. (And in Dad’s later years, he started writing these down, thankfully! I haven’t read everything he’s written yet, but I do my best to keep up.)

Even after college, I tried to record his answer to this question, and I think after two hours and a list of thirty or so positions, including jobs I’d never heard of, we got off on another tangent, this time about a Portigee he’d known in San Pedro. That story, however, is not appropriate for public consumption.

The story Dad is going to be famous for is the story of a little mouse named Miss Mousie (and yes, there’s WGA-registered and copywritten material-so copy-cats, beware!) Miss Mousie has been a part of my life since as long as I can remember. Miss Mousie is kind of like Dad’s female alter ego (and I hope, a little like me too!) See, Miss Mousie, like Dad, was never afraid of anything. And when she gets in a pickle, like Dad, she comes up with the craziest tricks to not only get away from danger, but protect others, too. Like, when he met Mac the giant, it was because Dad had stepped in to stand up to some thugs who’d gotten a lady a little too inebriated. The lady wanted to go home, but these jerks had other ideas. My Dad stood up to them, and when they wanted to fight, Mac stepped up and backed Dad. Needless to say, the bad guys decided to pick on someone else.

Now, with a dad like mine you might think I had a perfect childhood. Certainly, there were many idealic aspects. I have something special that I can keep the rest of my life: the memory of sitting on my Dad’s lap, or laying down next to him, and hearing his soothing voice and feeling completely loved and safe. I always felt loved and safe with Dad. But Dad through no fault of his own, couldn’t protect me from everything, even though he wanted to. And while I’m not exactly sure what went wrong and I’m more interested in moving forward, there were difficult years when I wanted nothing to do with my family. I suffered with mental health issues in my teens to and early twenties. (Yes, I’m ok now-doing really well, in fact.) It was a hard time, but now I know that the obstacles I have overcome have made me the strong and caring person I am today. During this time, I slowly cut myself off from everyone who loved me one by one, until, ten years ago when I hit rock bottom, I had lost all my friends*, my home, and my husband.

I’d gotten beat up while in the relationship that ended the marriage, and Dad, of course, wanted me to come home. But I had other plans: finishing college—which meant staying in a Domestic Violence shelter, where I was fortunate to receive counseling to continue my recovery, and able to continue my coursework. But I knew that if I’d been less stubborn, I could have called my dad at any time from anyplace in the world and he would have come and picked me up and taken me home. He and Mom NEVER gave up on me. I gave up on them temporarily, and I’m sorry. I was misguided.

My Dad is an optimist, and I get that from him. My parents have both been very successful, and everyone knows my mom is sharp as a whip and can dominate any conversation. Mom and Dad both have IQ’s in the 140’s, but while Dad got his Ph.D. in the School of Hard Knocks, Mom got hers, or was in the process of getting until I came along, through academia. He’s a little country. She’s a little ivory tower. People assumed she was the brains behind the business because she works the numbers, rallies the troops, and presents herself with polish. Her clients in the alternative health business hold her in very high esteem. And my father loves her so much that he doesn’t give himself credit where it’s due. It’s true, we all worship Mom. But without Dad’s positive attitude, we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.

Napoleon Hill says, “What the mind of a person can conceive and believe, the mind of a person can achieve, with a positive mental attitude.” Last year when I was home for Christmas, I found some old newsletters that my parents used to mail to their Sunrider downline, called ON CUE. These were written by Dad. And issue after issue, his positive attitude, encouragement, and sunny outlook shine through.

Dad continues to surprise me. I didn’t know Dad is an accomplished bird watcher, until I was on the phone with him this Spring and saw an unusual pair of birds. After describing the markings, Dad told me they sounded like Western bluebirds. When I got home and did a quick Google images search, I was impressed: Dad was right. Maybe Father Knows Best afterall.

 

Happy Father’s Day!

Love you!

My Dad is Still the Best Dad Ever–And Mom Thinks so Too! (2011 Birthday Message)

Today, August 29, 2011, Dad turns seventy-eight years old. And, true to form, when I said “How old are you, Dad, eighty?” He responded with the old joke which ususally starts, “You ever had one of those days that you wouldn’t wish on a dog?” The rest of the joke, paraphased, is, he’s not a day over fifty three….If the day wasn’t good enough for a dog, you see, then it shouldn’t count on the calendar either.

Last year I posted something special for my dad on this website for Father’s Day. And the year before. This year, I was sick the weekend I’d planned to work on it so I decided to wait for his birthday, and I wanted to include some loving words from the rest of my family.

In the Cue family, we have, like all familes, jokes you hear over and over (mostly from Dad) and stories you hear over and over, too. Most of the stories are from Dad, too. Like the talking catfish, the gentle giant, the little mouse who lived under the brambleberry bush in a home with seven doors…kind of like the Dad in the movie, “Big Fish.”

Mom, on the other hand, despite having a Masters degree in English literature, only has two stories she tells over and over: How she converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is one of them. The other story, the one I’ve heard most often, is the story of how she met, and fell in love with, my Dad. As I’ve mentioned, one of the reasons my dad is the best dad ever, is that he always treats my mother like a Queen. Dad, I love you, and Happy Birthday. Mom’s story follows here below.

Mom’s Story, in Her Own Words

Most of the time when somebody asks me how I first met my husband, I revert to a “short” version of the story. Perhaps it is time to record the “whole” story, as I recall it more than twenty-five years later. It is, after all, a great story, and worth the telling.

Unlike most little girls I knew, I did not grow up dreaming of my Prince Charming and choosing names for our future babies. Marriage was not in my plans. My plan was to be perfect, and I had been repeatedly taught that perfect meant forsaking marriage and walking the high road as a “Bride of Christ.” I was also taught that God would call me to this lofty position. For years I prayed for, and waited for this calling. It never came. Instead, acting on good theological advice that my desire alone was sufficient motivation, at the age of twenty-one I finally acted upon my aspirations and entered a convent, expecting to spend the rest of my life in the service of God.

It took seven years for me to realize, with certainty, that the path I had chosen was not bringing me closer to my goals. Perhaps I was not cut out for such high perfection after all. Painfully I acknowledged that it would be better for me to go back into the world and work out my salvation with a life-partner at my side. I knew very little about how difficult it would be to find that partner.

The next four years I can best describe as a learning time. In the academic arena, I completed a Master’s degree and all the course work and examinations for a PhD at Marquette University in Milwaukee. In the school of life, I struggled to understand the complexities of male-female relationships. To make a long and painful chapter of my life very short, in the spring of 1974 I was a single parent, and considering the possibility that I might never find a compatible mate. Being happily married was beginning to look like the stuff fairy tales were made of, but not an option in real life.

This is where the story begins, in the spring of 1974. My baby was now a toddler, and it was time for the Lord to lend a helping hand. I believe that what started it all was a small incident in the office of my department chairman, after a routine interview regarding the progress of my doctoral dissertation. After academic matters were dispensed with, Dr. Schwarz dropped his professional tone, looked me straight in the eye, and said to me, “Ann, I want you to know I strongly disapprove of you raising your child without a father.” (This was the ‘70’s, and I was in a Jesuit university.)

Without a moment’s hesitation, I answered from my heart, “Dr. Schwartz, if Martin needs a father, God will provide a father.” I believed it. And the moment I said it, I knew it was true. Alone, I was getting nowhere with this problem. But if it was God’s will, it would be taken care of. What I still didn’t know was which direction the IF would lead, that is, whether or not a father was needed. I would continue to watch and pray. As I look back on that time, that is when a series of events was set into motion that led to an answer to my prayers, and I believe strongly that that simple act of faith in my chairman’s office was the spiritual trigger that opened up the heavens to pour down the greatest blessings of my life.

This is how it played out. By the end of that summer, I was facing more decisions, regarding both career and parenting. My dissertation was nearing completion, my fellowships had expired, and it was time to get a job. Somehow, I was in the right place at the right time, and received the sure promise of a position at UW-Milwaukee. Then, in what looked like a strange twist of fate, I was also offered a position at Marquette. For less pay, I could avoid the extra travel and time away from my child. It was a tough decision, and I had exactly one day to make it. The still small voice within, which I had learned to trust, said to stay at Marquette. I withdrew my application at UW-M, trusting that this was the right thing to do.

After that, the helping hand from heaven became more and more intrusive. My little voice told me I needed to look into my child care arrangement, and I discovered a situation I was not happy with. I was directed to exactly the right replacement, but now the law required a TB skin test before my toddler could be admitted to the new nursery school. And time was getting short, before the beginning of the fall semester. Each time I tried to schedule an appointment at the clinic that could take care of this piece of business, my phone call was not answered. By the most curious confluence of happenings and mishappenings, I finally scheduled the appointment for Friday afternoon, September 6, my birthday. I had to hurry back home from morning classes, pick up my child for what I hoped was the last time at the babysitter, and get back to the South Side clinic for the skin test. It was a tight schedule, but we did it.

As we left the clinic, something else occurred which probably contributed to the outcome of what was to follow. Painters were on duty, doing some seasonal maintenance work, and they stopped to play with my child. Martin, a charmer at 22 months, enjoyed their attention. My mood changed, and I decided to take advantage of the day and the circumstances to drive back to the Marquette campus and celebrate my birthday at the graduate-student/faculty lounge where a TGIF was very likely in progress.

And so it happened that, for the first and only time of all the months and years I lived in Milwaukee, I found myself driving north on 18th Street, toward Wisconsin Avenue, heading for the more familiar parking places I was in the custom of using. And then the “little voice” did something to me most amazing. It became very, very loud, as loud as if a person were speaking right into my ear. Right in the middle of the block, in what seemed a very inconvenient place, it said, “Park here.” I was not about to disobey such an urgent command.

I parked. I now had a long walk, uphill, to the recreation facility, toddler in tow. We did not get very far before Martin broke away from me and ran, calling “Painter, painter,” toward the International House of Pancakes, where, sure enough, a painter was on duty. At the time, I had no knowledge of the equally unusual set of circumstances that had brought this particular painter to this particular place on the corner of 18th and Wisconsin at the precise time I would be walking by. I found out much later that he should have been done with that job and out of Milwaukee a few weeks earlier, but strange delays kept occurring.

In any case, this particular painter did not mind being interrupted by a child. He stopped his work and brought the little one back to me, and there on the sidewalk we engaged in polite, friendly conversation. Something about a better way to tie a child’s shoelaces. And about the unique architectural features of Milwaukee’s oldest buildings. And what sounded like a pick-up line at a singles’ party, “I’m a Virgo, what’s your sign?” I told him I was also a Virgo, and today was my birthday. He had the nerve to ask me if I was busy that evening, because “Virgos like to celebrate their birthdays.”. No, I had a date. That was true.

We continued to talk. He had recently lost his wife to cancer, and had left California to escape the memories that were causing him continued grief. I acknowledged that I was also “unattached.” He had gentle blue eyes, a look of kindness and compassion, and was obviously a hit with my son. I decided this conversation was probably more interesting than any academic small talk probably in progress at the TGIF. So when he asked me once again whether I was free later in the day, I told him yes, I really did have a birthday “date” for the evening, but I could take some time to converse with him now. I found out later that at that point he was only interested in me as somebody to talk to, a passing stranger. With my hair pinned up in a tight bun, and my high-necked dress, he had categorized me as an “old-maid schoolteacher” type, definitely without romantic appeal. But he had a soft spot for children.

There was a small working-man’s bar a few blocks back down the hill, where his grungy work clothes would not get a second glance. I decided that would be the best place to continue this “chance” meeting. What is etched forever into my memory is the walk we made togther as we moved to this more comfortable location, me and Jim swinging Martin between us, everyone rather caught up in the delicious excitement of making a new friend. There was a feeling of rightness, of balance, when man, woman, and child walked together. I remember thinking, it is too bad life doesn’t turn out this way in the end.

It was in that little bar that events took a sudden and irreversible turn. We found a booth, ordered drinks, and continued to talk. Martin decided he had to use the potty. He was still in training, and needed Mom’s help. So I took him to the ladies’ room. And then I picked him up to carry him back to our booth. He was in a playful mood, and knocked loose a few of my hairpins. My long hair, so carefully pinned into place, began to fall into my face and block my view of where I was walking. With two arms around a wiggling child, I acted instinctively to preserve a what dignity I could: somehow I pulled loose one more pin, and then I swung my head so that all the hair fell down, and I could at least see where I was going.

That was the moment that changed everything. Jim was watching. And in the loosening of my hair this became more than a chance encounter in a strange city on a long cross-country journey. A new chemistry entered the picture. He has explained it to me many times since that day: “At that moment, I knew I had to have you.” Sometimes I even wonder whether in some premortal training school I practiced that particular move, or even set it up as a signal that we would recognized in earth-life. It was that significant. He had made up his mind to see me again.

After Saturday’s dinner-date it became evident that this relationship was moving very quickly for both of us. It had to: he was about to leave his Milwaukee job site and go on to his next assignment in Chicago. It was a confusing time for me: we seemed mismatched in every possible way, and yet it felt so good being with him. And I was determined not to get into another bad dead-ended relationship, where the emotional stakes were high. Worst of all, he had no religion. He told me he had “tried them all,” and none was right for him. This I found to be very disturbing. My vision of family life included family prayer and total centering around church and church activities.

I had known Jim only three days when I decided to take my new “problem” to the Lord. My prayer was very simple. “Lord, I am beginning to like this man. He is good to my child. But he is a non-believer, and not even interested in religion. Shall I say good-bye to him right now?”

Three weeks later we were planning our marriage. And I was composing love poems during the time I had allotted to dissertation writing. We were married during the Christmas season. As events unfolded, it turned out that my “sacrifice” was no loss to me at all. But that is another story.

The answer was swift, sure, and totally unexpected. I had gone, like Abraham, to the altar of sacrifice. Instead, I was told, in that clear voice, “Marry him.” My interpretation was this: perhaps the sacrifice was mine, not to have a partner with whom I could share my practice of religion and my quest for spiritual perfection. Perhaps this was the sacrifice I needed to make, now that God had answered my earlier prayer, and found a father for my child. I decided I was willing to make that sacrifice. Little did I realize, at the time, that a helping hand from heaven had placed me securely on the “high road;” that marriage and family life were part of God’s plan for both perfection and happiness; and that my “sacrifice” would turn out to be short-lived indeed.

Our courtship was intense. Jim soon left the Milwaukee job site for Chicago. I had classes to prepare and student compositions to read, but there were long phone calls and almost daily drives between the two cities. I spoke pointedly of “commitment” and “our future,” and we were both old enough and experienced enough to examine the relationship from every angle, calculating the risks of our “mismatched” backgrounds. But nothing was certain until the hornet entered the picture. Or was it a bee?

We had known each other about three weeks. And I decided it was time for me to make the drive between Wisconsin and Illinois, so that Jim could get his work assignment done, painting a rooftop at a Chicago IHOP. I even got a babysitter for the occasion. Every detail was considered as I prepared for a romantic lunch break by setting up a picnic basket and locating a lovely hideaway in a forest preserve not too far from the job site. I drove us there, in my car, for the rendezvous that became the turning point in our relationship.

We sat down, on the rocks, alongside a little brook. I spread out the food. I took one bite of my sandwich, and spit it out. It felt like I had bitten into a mouthful of barbed wire! What crawled out from that rejected bite was a large bee, most likely a German hornet, every bit as dazed as I was.

I have had to rely on Jim to fill in for me the details of what happened next. He could see that I was reacting severely to the sting, and put me into the car so that he could go for help, any sort of help. In the back seat I was struggling, at first with the pain, then, as my tongue began to swell, with the ability to talk, and finally, with the ability to breathe. It became evident that my condition was deteriorating rapidly.

Jim stopped first at a pharmacy and explained what was happening. He was directed to the nearest emergency hospital, and mostly carried me in. I was injected with enough Benadryl to compromise what little consciousness I had retained. There, in that emergency room, with me on the guerney, Jim revisited the sense of loss he had felt when his wife had died, and decided he wanted to spend his life with me.

But the story gets even better, and the coincidences even stranger. Later, much later, that afternoon, we got back to the IHOP job. I remember sitting in Jim’s big work truck, nursing my pain, and watching him skillfully maneuver up and down the steep roof, carrying buckets and brushes as needed. Most vividly of all, I remember the one misstep, and his long, long slide to the bottom of the roof, as my heart once again that day threatened to quit beating. And I had an experience similar to his: threatened with loss, I knew how much I valued this person.

Later that evening he told me he wanted to marry me. And I said yes.

Back on campus I began planning the wedding and composing love poems during the time I had allotted to dissertation writing. We were married during the Christmas season. As events unfolded, it turned out that my “sacrifice” was no loss to me at all. But that is another story.

My Dad is Still the Best Dad Ever (Father’s Day, 2010)

For the last two weeks, I’ve received the normal spate electronic advertisements from Harry & David, 1-800-FLOWERS.com, Amazon.com and Overstock.com, all of whom think they know what my dad would like for Father’s Day. More power tools. Or sausage and crackers in a gift basket.

Dad, if you really wanted another band saw, I’m sorry I have no idea of what is missing from your woodshop, and my budget is a little tight. And though you’ve thanked me for the Harry&David gift baskets and bowties over the years, nothing got the special reaction as last year’s note to you on this website. It made me so happy to know that my words warmed your heart. When Mom posted a link on facebook to this website a week or two ago, I thought I really should do it all over again. But what else could I say? I mean, “My Dad is the Best Dad Ever” pretty much sums it up. I covered my dad’s best qualities; his selflessness, his devotion, his hard work ethic, and his uniquely Scotts-Irish “gift of blarney.” So what else can I tell the world about my dad? My dad is a Latter Day Saint. I’ve never seen him anything other than cold stone sober; though he was in the Navy and had the cussing vocabulary to back it up before joining the church, as far as I remember the worst we’d hear out of him was the occasional “damn it.” I would definitely nominate my dad as a “brand ambassador” for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He never preaches, lectures, or gives off a self-righteous attitude. He doesn’t brag about the time he spends serving others; he just quietly steps up to the plate and does what needs to be done. (Often times, it ends up being the dishes. Or he pulls 3-foot thistles that spring up seemingly overnight out from the back yard. Or he babysits the three-year-olds in the nursery at church, calming the most hyperactive of them with his special gentle voice or an engrossing story. Or he spends the entire summer rebuilding the deck. Or he takes one or both of his two lovely granddaughters out walking. I suspect my dad’s the youngest looking, most active septuagenarian in the Midwest).

Dad has a unique sense of humor. Or maybe I’m the only one that thought putting marbles in the freezer over the weekend when my older brother was in high school to make sure he’d be “up” Monday morning was funny. But we both used to laugh hysterically when it was just us two in the car, with my dad, and we’d yell, “Wiggle the tail or we’ll put you in jail!” to which he’d respond by rapidly swerving the rear end of the car back and forth, which drove us wild with excitement and delight. But telling his great qualities or even a few stories doesn’t really do justice to explain the main point I want to get across: How much we all love Dad. How can I describe the depth of admiration, love, and appreciation I have for this man? Words don’t seem up to the task. I owe my dad so much, and words seem like a paltry thanks.

Monumental action, I believe, is the best way to show Dad, instead of telling Dad, what he means to me. Herculean effort is required; but I’m no Hercules. A year after announcing on this website that I am working along with a special producer to bring Dad’s characters and stories to the silver screen, we still have much work to do to get there. It sometimes feels like the pace of progress is glacial while the demands of life are tidal. But there is nothing I want more in this world than to assist, in some small way, with cementing my father’s legacy. I want to share his comforting and empowering vision with the world; especially for little girls who need role models with strength and courage.

Dad, Happy Father’s Day. You’re still the best.

Father’s Day, 2009

In the grand scheme of holidays, conventional wisdom traditionally ranks Father’s Day not only behind Mother’s Day but also below Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, Easter, the Fourth of July, even Memorial Day, in terms of time allotted to planning the festivities and dollars spent. Many dads admit they haven’t done much to merit any particular kudos. We are a country of families headed by Homer Simpsons and the like. If there is one dad in the U.S. who stands out as the exception to this rule, one who unabashedly deserves to be celebrated, I know just the guy. My dad. My dad is the best dad ever. No, I’m not twelve years old and writing this essay to impress an English teacher. Nor am I about to ask my dad for a loan. I’m a grown woman, finally mature enough to appreciate the decades of selfless and loving service of the man I call Dad. My dad was, and is, an example to me for his devotion to my mother and to us, his hard work, and his amazing storytelling skills.

I am lucky that my parents have shown me a great example of long-term marriage. My dad and mom have been together nearly thirty-five years. During that time I have never seen my father raise his voice at my mother. I’m sure he has used a cuss word once every twenty years or so, but I never saw it. A few years back I went home from college to recuperate after an automobile accident. One morning I walked down the carpeted stairs in the central corridor, in my bare feet, and my parents didn’t hear me. There they were, in the kitchen, classical music blaring at ten a.m., waltzing together like a couple of honeymooners. I remember thinking just how rich they were. Another morning I saw my dad composing a note to my mother, which he signed, “Your Secret Admirer.” Dad explained that since he is ten years older than my mother, he was writing her a note every day, so that in the event he left her she would have enough notes in her memory box to read one every day for the rest of her life.

Dad was just as good to us when we were growing up. He wasn’t one of those macho guys who couldn’t express his feelings. He was stoic, yes, in that if he was hurting he wouldn’t let any one know so as not to worry us. Once he got his leg caught in a sanding belt by accident and didn’t cry out because he knew mom and we kids were upstairs, and even though he was really in a pickle, he thought of us, before himself. But that was where his tough guy behavior stopped. He always told me and my brothers how much he loved us, every day. And he showed us with his actions. When I was a kid I acted in a lot of theatre productions. My family didn’t have a lot of money during those years and couldn’t afford the tuition. So my dad built the scenery for the whole troupe, like the sign for the toy shop in The Little Match Girl, as well as creating all of the turbans for all of the thieves in Ali Baba and many other scene sets. He also did the laundry, cooked us unconventional breakfasts like popcorn with coconut milk, drove me to school every morning, and got up with me at 5:00 a.m. on those frigid Wisconsin winter mornings to help me deliver the Sunday paper when it was too heavy and too cold for my bike. As a young adult, my dad helped me move about two hundred paintings, all on masonite and some as large as four feet by eight feet, from Wisconsin to Chicago and up two flights of stairs. By this time my dad was over sixty. When I say “helped me move” I mean, he did the whole thing himself. A year or two later, I suffered a cold when flying in from Los Angeles to Chicago for Christmas. So Dad wouldn’t let me take the train the rest of the trip as I had planned. He drove non-stop, across state lines, three and a half hours, just because I was sick. That’s the kind of thing that my dad doesn’t blink an eyelash at.

My father is a man of many skills who has worked hard every day of his life, and God willing, will continue to do so for decades to come. He never looked down on any kind of work or was afraid to get his hands dirty. He is an excellent calligrapher. He builds things with wood—He built me a bed, that I designed, bookshelves (several times) and he also carves little boxes, vases, and toys, out of wood. He has a talent of talking his way out of anything, like every speeding ticket he should have gotten when we were going up North to visit our grandparents. (It might have helped that all the cops were Irish, too). But the gift that means the most to me, is my father’s storytelling ability. When I was a little girl, for years, my dad used to put me to bed with stories every night, until I got too big. He created a unique, incredibly memorable character who always fought the bad guys using her guts and wits. Now that I am out of college, and living in Los Angeles, I had the idea that this character would make a great animated screenplay. My dad had never written a screenplay before, but that never stopped him from doing anything else. Dad is now on the third installment of his series and the feedback we are getting from industry vets is phenomenal. “The sweetest thing ever,” is how one normally nonplussed exec described the script. That’s my dad!

Dad, I want you to know, I love you always and forever from the bottom of my heart. Happy Father’s Day.

Love,
“Pumpkin”