Friday, June 18, 2010

Thanks, Dad

Usually I write my blogs at the spur of the moment. When something funny happens, when my kids say or do something hilarious, or if a certain memory is on my mind.

I have written about some crazy incidents, I've touched on some sensitive subjects. I have written a few little poems.

But I have been pondering what to write for Father's Day for a while now.

I could go on and on about how much I love and admire my dad. But that is not really what you all want to read about, right? And I know HE knows how his whole family feels about him, and how grateful we are every single day for EVERYTHING he does, and the selfless, generous manner in which he does it.

So how was I going to incorporate the funny, the crazy, the slightly unbelievable stories and weave them into a dedication to my dad?

Hahaha...well...let's take a look back...

I have some beautiful memories of my childhood. But, like most, it was my years as a teen that I started wrinkling the smooth fabric that was our life.

I got my permit to drive when I was 16. I learned from "Tib" in Wilton, Maine. I drove a safe little sedan that the driving school had, and by the time the "school" was over and the written tests were passed, I was pretty sure that I was an expert in yielding, keeping my hands at 10 and 2, looking in all the mirrors, and even the dreaded parallel parking. Please. I had it in the bag.

At the time, my parents had two vehicles, and "back then" one of the coolest cars was the "Cougar." As they do today, they had a "nice" car, that my mom usually drives, and a "truck," that is more my dad's vehicle(please see the story, "Sweat Shops/Labor Union"). They had a Mercury Cougar. It was a silver, two door, shiny wheeled beauty, that went reeeeeeally fast. That is what I remember. That was what I had envisioned driving around, "cruising town" in.

My Dad did not envision that.

He wanted me to learn how to drive "a stick." You know what I mean? A standard. My dad had a little grey Dodge Ram at the time. I remember that so clearly. It was KIND of a cool looking little pick-up, it was not the Silver Liner, but it had a red stripe down the side, and really was the perfect size...

He reasoned that it was one of the most basic,valuable skills a person can have. To drive a stick shift meant that in any situation, I would be able to drive whatever vehicle necessary. Did I care about necessity at sixteen? Was I pissed off and a little bitter when he made me go to the high school parking lot to learn how to stop and go and slow down and shift and reverse? Yip. But I did it. And he was proud.

So the day came that he laid out the "final" lesson: STOPPING ON A HILL.

Say, what?

Anyone who drives a stick shift knows that the feeling of stopping and starting on a hill is a weird one. It feels like you will go rolling backwards, out of control, until you floor the gas and "let up" on the clutch just right. It's scary.

Growing up in a small town, by the time you are sixteen, you think you know every street, off-road, dead end there is to know. But I did NOT know about Butter Factory Hill.

It is (or was) or just might as well have been, VERTICAL. Up and Down. Due North. Whatever. It was steep.

"Okay. Stop." He said from the passenger seat.

"Here?!?!No Way!"


"DAD! I can't!"


We were already yelling. I was a wreck. He was sweating. We never yelled at each other. This was not good.

I started to turn around. I think he grabbed the wheel.

I think the yelling turned to screaming.

"I don't need to learn this! I promise to never drive up any hills!" And I meant that.

"Just stop and start! It's just like being flat!"


We sat there in the heat of the summer, engine running. My feet shaking on the pedals. It felt like hours.

He was trying to explain how to let up and push down and shift from was like listening Charlie Brown's teacher drone on and on...I was petrified.

"Just Do It!"

And then I guess I did. I gunned it and left rubber marks and billowing smoke in my wake. I was so absolutely furious at him for making me do that, I went 70 miles an hour all the way home, my cobalt blue lined eyes bawling, my sizzled sun-in-ed hair standing on end due to the down windows and two cans of Aqua Net. Yelling at each other the whole entire way. (By the way, it was the best I ever drove that stick, I was so focused on my sheer anger that I never thought about me feet)! So screaming at each other down the quiet street to our house had neighbors coming to the road to see what the yelling was about! My mother heard us coming up the road and met us in the driveway, still screaming at each other. She refused to let us in the house until we stopped. I think silently, she was mad at him for torturing me like that. She did not ever learn to drive a stick and survived just fine. I was a blithering mess. I'm pretty sure that is the first time I saw my Dad drink a Martini.

But you know what? I learned how to drive a stick. And you know what else? It is one of the best skills to have. Thanks, Dad.

Through my college years, I'm sure I put a few wrinkles on his face. From the very first "Parents Weekend" when I was a Freshman and my folks walked in to my dorm to see a HUGE pair of sneakers, clearly NOT mine, sticking out from under my bed. Now, I had my fair share of boyfriends in college, but these did not belong to one of them. They happened to belong to my dear friend, who happened to be a VERY tall basketball player from New Jersey. He strolled in (doors were always open in Dunn Hall) to retrieve the shoes.

"How y'all doin?" He was so laid back and friendly. I remember the look on my Mom's face.(heehee). But my Dad took it all in stride, shook his (very large) hand and started up a conversation with him like he had known him for years. Through later years at UMAINE, Dan Hillman called my parents Mom and Dad, too.

My Dad taught me to treat everyone as a friend. Even strangers. Thanks, Dad.

It was another episode in college that I vividly remember...

Along with boyfriends came a few heartbreaks. I'll try to make this one quick...

My freshman year I had my first serious boyfriend. He was a football player (some of you know EXACTLY who I am talking about). I was convinced that we were going to be together forever. He was from New York, and through the first summer, we found a way to see each other almost every weekend. (Yes. We both would travel by car, train, boat, bus, you name it to get back and forth from Maine to New York...crazy).

At the end of the summer, he told me that he was not coming back to UMAINE, but would be staying in New York to play for a school close to his home.

That was pretty much the end.

Until my Junior year...when he called to confess his love for me and invite me down to this big, important formal, because I was the love of his life and he couldn't possibly take anyone else! Well! Of Course I Would! I would spend all of my rent on a dress and I would skip a final and I would make it up during May term and I would pay for a bus ticket into the city and I would meet him again after two years!

Well, I am just going to say what the facts were. This cannot be denied or refuted: He may even be reading this, who knows? But he was a huge jerk from the second I arrived. He left me in a bar and had his roommate bring me home. I went to his stupid formal, but didn't even sit with him at his table. When we got back to his room, he told me that his real girlfriend had to go to a funeral or something, that is why he asked me to come down, but she was on her way and I had to leave. I.WAS.IN.NEW.YORK.

He wouldn't even let me use his phone. It was 4am, I was on Long Island. I had to figure out how to get from there to Grand Central. My ticket wasn't until Monday, and it was Saturday. wtf.

I could only think of one person to call.

My Dad.

There was no panic on his end. Just direction. I took a cab to the city. I waited at the station for my bus. I rode the bus from New York to Portland. Where my Dad picked me up. Was he pissed and worried and more pissed and more worried? I am sure he was. But he NEVER said a word. I was pissed at myself and embarrassed and heartbroken. He knew it. I knew he knew it. Thanks, Dad.

There was another day in college that will live on forever in my mind.

The day after my 21st Birthday.

Not the actual birthday.

(WARNING: This is kind of gross)

My parents and my grandparents were making the drive all the way to Orono, Maine, to take me and my roommates out for lunch to celebrate my birthday. The night before had been fun, as 21st birthdays usually are. Did I drink? Yes. Did I drink to much? Yes. Was I sick? Nope. Not really.

Until we got in the car.

I started feeling a little sick on the way to the restaurant. We were all crowded into the backseat, everyone chatting around me. The bright February sun was shining directly into my eyes. I started feeling hot. Shaky. You know what I mean.

We got to the restaurant, all 8 of us...Mom, Dad, Grammy, Grampa, Me, my roommates, my sister...conversation flowed, I felt okay.  As the waiter came to take our drink order, I started to order a ginger-ale...but words were replace by projectile vomit. Sorry. I know. So unbelievably disgusting!

In a crowded restaurant on a Sunday.

My Mother. My Grandfather. My Grandmother! All horrified. The waiter, shocked.

My sister laughing. My roomies unfazed...

My dad? Silent.

"Oh! My! She is so sick! The poor thing! She must have the flu! Food poisoning!" My Mother. My Grandfather. My Grandmother exclaimed as I fled the scene to the ladies room.

I returned to the table to the many diagnoses...Flu? Food Poisoning? I already felt much better. Happy Birthday.

"She doesn't have the flu, Linda." Was all my Dad said.

He always understands. Thanks, Dad.

How about getting THIS call.

"I'm moving to St. John."

"What are you talking about?! Where the hell is St. John?"

This was the initial conversation when I called to tell my parents that I was quitting my job, selling my stuff, and moving to the beautiful island of St. John in the Virgin Islands to tend bar and paint tee-shirts.

This was NOT in the plan. I had recently graduated from college (Yes. I made it through). I had a decent job as a retail sales manager. I was on my own with a cute apartment and new car. The world was in the palm of my hand. Or was it? Was this it forever?

I had this amazing opportunity to move to a different place, meet new people, and live a little irresponsibly for a while. How long? Not sure.

My Mom was in absolute shock. Of course she was! I would have been, too! No one had really ever heard of St. John. I had always lived within driving distance of my family. But I was an adult, and I had made my decision. I was going. To the islands.

Was my Dad shocked? Yes. Worried? Yes.

Supportive? Yes. Absolutely.

Thanks, Dad.

Dad is the one I call when I need to bypass any drama or worry, and just need a resolution.

He has helped many get through life's tough situations. He does it without many words. He just does it.

My sister frequently calls me "the crazy one," and though I point out that at times, she is just as wacky as I am, I will admit, I have probably put my poor parents through more stress than they care to recall. And where my sister is the one I call to tell my crazy stories to, it is my wonderful, quiet, brilliant father, that I have called in the worst, trickiest situations.

We are so lucky, huh Kate?

So Happy Father's Day. To all of you Dads and Grandads and "Step"Dads and Father Figures out there. And to my friends who's Fathers are angels that love and protect from above, prayers and thoughts to you.

P.S. My parents traded the Cougar for a nice, reliable, not so flashy car before I went for my actual license. I got it on the first try with the Chrysler LeBaron. But, I ended up driving the truck more, and still prefer a "stick."

Thanks, Dad.

1 comment:

  1. Kris, you forgot to mention that your dad has eyes like Paul Newman and a smile like Robert Redford.... and that it totally creeped you out when your friends would notice. Well I hope you're over it now, 'cause you have the most handsome dad out there!

    XO Love you "Dad" Don. Happy, happy Father's Day!!!