#1. He can waltz. He was in several musicals with me at my all-girls high school, and in My Fair Lady we got paired up as waltzing partners for the big scene at the ball. He’s a really good dancer. Every day we would come home from rehearsal and practice our routine for my mom.
#2. He hates the Steve Miller Band, especially “The Joker.” So obviously Colin had to get him a Hallmark musical card that plays “The Joker” for Father’s Day. Because that’s how we roll.
#3. He knows how to crochet.
#4. He and my mom were GENIUSES at college pranks. My mom’s best was The Foosball Table Incident, which so many of you know. My dad’s all-time best was this gem – sheetrocking over somebody’s door. TRUE STORY. They removed this guy’s doorknob, put a piece of sheetrock over his door, put black paper or something over the hall lights so they were all dim, and had a “hall party”, so when this poor (probably drunk or stoned) guy staggered back to his dorm, in the place where his door used to be there was, in fact, no door. Plus there were a mob of people milling about in dim lighting, confusing him all the more. I’m pretty sure he ended up sleeping in the hallway.
#5. He’s amazing with kids. Cat and I call him “The Baby Whisperer.”
#6. He read to us nearly every night. And not, like, wussy kid books, but all the books HE liked. We got Tolkien and C.S. Lewis years before we would have read them ourselves, because he explained things to us. This is also how we ended up a family of huge fantasy/science fiction nerds – because he read us every single Terry Brooks book (my fave being The Sword of Shannara) at a formative age. He also did the voices. It was amazing. We would all put on our pajamas, climb into my parents’ bed, snuggle up with my mom, and he would read to us.
Last year Cat and I took turns reading the last Harry Potter to Mom, because by then she couldn’t hold a book. Dad borrowed it while we were in the weeks-long read-aloud process, and zipped through it on his own so he knew how it ended WEEKS before we did, and he taunted us. When we were in the last four or five chapters, when everything starts to look like it’s going really bad, Cat was reading and she got to the part where Harry thinks he’s going to die and wants to say goodbye to Ginny but doesn’t, and she started to cry, so she passed the book to me, and I got to the part where he tells Neville that he’s in charge now, and then I started to cry, and Mom was like going crazy, like, “SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT’S HAPPENING!” and Dad came in and saw what a mess we were and he’s like, “Do you want me to read the rest of it to you?” and we were like, “YAY!” So we all cuddled up with my mom, like when we were kids, and Dad read us the end of Harry Potter, and we all gasped at the bad stuff and cheered at the happy stuff exactly like we did when we were six, and I think until the day I die that will remain one of the happiest moments of my life.
#7. My high school required three years of math. My father required four years of math. So I took four years of math.
#8. He absolutely hates beets. My mother LOVED beets. It was a point of serious contention between them. Also, my dad’s stepmother used to grow and pickle her own beets, and she would always try to send some jars home with us for my mom, and my dad would always try to sneak them back out of the car. He dislikes those yellow beets even more than the red ones, because they’re “sneakier” and sometimes they blend in with other root vegetables in dishes so you think you’re getting a piece of potato and then YUCK, stealth beet.
#9. He came to my senior Father/Daughter Dinner Dance in full kilt. It was AWESOME. We got our picture in the school paper.
#10. His birthday is Christmas Day.
#11. He is a baking genius, especially with bread and scones.
#12. When something is really, really funny, he laughs so hard no sound comes out and his face turns color. We call it “The Silent Purple Laugh” and it is a badge of honor.
#13. He’s the reason I went back to church. But this is a long, long story for another time.
#14. He and my grandfather have exactly the same nose. Both my brothers inherited it too. As, tragically, did I.
#15. He played Giles Corey, the guy who gets pressed to death by rocks, in a high school production of The Crucible.
#16. He is one of the best Catholics I know, but he wasn’t raised religious; he converted to Catholicism when he married my mom.
#17. If you cross-referenced my music tastes with those of every other member of my family, you’d find like 1% commonality with my my brothers, sisters and mom, and like 99% overlap with my dad. All my favorite musicians – Bruce Springsteen, Lyle Lovett, Billy Joel, Dire Straits, Matt Maher, Sarah Hart, Tom Booth, Rich Mullins – are the ones I learned to like from him. Oh, except he would want me to say that he refuses to take credit for the fact that I like some jazz. Or Poison. Those aren’t his fault.
#18. Any time you ever complain about how hard or stressful your teenage summer job is (or was), he will smack you down with the story about the summer he spent tarring roofs with his dad while the railroad was on strike and his dad was out of work. And no office job, no matter how boring, can possibly trump TARRING ROOFS in The Dalles, Oregon, in the summer, in 100+ degree weather. This one he ALWAYS wins.
#19. If you leave leftovers in his fridge, he will eat them. He totally doesn’t care if they’re labeled. If food goes missing at his house, particularly if it was delicious, it is generally his fault.
#20. He is amazing at poker, and taught us all to play a wide range of poker games at a very young age. Not just your Five-Card Draw and your Seven-Card Stud and your Texas Hold’em, but ones with way cooler names like Omaha and Anaconda and my favorite, Seven-Card-No-Peeky.
#21. When he was a kid, his family had a dog named Christopher Robin (I KNOW! How cute is that???), but the kids couldn’t pronounce his name so they called him “Tistapoo.” Which is what we now call my brother Christopher.
#22. We share the same Least Favorite Book Ever Studied In College: Gargantua and Pantagruel by Rabelais. Oh my God, this is the worst book ever. I had grown up listening to my dad tell this story about an incident regarding a really terrible piece of Renaissance fiction that he was forced to read in college. But I could never remember what it was called. Then one day, my senior year of college, I called him to gripe about my Renaissance Literature class. TRANSCRIPT OF ACTUAL CONVERSATION:
DAD: How’s your Renaissance Literature class?
ME: Oh my God. We’re reading the worst book ever.
ME: Like, seriously. Not exaggerating. The WORST. BOOK. EVER.
DAD: Well, just remember, it could always be worse. Remember my story about Gargantua and Pantagruel.
ME: (Pause) Oh God.
ME: That’s the book.
DAD: That’s the book? You’re reading Gargantua and Pantagruel?
DAD: Oh no!
ME: OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD!
DAD: It really is the worst book ever!
ME: I KNOW! It’s like, I guess it’s supposed to be funny, but it’s SO NOT FUNNY, like even in the Renaissance I can’t IMAGINE that this stuff was funny!
DAD: I know! There’s really only so much you can do with codpiece jokes.
This was seriously one of our best-ever father/daughter bonding moments. So here’s my dad’s story about this book, which is way better than mine: they were assigned this HORRENDO book, and my dad took it home and read the first chapter, and it was so, so awful that my conscientious A+ student father decided that he would truly, genuinely rather gouge out his own eyes than read any further. But they had to write a paper on it. NOBODY liked this book, and everyone was really suffering through this paper. My dad took a shot in the dark and decided to do some research on the author’s life and write a paper that was basically a biography of Rabelais, loosely tied to the tiny bit he had read and the plot summaries he’d found – thus sparing him from having to actually finish the book. The day the papers were due back, he was chatting up the cute girl next to them (he stresses that this was before he met my mother) and they were sharing horror stories about how they both knew they were going to flunk, and he confessed that he hadn’t read any further than the first chapter (an option I wish I had had myself, but my Renaissance Literature class only had ONE OTHER STUDENT so it was kind of noticeable if you hadn’t done the reading). So the teacher’s handing back the papers, and everyone gets their paper back but my dad. He’s like sweating bullets at this point, and Cute Girl, who got like a D, is toooootally giving him Sympathy Eyes, and he’s probably looking forward to some nice commiserating after class, and then the professor utters these words of doom: “Most of you did very, very poorly on these papers, and I am extremely disappointed in them all. But there was one which was so good that I am now going to read it out loud to you all.” Poor, poor college-student-version-of-my-father. Sympathy Eyes TOTALLY retracted, since now he’s apparently the faux-humble goody-two-shoes with the paper so brilliant (without having READ THE WHOLE BOOK) that the teacher simply MUST share it. So humiliating!
May I just say, however, that I totally stole this idea my freshman year of college when I had to write a paper on the Aeneid, and I read Book One, and I thought, “Okay, I would seriously rather be boiled alive than read a single page more of this,” so I wrote an A+ paper on the themes of Book One of the Aeneid. I am truly my father’s daughter.
#23. He is a napping machine. Nearly all of my memories of every single family holiday involve finding my dad asleep on a couch at some relative’s house within like ten minutes of dinner ending. He’s either unbelievably sensitive to tryptophan, or for some reason he sleeps better when there are twelve aunties in the next room talking about the difference between convection and regular ovens. No one knows.
#24. All through my childhood, whenever we watched movies at home I almost never remember him sitting through the whole thing. I think he just couldn’t sit still that long – he would watch like the first half and then get up and wander into the kitchen and start doing the dishes or something. The three exceptions, as far as I recall, appeared to be Local Hero, The Sting, or any movie he had seen on a plane.
#25. Even though I’m 27 and a tax-paying, wage-earning adult, there will always be a part of me that is totally convinced that my daddy has the answer for everything.