Happy Birthday, Dad!

‘They’ say markers of your deceased loved one’s life can be difficult. The anniversary of their passing, wedding anniversarys, birthdays… I’ve had my moments today. I think being fragile due to my back shenanigans is exacerbating how I’m feeling.

I miss my father incredibly. I miss the advice he gave me when I was too young to get it. I miss his dry, and sometimes, underhanded humor that only he and I would share in my mom’s company. I miss listening to music with him. I miss his stories about being in the Army, stationed in the Deep South, and how dirt poor families would share a meal with him while he was on solitary maneuvers. While he was always destined to be an encompassing human, these interactions affected him profoundly, and formed how he related to others, no matter who they were (unless they were endangering his loved ones), what their ‘position’ was in society, and I got to witness this, and learn from him how to treat others, always, no matter what.

Dad taught me how to use a firearm. Not in a militant way, but as a way to cull the rabbit infestation we had on our property on the Island. My mom gave me the “if you ever need to point a gun at a human” lecture, (unforgettable) and dad got me hitting the bullseye every time, and then sent me off to ‘hunt wabbit.’ I couldn’t miss. To this day I enjoy target shooting and have that same rifle (in a long gun safe).

Dad taught me how to drive a stick shift. Mom helped too, but dad was WAY more relaxed about it. As soon as I could drive the VW around the lower 5-acre driveway, I was allowed to drive into town and back, sans license. Different times!

My favorite Dad Story is after he’d gotten stung by yellow jackets while blackberry picking on a Sunday, he had me drive him down to the road the next day after school, bang a U-turn, and then stop (while riding the clutch the whole time). He got out of the car, stepped off the road, and unloaded a few 20-gauge shotgun rounds into the offending hive. He leapt back into the car, and yelled, “Gun it Kid!!!” Never has a VW Squareback lost rubber on a gravel road before that moment. We were pretty pleased with ourselves, and when I got home from school the next day, there were quarts of blackberries! Of course, mom was out of town working at the time. 😜

OK, this is another favorite Dad Story! Again, mom was out of town. Dad came home with two milk crates of live crab, which I discovered in the fridge when I got home from school. “DAAADDDDDD!!!!!” Barter is still a thing on the Island. It’s how he’d been paid for a job that day. We got big pots of water going. He seasoned the water with salt (turning the water into sea water salinity) and Old Bay seasoning. We took the milk crates of crab out of the fridge once the pots were boiling. Cold temps subdue, most, crab. Using long tongs we started placing the crab into the pots. One lively crab made a break from the crate, hit the counter, and then the floor. Mr. Crab backed itself into a corner of the kitchen and snapped his claws at us while we tried to catch him! We were in hysterics trying to pick this feisty fellow up to transport him to a pot! We won in the end. Dad and I had a few incredible dinners from that payoff, and I’m sure he spread it around to neighbors and friends. That was my dad too.

Truth be told, when mom was out of town working, dad and I were a little more relaxed about schedules, his and mine… Curfew was a nod with him saying, “Call if you need a ride. Midnight” I was not allowed to take the car, unlicensed at night! I think, as a boy, dad understood I wasn’t gonna be bound by ideal rules. He knew, mostly, what battles to fight while I was in high school. Sure, we duked it out here and there, and sometimes over there, but as I look back, my folks gave me a lot of latitude. More than I gave my children! But then my folks had one of me, and I had three of mine!! And, yes, there’s the aforementioned alternative life most children have that their parents’ don’t know about.

I haven’t called my mom for the last three years on my dad’s birthday. In 2017 I did thinking it would be meaningful for her. She didn’t twig to the date. (Same thing with the anniversary of his passing). It’s OK. I’m glad she doesn’t remember these markers due to the sadness it would/could cause her. I’ll call her tomorrow. May the 4th be with you!

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