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.