I have a very vivid memory growing up of my father. I was in the garage with a small knife pretending to be in a knife fight. Had my mother caught me playing this game, there would have been no end to the screaming and I am absolutely certain I would have been put on restriction. But it wasn’t my mother who caught me.
My father came into the garage and I sheepishly tried to hide the knife I was playing with at my side as though I had just been standing in the garage very still for the last twenty minutes. He held out his hand and said, “Give it to me.”
I handed the knife to my father with my cheeks burning as I awaited punishment. My father then twirled the knife in his hand so that the not sharpened edge of the blade was parallel to his forearm and said to me, “This is how you hold it in a knife fight.” He then pantomimed the finer points of knife fighting for me. Afterwards he handed the knife back to me and I fumbled it into my pocket.
My father taught me that day that I didn’t need to be afraid of knowledge and experience. When I was a little girl my entire life was adults trying to shelter me from the world. I imagine most little girls have this same experience. They not only wanted to keep me from danger but also exploration. Don’t go out after sunset. You’re not allowed to join the wrestling team for your own protection. Stop getting dirty.
But not my father. My father wanted me to experience life. When I took an interest in sky diving my father was delighted. He went with me and paid for my first jump. In high school when I would stumble home past my curfew he would ask me if I had fun and then say, “Good. That’s all that matters.” He taught me how to ride a motorcycle and encouraged me to get my license. He taught me how to shoot a gun. He taught me wrestling holds. He taught me how to change the oil in my car. And god knows, he tried to make a bowler out of me. He taught me not to limit myself.
When I would write short stories as a kid, I was always start my stories with a big flowery dedication page to my dad. My mother would check my work and change the dedication to her or if I called her out on it – my grandma (her side).
Like all children, I never appreciated that my mother made me a responsible adult by forcing me to do things I didn’t want to do and punishing me when I fucked up. I appreciated my father because he made me into a risk taker. He made me not afraid of life.
When I was 13 years old my mother cut all my hair off because I got a “C” on a piece of Algebra homework. I spent the rest of my 8th grade year being punched on the bus for being a “dyke.” To get over how devastating this was to me, I started shaving my head at 19 to own being bald.
My father had the brilliant idea that I should shave it into a mohawk and dye it green. So we went to his barbershop and I sat in his chair to get my first real mohawk. I could not have been more proud and he laughed his ass off the entire time. After he shaved my head into a mohawk he gave me a hug and proudly exclaimed, “That’s my girl!” Then he took pictures and sent them to everyone. He still has a picture of me with that mohawk displayed in his house.
You see, my mother taught me feminist rhetoric my entire life. She repeatedly told me I could do anything. My father treated me like I could do anything. My father never said no to the big rich life that I wanted to live. He was an enabler.
My father built drag racers and took me to a drag race.
There’s a motorcycle race, in the desert I grew up in, where they release two jackrabbits into the vast expanse of dirt and then the racers chase them. The winners are the two people who catch the jackrabbits while on their motorcycle. My dad has won that race.
My dad has made over 300 sky diving jumps. He has a story I love to hear him tell about how he would open his chute later than the other divers and watch them float down slowly from the ground. And he laughs at their cowardice.
My dad was a contestant on the dating game. He was eliminated. The question was, “If you came to pick me up for a date and I told you I was feeling funky, what would you do?” My dad’s answer: “I’d ask you if you had a sister?”
My dad has two ex-wives and he’s friends with both of them. In fact, my dad can’t go out in public without seeing a friend because he’s the most charming person you’ve ever met in your life.
My dad literally always has a joke for you. He is notorious around the hospital he works at for his bedside manner. People regularly ask for him by name.
My dad is an amazing dancer. I love dancing with my dad and I know very few other people who have had the experience of dancing with their parents the way I have. I mean actually dancing, not rocking back and forth. My dad has competed in West Coast Swing competitions. Right after my parent’s divorce, my father lived in a brick shack that was smaller than the apartment I live in in Los Angeles. But every week we would move the chairs in the kitchen and west coast swing. Mostly to this song:
My mother is also a dancer. One night, for whatever reason, my dad couldn’t make it to a show and I got to dance with my mother on stage. I danced her part and she danced my dad’s. This story doesn’t belong in this post. I just like it.
My dad is a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan and he once took me to San Francisco to see them play their bitter rivals the 49ers. It occurs to me that they might not actually be rivals and my dad just hates the 49ers so he says that. Regardless, I immediately bought a 49ers tee shirt and cheered for them as loudly as I could whenever I understood what was going on. After my loudest screams of delight I looked over at my dad and beamed from ear to ear. He shook his head sternly and in a flat voice just replied, ”traitor.”
I can only remember my father yelling at me once in my entire life and it scared the daylights out of me. I was six years old and I refused to eat breakfast before school. My father threw his arms in the air and yelled, “Stop being an asshole and eat your breakfast.” He was right. I should have eaten my breakfast.
My dad is in his 70s now and he still rides motorcycles. For a decade he rode a hot pink Harley Davidson with magenta flames on it. He named it “conjunctivitis.” He dropped a supped up engine into that bad boy and it’s fast as hell. That bike is orange now but I still like to tell people my dad rides a pink motorcycle.
When I was bullied in middle school my mother impressed upon me that I should never fight back. “Ladies don’t fight like common hussies,” I believe was exactly her words. And by believe, I mean that’s word-for-word what she said. Interestingly enough, I also remember word-for-word what my father said, “If anyone ever hits you, you hit them back so hard that neither them nor any of their friends will ever come after you again.”
My dad is really short. My dad was so short that he had to have foam put on the pedals of his car, when he got his license, to reach them. My dad had to take growth hormones just so he could be a towering 5’ 6. My dad is standing on a box in my parent’s wedding pictures. Hilarious.
My dad is a professional potter. Growing up he always had a wheel in the backyard and he taught me to throw pots as a kid. Now he has a fancy studio and different kilns for different glazes like a big shot. I cannot, and I mean cannot, go to craft fairs because of this. It ends up being me shouting to some poor soul, “$50! This is a fucking pinch pot! My dad makes way better stuff and sells it for cheaper.” Sometimes, he makes vases from a mold of my face with different types of crowns on my head.
My dad is allergic to cats. I love cats so he carried around a bag full of different inhalers to tolerate my pets. I had a cat named Odie who he called Odiferous. I thought that was the funniest joke in the world. When my sister won me a goldfish at the fair, I named it “Stinky” to mirror my father’s brilliance. Unfortunately, my sense of humor was far less sophisticated. I think the night my sister won me that fish was the same night my older brother “tattooed” my arm with markers to say “Born to Squeal.” If you ever get the pleasure of meeting my father’s other children there will no doubt be beer, followed promptly by “Born to Squeal” jokes made at my expense. Still.
A few years later we got two tuxedo cats that my mother named “Sharon Stone” and “Sylvester Stallone.” It was the 90s. When we took them to be neutered and spayed the vet informed us that they were both boys. My father decided that instead of renaming Sharon, Sharon was just French. I’m not sure why I thought that was hilarious but I spent the rest of that cat’s life telling people it was French.
I insist on my dad calling me his favorite daughter even though I have an older sister and he has two stepdaughters now. I don’t actually think he has a favorite but if there’s one thing my dad does: its humor me. One time I told him, “We both know I’m your favorite daughter.” His reply was, “Well, the other one changed her last name when she got married.” I’ve never been married but my dad knows me pretty well. I like to make the argument that it’s my last name. I’ve had it my whole life, same as him. What makes it more his last name than mine?! But also, there’s never going to be a man I love more than my dad. There isn’t anyone in the entire world who I’d rather be named after.