Saturday, December 24, 2016
So we had a little get together at my Dad's church for his 80th birthday.
I feel really lucky to still have both my parents (and a step parent as a bonus) still alive, active and close by. I mean, Dad just turned 80 this is far from guaranteed.
My brother suggested we might mic up and say toasts and make speeches and stuff, and that never quite happened. But lots of friends and family came through. I think if I was going to toast, what I'd probably end up telling is stories I remember about my Dad from growing up. Partly because in preparation for the party I found myself scanning old photos from my childhood.
They were mainly vacation shots, we didn't take pictures of every meal and kitten pose to share with our Facebook friends back then. The camera came out for vacations, parties, holidays. I remember these vacations, but it's hard for me to believe they were possible.
I remember going to Houston and Padre Island in Texas, then cutting over through the Painted Desert and whatnot to Mesa, Arizona to visit relatives. In a 1968 Bel Air with no air conditioning. In July and August. Me and my brother eight and six or something like that at the time. Picking fights with each other in the back seat of a hot and windy car for hours and days.
We visited my Uncle in Houston, swam and caught clams (that ended up giving everyone the runs) at Padre. Then, after a hot, gusty all day drive across the Southwest, I remember coming to a little town with a Motel and my parents decided this was the overnight stop. My Dad went over to the little taco stand across from the motel, the only place to get a mouthful to eat. He stressed to them not to make the burritos too spicy. Then when we got them open in the motel room they were loaded with green chilis and Dad just lost it. I think the restaurant had already closed by this point and he didn't even have someone he could yell at. We must have picked the chilis out and eaten it, or else Mom had something in the cooler that would get us by, I don't remember. But I remember the pattern of invective, it sounds just like me when I realize I've gotten the shaft and I'm powerless to do anything about it.
I remember fishing, I remember going in the evening after dinner to Douglas State Fishing Lake in Baldwin where we lived until right before I turned five. So we must have done it more than once because that's near the barrier as far as my childhood memories.
Back there in the Baldwin memories, our house was next door to a rental house some college kids shared. I remember Dad getting on his trench coat in his pajamas to go holler at the kids to turn down their stereo because it was rattling our windows and people are trying to sleep.
He hassled the kids next door enough that at one point they turned their speakers around to face the other way. That lasted all of one night because the neighbor to the other side also didn't appreciate his windows being rattled, but on top of that he was on the city council and could get stuff done.
When an insurance company built a glass and steel monstrosity on the edge of our neighborhood on what had been just woods, Dad was pissed. When he learned there were plans to develop more of the woods he organized a homeowners association and managed to block at least one developer's efforts. Some of those woods were eventually developed after Dad had moved away from that neighborhood, but most of us settle for bitching about stuff, most people won't go full on activist and change the things they cannot accept.
After my parents divorced, after renting a house for a while, he put down earnest money and made an offer on a house. When he took me and my brother to see it, I recognized the neighborhood. I was like, across the street is where so and so lives. And that's so and so's house, and basically four or five of the worst assholes at my grade school who had bullied me unmercifully for years, to the extent I was allowed to transfer to a different junior high, would be our new neighbors there. I don't know if he lost his $1000 deposit, they're generally not refundable in my experience, but he backed out of that house rather than situate me like that.
There was the fort built in the back yard on a sturdy deck, also a similar platform that went up maybe 20 feet up a tree that might not have been solid enough to hold it. Homemade rubber band guns with rubber bands made from strips of a tractor innertube.
I'm also struck looking at some of these old pictures by what a big kid I was. One of Dad's nicknames for me growing up was Sasquatch. There were some real assholes at South Park Elementary in the 1970s, but that was exacerbated by me looking two or three years older than I actually was. My size and precocious vocabulary led people to think me, say, an immature twelve instead of an overgrown nine year old. The six foot tall lad in the mirrored shades at the Continental Divide, he's twelve. Plus, I was the big kid and if you could pick on the biggest kid around, you're the big man, right?
As far as those early childhood memories, I remember this sledding adventure, there wasn't much of a slope to the back yard, but when you're three or four years old, it seems it. But most of all I remember this dog who wanted to sniff and lick my face in the cold. It was a neighbor's pup, we never had a dog.
Yeah, I was a behemoth as a lad. This harmonica concert, I'm four. We moved away from that house before I turned five. It slowed down once I got to seventh grade, by which time I'd decided fitting in was bullshit anyway. Which is actually probably something I got from Dad as well.
I remember near the end of his second marriage, a short one, his second wife, wanting to go shopping for some clothes she had seen advertised in the Sunday paper. Dad didn't think it looked like such a deal, and she said, 'Cal, you just think fashion is one big rip off.'
His response was probably not a great one for the marriage, but I remember having a rare moment as an adolescent (I was fourteen) admiration for Dad when he said, 'You got it, baby.'
Some of these vacation shots are from more recently, the trip I took my daughters on to Hutchinson, Lucas and Cawker City. Anyway, like I say I'm lucky to still have my parents around and healthy.