Today is Father’s Day in the States. Lots of people are buy their Dad’s ties, golf gear or coffee mugs that say things like: #1 Dad or World’s Greatest Dad. I didn’t buy my dAd anything for Father’s Day this year but that doesn’t mean that I am not thinking about him.
I think it’s important for me to tell you a little bit about my dAd. I could just make you a list he’s: funny, incredibly handsome, hard working and the like but it would be a long list and not nearly as funny or illustrative as a story.
Here’s the important thing to know about this story. My dAd has a sense of humor. I’m not talking he just likes to tell jokes (which he does). No he loves laughter, he loves telling funny stories, he likes poking fun at people, he likes doing ridiculous things.
This said, he’s not much of a technology guy not that you’d necessarily know this seeing as he writes a lifestyle blog about life in the Walla Walla Valley called: Work, Eat, Play, Live Local and he always has his serious digital camera with him. Anyhow, rather than a smart phone, he’s got a flip phone. One that he often likes to use to tease people. He’ll flip open his phone and tap on the screen, pinch his fingers together, and then let out a big sigh and say with a big grin in his face: my phones’s not working right now.
If he’s having computer problems, he calls my mom to solve them and on skype he often sits so that I can only see half or a quarter of his body because he doesn’t know where the camera is. Heck he owns an antique store and is much more comfortable around antiques than using the credit card machine required to sell them.
But you know what, I love him for all of these quirks and more.
Recently my sister and I bought my MoM a smart phone (after my mother’s day post specifically point #1 it seemed like the only thing two grown daughters could do for their MoM. A mom who over time has spent a lot more on her daughters than she spends on herself) but in buying a smart phone everyone on my parent’s account was automatically bumped up to a plan with data. For my MoM this was clearly a necessity but not so much for my dAd.
Turns out, he was thrilled to learn how to text message and overjoyed with the kinds of laughter, groans and responses he received now that he’s able to text message. My sister C. put it best in an email she sent me after buying our MoM a smart phone:
The other side effect of buying MoM a smart phone is that we all have unlimited data, so everyone can text, which before, only I could. dAd spent the weekend texting me to bring him beer. I’ve unleashed a monster.
Of course, I couldn’t stop laughing when I read the email.
I know, I just know, that my dAd was chortling every time he messaged my MoM and my sister to bring him beer. Why? Well because he’s not that kind of guy in real life. If he wants a beer, he stands up and gets one. So, he’s texting about beer to tease my sister, to make fun of the text-message culture, to show everyone that he knows how to do it (although I imagine that he’ll continue to just call people) and because he likes to poke fun at stereotypical gender roles. He probably also wanted to see if anyone would bring him a beer. I am guessing that there’s a 50/50 chance that he got a beer out of the whole thing but not after a lot of moaning on my sister’s end upon receiving the text.
My childhood is full of similar kinds of stories, memories and laughter. So as a child I figured that everyone had parents like mine. How was I know life was different for other kids? I feel incredibly lucky that my dAd has taught me to be quick to laugh and not to take myself or my life too seriously.
As great as it sounds my childhood wasn’t all laughter and games, although a big part of it was. I also spent a lot of time playing sports–not crazy competitive soccer-mom sports but sports nonetheless. My dAd when I was growing up was the head crew coach at Oregon State University and he recognized the importance of practice, commitment, teamwork and competition for not only boys but also for girls.
So starting in 3rd grade I learned how to play basketball and softball and by middle school I’d picked up volleyball as well. These are sports that I love. I wasn’t necessarily great at them but I played well into high school. Today, I’m a better person for it. In a practical sense, I know the rules and I can play even today but playing sports has also changed me in more non-material ways that I can count.
I’ll end with this. When I was little I liked the things my dAd liked. He collected baseball cards and so did I. He would send me post cards when he traveled and I liked getting them. He like rowing and I liked rowing. He took me out plenty of times in the coach’s motorboat for crew practice when I was small but that wasn’t enough. I wanted to row.
Not until 3rd grade (wow, a lot of good things happened to me in 3rd grade–playing basketball, meeting my first best friend M. and being able to ride my bike around the neighborhood by myself), did he decided he’d take me out on the water in a double. I knew the day before that we’d be going and I had a hard time falling asleep I was so excited (for the record, I still have this problem). He woke me up really early on a Saturday morning. Maybe at 6am and I crawled out of my top buck bed carefully trying not wake up my sister. I put on my sweatpants (the kind with elastic around the ankle), sweatshirt and tennis shoes. We drove to the crew docks in the early morning light.
Some of his college rowers were already there. I am not sure why because that morning my dAd wasn’t coaching. He was rowing with me but maybe they were there training for a seat in the PanAm Games and later the Olympics. Anyhow it’s a good thing they were there because I was too little to help my dAd carry the racing shell down to the water and carrying a double is a two person job. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I helped carry an oar down. That’s not much considering in a double each person has two oars. Anyhow, one oar was a enough responsibility for me and at that point in my life I’d guess it was nearly twice as long as I was tall.
Now the thing about racing shells is that they are light but expensive. So if you put your foot on the bottom of the boat, you will go through it. You also can’t wear a life vest to row, so you’ve got to be a competent swimmer in case something happens and you find yourself no longer in the boat. These things happen given the fact that the very long oar you row with can double as a lever.
The first time my dAd put me in a racing shell I was excited and nervous. In the shell you realize that you are basically sitting in the water with a thin layer of wood separating you from the river and while the boat is long, it’s no wider than a grown man’s hips. I knew the basics of rowing. I’d spent some time on my dAd’s rowing machine but in practice it’s much, much different.
Then my dAd got in the shell behind me and we pushed off from the docks. He taught me how to scull (row with two oars at the same time) versus teaching me how to sweep (or row with one oar). Sculling is more difficult to learn because the oars have to overlap in front of you as part of your stroke but once you can do this sweeping is easy-peasy.
He taught me patiently and slowly while sitting behind me. Basically, he talked me through the whole thing, corrected my form, encouraged me to do it again, corrected my form, gave me more directions, encouraged me and so on. It was just the two of us, the river and a racing shell. In hindsight this was clearly not an easy thing for him to do but before long I was rowing and moving the the boat.
When my dAd started rowing with me it was like magic. We slid through the water. We glided under not one but two bridges and we rowed back to the docks. I was ecstatic–soon to be blisters and all. My dAd had taken me out rowing and I did it.
Just so you know, these early morning rows feature heavily among my favorite childhood memories. dAd, thank-you for this and more. I love you more than any old blog post could ever put into words.