June 16, 2004

dad's turn

Since my mother got a few paragraphs the other day, I feel compelled to devote a few to my Dad. Not necessarily because Father's Day is approaching, but rather because he's unwittingly entertaining and I don't know what the hell else to write about.

Some background:
My father is a tall, muscular man. He had a shock of black hair before four daughters and a bad thyroid turned it gray. For a Scottish man, he's got the complexion of an Italian. I envy his ability to tan while I merely turn a shade of pink and then freckle.

He's got the stiff upper lip and emotional reserve of a true Brit but he easily softens up when his daughters or his beloved granddaughter enter the picture. He won't ask me directly about my feelings or troubles. Instead, he'll check in by following up on one of the mechanical tasks he performed in my apartment. "How's that dead bolt working out for you?" "Is the A/C keeping the place cool?" Apparently, he'll gush and brag to other people about his girls but to us directly, he maintains more of a super/tenant relationship. But we just eat it up and treat him in kind. When I asked for a drill for Christmas, it was just as meaningful to him as an "I love you." When I told him how I assembled my IKEA loft bed with the aforementioned drill, it was the equivalent of sharing with him my innermost thoughts and dreams. He was touched.

Unlike my ma, my father is an easy crack up. He has a real wheezy, chesty laugh (which I inherited) and it's quite infectious. He derives endless enjoyment from his four girls and laughs mightily at our antics. It frustrated my mother that he egged us on while she was trying to get us to behave and/or act "lady like." Which is not to say that he was the good cop to her bad cop/Emily Post. My father has a booming growl when he gets pissed and knits his thick black eyebrows and just glowers in a truly frightening fashion. He didn't have to spank us because his yell was powerful and painful enough. He may have paddled my bum with his enormous hand once or twice because I was a real punk but a stare or slight raise in volume usually whipped me back into shape. Usually.

His humor is corny and predictable at times. He's often his own best audience... until friends or relatives visit. They just think he's the funniest thing ever. This makes the father happy. What makes me happy are the times that he's funny without meaning to be. He's provided endless hours of enjoyment to his family -- and by extension, our friends -- without him realizing it. My brother-in-law's favorite tale is my father trying to spell our last name over the phone to a salesperson. Smack dab in the middle of my last name is the letter R. As you may or may not know, this consonant often rolls violently often the tongues of Scottish folk. Pity the poor telemarketer with little or no exposure to this "language" trying to make out what my Glasgow-reared Dad said. The brother-in-law could only hear one side of the conversation but that's all he needed to surmise that my father was clearly misunderstood:
Dad: "R(rrrrrrrr)!"

Assumed Operator's Response: "I'm sorry sir, can you repeat that?"

Dad: "R(rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr)!"

AOR: "A?"

Dad: "Nooooooo! R(rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr)!"

AOR: "L?"

Dad: "Nooooooo! R(rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr)!"

AOR: "Sir, do you speak English?"

Dad: "R(rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr)!!! What don't you understand?"

AOR: "I'm sorry, did you say Q?"

Dad: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! R(RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR)! As in R(rrrrrrrr)obbie Bur(rrrrrrrrrrrr)ns!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

AOR: "Who?"

Dad: "Will someone pick up the bleedin' phone and tell this twit how to spell our(rrrrrrrr) name?"
Now, that's comedy. Happy Father(rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr)'s Day!!