On our Dads

Dad and me: 1974

Annie Dillard on her Dad, Frank Doak, from An American Childhood:

“I looked up from my book and saw him outside; he had wandered out to the lawn and was standing in the wind between the buckeye trees and looking up at what must have been a small patch of wild sky. Old Low-Pockets. He was six feet four, all lanky and leggy; he had thick brown hair and shaggy brows, and a mild and dreamy expression in his blue eyes.”

Anne Lamott, on her Dad, Kenneth Lamott, from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions On Writing and Life:

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Mary-Louise Parker on her Dad, John Morgan Parker, from Esquire magazine:

“You just wanted to make sure all of us on the sidelines watching you run were taken care of and felt good about ourselves. Maybe that sounds like you got a bum deal? No, sir. You’ve had tough breaks, but I never met anyone better at enjoying what was put in front of him. At hearing new things, testing the unknown, conjuring the miraculous.”

Me on my Dad, John Paines Badman:

“Once in a while after dinner, you’d walk into the study and take your trumpet down from the top shelf of the closet, pop the latches of its crinkled leather case and lift the purplish-red satin that revealed the horn in red velvet repose, patiently waiting for its cue. Putting the mouthpiece in place, you’d exhale your warm breath into the horn, giving it life. You’d walk aimlessly through the house, playing whatever floated through your mind. Bits of jazz standards, songs whose origins I wonder about now. I never knew what prompted you to pick up your horn on any given evening. I never asked you to play. It seemed sacred, mysterious, and magical, far beyond what clumsy words could ever convey.”

Mary-Louise Parker to her Dad:

“We all miss you something fierce…to convey in any existing language how I miss you isn’t possible. It would be like blue trying to describe the ocean.”

The words of my Father

It’s nearly Father’s Day, and I acknowledge the ache of missing him. I acknowledge the gratitude I have for my memories: the sound of his laugh popping into my mind at unexpected moments. The words and phrases that entertained, infuriated, taught and shaped me into this ever-changing lump of clay that will always be his daughter.

When I was a server:
If you put on some rouge, you’d make better tips.

While driving:
Get around this guy! He’s loafing in the left lane.

On the golf course:
Keep your head down. Don’t try to kill it.

On any professional athlete who showed poor sportsmanship:
He’s a bum.

When I playfully squeezed his bicep:
Be careful. You’ll hurt your hand.

Teaching me to drive a stick shift:
Again. Try it again.

At the end of any long list of questions:
Want a punch in the eye?

When pushed to the limit of his patience:
Gee Zuss Christ!

On any ex/bad boss/person:
(S)He’s a bum. (recurring theme)

You better [whatever I was supposed to be doing] or I’m gonna land all over you!

After my haircut:
Your face is hanging out.

Dad: on the far right

Happy Father’s Day, Dad and all the dads still giving advice and tossing out one-liners.