Since I’m no good a giving gifts (I never know what to get) I’m going to brag about my dad for a few hundred words or so. Happy Father’s Day Dad.
When my dad hands you a piece of gum, he offers you a follow-up piece as well and mutters something like, “Here, these pieces are kinda small. Better take two.” That’s the kind of generous man my father is.
When I was 16, he taught me how to drive a stick shift. He patiently sat in the passenger side of his precious ’85 Porche Carrera convertible (the only stick shift we had) and watched me grind the gears for hours on end and never once raised his voice. All he said was, “Again.” He made me pull over the notoriously difficult stick shift at the bottom of a steep hill, put it in first and creep up it for 20 feet, pull over again, and do that over and over and over. When I finally got it, he’d say, “Now Xerox that.” It literally took all day. As we drove home, I stalled at a light and got rear-ended. He hopped out, rubbed the back bumper with his shirtsleeve, said it was fine and told me to start it in first gear, “again.” Buy by the end of the day I felt I could’ve driven that car all around down town San Fransisco and parallel parked it without a scratch.
One of his favorite “dad-isms” is, “That’s why they put erasers on pencils.” Another is, “Paper is the cheapest school supply.” He’d say that when a homework assignment went wrong and I had to start all over again. Then, when that homework assignment turned south as well and the tears welled up, he’d say, “Do you know where this falls on the scale of Really Big Problems?” Then he’d pull out a few horrifying tales from his 40+ years of practicing law, and suddenly a potential C on a high school chemistry assignment didn’t seem quite so bad.
Education was paramount. Tattoos forbidden. Motorcycles taboo. Another favorite slogan he campaigned with was, “There are no secrets!” Everything eventually, he would promise, gets found out. These conversations would also be followed up by harrowing stories of yesteryear’s clients who had tried to keep secrets and are now residing in the state pen or a cardboard box. Nothing grips your memory like a good story.
My dad is like a little boy who finds stray dogs in the neighborhood and begs his mother to let her keep them. Every few months or so, someone who is in a hard way will cross his path and he will bring them home and beg my mother to let them stay awhile, (can I keep ’em, can I keep ’em?) just until they get back on their feet. Sometimes these are clients, employees, sometimes starving college students, or friends of my teenaged brothers, or me, my husband and our children. (How else would we have saved up for that first house?)
He has brought home dozens of folks, some blood related and some not, let them stay a spell and tried to help them find north again. Most of these have been great experiences. Some have not. But he doesn’t let that stop him.
Once, when I was a teenager and upset with my parents (I can’t even remember why) the wife of one of these starving college students who lived with us told me my father’s level of generosity certainly earned him a few “get out of jail free” cards in heaven if such things existed. There were certain acts of kindness that covered a multitude of sins, so whatever his faults may be, stick with him if you want to pass go and collect $200 on the other side.
Now, as a real live grown-up (how’d that happen?) all I can think of when it comes to my dad is, “Can I keep him, can I keep him?”