12 February 2013

An Ode to my Father; Neighbourhood of B

As a teenager and an adult, one hears many complaints about one's parents, and most of what I tended to hear were complaints about fathers, to wit:

– Father does not allow x because of unjust reason y.
– Father is all up in one's business.
– Father is never around because he is always at work.
– Father is in fact a fascist.
– Father is in fact Satan.

While I recognise that my dad and I had an extremely difficult period while I was between the ages of seventeen and approximately twenty-one, my only complaint about him was his slight double standard regarding housekeeping and his tendency to want me to work on vehicles with him when it was -5 degrees outside.* Indeed, at my most unreasonable of ages, I did not feel as though my dad was too close, too far away, a fascist, or Satan.

I did harbour an, as it turns out, unfounded fear that the second he found out that I am a giant homo that he would hate me forever. Given his rather conservative tendencies, I do not think that fear was unreasonable; however, in retrospect, it really ought have occurred to me that my daddy would never disown me, ever. EVER. In fact, when my first girlfriend broke up with me in a most ignominious fashion, he apparently desperately wanted to give her a good dropkick. Across the street.

We have a bit of a family joke that Mom and Daddy have been married for thirty some-odd years and lived together for approximately twenty of them because when we lived in Corpus, Exxon saw fit to send Dad out of town to Houston all of the time, and once they transferred him to Houston, they sent him to Corpus all the time.

Apparently, this makes sense to someone in management.

At any rate, the point is that even though Daddy was out of town a good period of the time when I was very small, he was hardly an absentee father. I am not one of those kids who does not have early memories of their father. I have many, ranging from Mom and Daddy making an orrery out of their fists to show me how eclipses work (followed by Dad picking up Mom in his arms and spinning round for a bit), or Dad and I biking to the HEB with me in the baby seat on the back of his bike, to him reading me my bedtime stories, carrying me to bed after M*A*S*H was over, and teaching me the states on this large vinyl map. Daddy also played his guitar almost every night. When I started teaching myself to play the guitar, it took me about ten seconds to pick up the bass line of I Walk the Line because he played it so often.

And walk the line he surely did, and continues to this day.

My friends who tease me about my 'chivalry' have my father to blame/thank, because he never met a door he did not hold. He treats my mother like Queen Elizabeth herself. He also insisted that I be able to take care of myself (this was a joint effort on the part of both of my parents). Things I have repaired, built, or remodelled as a joint effort with my father include, but are not limited to, the following:

Our fireplace, hearth, and chimney.
No fewer than five vehicles, not including my Mustang.
The cable routing to our living room.
The kitchen.
The front door.
The garage door opener.

That is just off the top of my head.

Back to my childhood, something which haunts me to this day is my reaction to a present he brought me once. When I was really little, one of the things we always watched was Nashville Now, of which I have no other memory than a character called Shotgun Red. I loved Shotgun Red. He was awesome. So, at some point when I was incredibly wee, Daddy thought it would be nice to get me a Shotgun Red doll, and he brought it home for me.

That doll, for reasons I still do not understand, scared the everloving shit out of me. And by scared, I mean scares. I feel horrible. Daddy was trying so hard to be nice and get me a present. And that Shotgun Red doll lives in the top of his closet to this day, and when I go into my parents' bedroom at home, I carefully avoid looking in the direction of his closet when the door is open lest I catch sight of that Shotgun Red doll.

I feel horrible. Right now. I am the worst daughter ever, in this moment. Jesus. Let us speak of something else.

Oh, I know. Let us talk about my underlying fear that EVERY SINGLE CALL from my mother is going to be telling me that something horrible has happened and the pipeline Daddy is working on exploded spectacularly. I used to tell myself that these fears are fully unfounded, and it sort of worked until a prominent member of our church died in the most recent Texas City disaster.

It never is, though, and Dad is the biggest safety fascist in the universe (so, okay, yes. My dad is a fascist. About safety. Woe) and does not put up with bullshit which might endanger people on his job site, so that makes me feel better. It probably makes Mom feel better, too.

I could go on probably for days about the ways in which my dad has shaped my life. Softball and baseball are down to him. My congenital aversion to weird noises in cars is obviously down to him as is my strong aversion to structures which are not square.

Most importantly, my daddy has never, ever, said an unkind word to me regarding my intellect or ability to do something. His opinion has always been that practice makes perfect, and that if I work hard enough I can make it happen. Furthermore, my super conservative, probably totally voted for Mittens father walked me down the aisle at my wedding.

And that, honestly, is probably the most concise summary. My father walked me down the aisle at my wedding. Our friendship has improved drastically as I have gotten older, and I am incredibly grateful for that. I am most grateful, however, that he has always, always loved me, my mom, and my sister for as long as he has known any of us. Apparently, that is hard to come by.

*I feel like discomfort was some sort of prerequisite. Trivia: my dad is actually Ron Swanson's cousin.

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