One of the first memories I have of my Dad is crawling underneath the “tent” he made with his leg. I was small enough and he was big enough that being under a bent leg was considered a tent. This was most likely at our house on Franklin Street. My dad was a big man. 6′3″ and over 200 pounds when I was growing up. It was easy to sit on his shoulders to put a basketball through the hoop, and from him I learned that the hoop is big enough to fit two balls through side-by-side. Other things I learned from my father include how to jig for crappie and bait a nightcrawler. For the most part I feel like I was a great disappointment to him. We had different interests, and while I didn’t realize it as a child, I don’t think we connected as people very well. He encouraged me to play baseball and basketball, but I spent my time in left field chasing butterflies and any brief court time I had, tripping over my own feet. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy some of the same things, fishing and classic cars are both things I have a great interest in to this day. I even helped him and one of his buddies restore a 1970 GTO. Since my dad was a mechanic, he understood all about engine guts and I mainly ran the sandblaster and was gopher.
When my mom filed for divorce I saw a side of my father that I’d either never seen before, or had been oblivious to. One visit with him resulted in a long drive around the country, for hours, as he yelled about all kinds of different things, and another incident so scared me that I jumped out of the same GTO we’d restored because I was afraid of being beaten once we got to his place. After that incident, most of my contact with him ceased. It has been something around ten years now since I’ve spoken with him. I think I still want his approval, although I don’t seek it. The love and trust that I had for him as a child is so tangled and complicated by hindsight and the new sides that I saw that it is easier to maintain my current space than attempt to establish civil and diplomatic relations.
I don’t spend much time thinking about him, but when I do, I mainly wonder about the lessons I missed during my teenage years, and how I might be a different man [bad or good?] today as a result of them.