Things My Dad Has Had to Put Up With, Part 1:
1. I once pressured him into driving 9 hours round-trip to help me take my car to a mechanic because I was a freshman in college and, most of the time, insane. He fed me chowder, didn’t make fun of the fact that I was wearing (and had been wearing for three days) a shirt that said “I’m Not Fat, I’m Pregnant,” and bought me a lifetime supply of motor oil from the gas station. He probably got home after midnight and I probably gave him grief about the radio station he played while driving me to get the aforementioned chowder, but he never told me I was incompetent or complained about making the trip. Though his car does have nice leather seats, so I suppose it could have been a lot worse; I mean, he could have biked. The point is he would have biked. And I still would have found a way to give him grief about the radio station he would have played, mentally, on the 180-hour pedal over to help me fix my goddamn car.
2. My father’s sincerest wish for three consecutive years was that I try, for five minutes and only once, cross-country skiing. He reasoned, bribed, and begged. I made fun of the arm motions associated with cross-country skiing and repeatedly called the sport “retarded,” which is insensitive to cross-country skiing enthusiasts as well as the mentally handicapped, and was retarded of me to ever say. I never skied. I read R.L. Stine books and talked about how warm I was in my dirty pajamas and gained 30 pounds every winter. It was a selfish time.
3. I refused to absorb the lesson of my father’s story regarding the importance of “eating anything.” It took me years to fully admire that my dad will, in fact, “eat anything” when socially required.
4. I had such a bad hangover when he took me to the Whitney museum that I forced us to leave early and ate both of our burgers at the Soup Burg while talking about the likelihood that I would throw up on the table, or perhaps on the pavement outside the Soup Burg. I did not want to talk about any of the art we’d seen because “I don’t want to think about the recycled museum air.” That was also a selfish time.
5. Approximately 2 dozen 30-second phone calls that began with, “Dad? Help! I’m driving and I’m not sure where I am!” and ended with “Oh my God, Jesus Christ, Holy Shit — gotta go!” Each of these phone calls, it has been scientifically established, reduces a father’s life by 12 minutes.
6. A period of time during which I liked to wear camisole underthings to high school.
7. A period of time during which I used to wear tight orange corduroys fastened with leather ties to high school.
8. I asked him to siphon the water out of my disgusting tropical aquarium when my captive fish got a disease called “Ick.” He had to use his mouth. This was perhaps the most selfish of times.
9. At least four times I called my parents on the home line while walking drunk through snow drifts back to my Rhode Island apartment after leaving bars because I thought that, somehow, I was decreasing my odds of being mugged by having a phone plastered to my ear. Usually I insinuated that I was in the process of contracting hypothermia and might not survive the night. Then I would forget to call them back the next morning, and they probably thought their daughter had become a stump or died like a Dickensian degenerate or one of those illustrations from post-industrial Europe of the dirty guy with TB dead in the gutter surrounded by coins and empty bottles of gin.
11. I made my father feel guilty that he was not able to create a robotic doll out of pegs and paperclips that had the capabilities of speech, mobility, and empathy as well as being able to function as a Walkman and a Polaroid camera. I drew him a diagram and became very frustrated when he explained that even engineers were struggling to come up with, like, a robot that could simply drift across your floor with a drink balanced on top. I was five and had no dreams other than this robot. I let my father know that I was disappointed in him for his lack of commitment and that he could have earned at least a few hundred dollars by selling my blueprints to a team of engineers.
12. A period of time during which I kept a five-foot iguana in my parent’s sun porch. He roamed free and often scraped his nails against the glass door, shat on furniture, and left desiccated broccoli stems in his wake.
13. A period of time during which I only cared to discuss either the depths of my own misery or the rankings of physical attractiveness of every single eleven-year-old boyfriend prospect at school, in the media, or skateboarding innocently down the street.
14. A period of time during which, for some reason, I would become irrationally upset for hours by people parting the curtains in my bedroom to allow a tiny shaft of light into what had become an oppressive pre-teen dungeon. I was reading a lot of Anne Rice and playing Mario Paint in the dark, and after drawing the blinds back and fastening them with safety pins I would slam my door and mumble “GOD” loudly, in a put-upon way.
There is no dad more generous, patient or smart than my dad. We probably disagree on this. I’ll admit it’s a very close race between your dad and mine, assuming you too have a great dad, but I’m going to have to call it in favor of my own. “Being a dad” means little until you’re old enough to be as sentimental as, well, a dad. Getting married means a whole new set of sentimental knick knacks in the dad drawer. Now Loudon Wainwright makes you cry, pussies, did you ever think that would be a by-product of your post-adolescent life? No, you thought you would stay disaffected and cool forever, demanding other people make you animatronic toys and sip a fish tank through a straw — but see, like I’ve said, we all turn into dads at some point. The more time passes, the more you start to realize the kind of mettle it takes to be the sort of dad that makes kids paint #1 DAD on clay objects at Color Me
Mine Dad. There are so many selfless chores and so many tender dog moments to be concealed from jaded offspring so as not to embarrass them! Dad, I’ so sorry I made you siphon. I’m so sorry about the iguana. I never cleaned up the iguana shit and I feel terrible about it. I love you.