Monday, April 24, 2006

Who’s Your Daddy?

I was looking for a birthday card for my father. First I had to machete my way past the Mother’s Day display. I adore my Mom, and in another week or two I’ll be looking for the perfect mass-produced sentiment to tell her so. But today was for Pops.

The pickings were slim. I personally make it a habit of boycotting all cards featuring a sailboat, a stream in a forest, or a duck decoy, effectively eliminating 90 percent of my options. I have nothing against ducks, but why is the decoy the universal symbol for manhood? My dad does not hunt. My dad does not fish. He can’t swim and has a fear of water. I never see any lifejackets on those sailboats.

I kept searching. When they’re not busy shooting at duck decoys while floating downstream through the woods on their sailboats, dads appear to:
* mow the lawn
* drink beer
* hog the remote control
* serve as human ATM machines
* golf

My dad does golf—and my siblings and I have aggressively mined this lode for lo’ these many years. Not to mix metaphors, but the well is running dry. There is more to this man than his nine-iron. Besides, I’ve got to keep something in reserve for Father’s Day.

On the hearts and flowers side, you’ve got your cards depicting dads as pillars of strength who keep their children safe from harm—the original Homeland Security. Sounds good on paper, but like the Father of our Country, I can not tell a lie. In our household, all spiders and associated members of the bug family were dispatched by Mom, who was raised in the country and could kill arachnids with her bare hands. When I would lay awake at night waiting for the axe murderer to break into our house, I whiled away the hours planning my escape route. In the battle between pitching wedge and axe, I knew Dad was going down. I would have to soldier on as Sole Survivor, having climbed out my bedroom window onto the roof, where I would A) hide until the attacker left the premises, B) grip the eaves trough and drop onto the driveway, probably only breaking an ankle or C) shimmy down the rain spout.

I was striking out. In an effort to be helpful, and to get home in time to watch the Cubs game, my husband scoped out the Humor section, where he ID’d likely candidates in the “You’re so old…” genre. Apparently, fathers of a certain age pass a lot of gas in public. My dad does not. Nor does he drive with his blinker in perpetual “on” mode.

I left Walgreen’s empty handed.

Clearly, Hallmark has not met my Dad. He’s the man who taught me not to throw like a girl. He’s the guy who insisted we all eat dinner together, every night of the week. He’s the one who always tells me, “Be kind to yourself.” When we danced at my wedding, he blubbered like a baby. He’s also the man who wouldn’t let us play in the yard because it would ruin the grass. Who thought nothing of destroying his 6-, 7- and 8-year-olds in Monopoly. Who didn’t understand why a teenage girl couldn’t show up to school on Thursday in the same outfit she wore on Monday. Who goes berserk on road trips if you need to make a pit stop.

I can see how someone would have a difficult time turning that into a pithy rhyme.

All I really wanted to say was Happy Birthday, Dad. Pour yourself a Manhattan and pop open a can of peanuts. Try not to slop ice cream on your shirt. I love you.

Luminous Sightings

Chicago Tribune, April 20, review of Julia Roberts Broadway debut: “Perchance it’s a matter of being slightly embarrassed by the veritable riot her luminous presence is causing 45th Street.”

In Style, April issue, Mandy Moore “Fashion Flashback”: “Indeed, even when revealing plenty of torso, she projects a luminous innocence.”

The New Yorker, April 17 issue, article on the Gospel of Judas, by Adam Gopnik, pg. 80: “At the end, he supplies Judas with a beatific vision of a luminous cloud.”


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