Dad stuff

Over at The Toast, Mallory asked for the Dad-est thing our Dads had ever done. I guess I had something to say.

When I was a little girl and we went out for dinner, Dad would always give me the cherry from his whiskey sour. When I was ~35, if he ordered a whiskey sour, he would still offer me the cherry.

Dad was always proud of me, and always for unexpected reasons. When I was a weird little kid ordering snails or frog’s legs in restaurants, he was proud of me for that.

When some dear friends offered me their summer house furniture for my new apartment, Dad and I went over to collect it. The gentlemen neighbors saw me getting ready to heft the clunky table and blurted “Oh, no, Miss Emily, it’s awful heavy, you should let your father do that!” My rail-skinny Dad and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. Dad assured them “She’s strong!” He was proud of that, too.

When I’d visit them, Dad used to slip me a little cash money once in a while. Usually it was a $20, sometimes it was a $50, once or twice a $100. Sometimes specify what I could use it for: he’d say “for your cab fare” or “to tip the driver” or “for dinner on the road” or—my favorite—”spend it on something silly.”

Dad used to cook dinner every Sunday while Mom would take a nap or read a book in their bedroom, several stories up. When we moved to a one-story house, where she could hear his incessant swearing as he tried to heat canned foods without incident, Mom decided Sundays weren’t so relaxing anymore. (We eventually moved to Sundays being “fend-for-yourself” nights, but I’ll never forget Dad calling out “EVERYTHING I TOUCH TURNS TO SHIT!” while trying to heat up canned chili.)

Dad made up little songs and jingles every single day, and especially when he was driving.

Dad once asked my (middle) sister quite seriously whether she saw any signs of creeping dementia in him. “Do you think I’m losing it?” She responded “Dad, how would we know?” He found this answer reassuring.

When there was only one grandchild in the the family, Dad christened her “The Smart Baby.” I finally pointed out that he’d better stop calling her The Smart Baby before someone else had a kid, because it wouldn’t do to have two grandchildren known as The Smart Baby and The Other Baby. He was receptive to this logic.

Dad loved Egg McMuffins. Loved them. But only in theory. In practice, he was almost always disappointed by them. But he kept making special trips to the drive-thru, so strong was his faith. I have a great Dad-in-hospice story to tell about an egg sandwich, but I can’t bear to cry right now, so it will have to wait.

Dad, who spent the last decade of his life hampered by CPOD, loved that Mom kept traveling even though he couldn’t. He would promise her he’d be fiiiiiiiiiine, just go! And almost always, he’d call me in the first 24 hours after she left to help him with some seemingly small task he just couldn’t manage. The one that stands out in my mind is the time she left for the airport and maybe three hours later he called to ask me to come over and change his sheets: he’d celebrated his solo lifestyle by going to bed to watch TV and bringing A WHOLE GLASS OF ORANGE JUICE, and then upended the entire glass into the bed without even taking a sip.

About a month before he died, during a long cold rainy stretch when I was spending a lot of time commuting between his home and mine, Dad left me a voicemail on my old machine telling me he “just called to check in, and to tell you we love you. I keep thinking of you at the bus stop. Keep dry in the rain… and out of the rain.” I kept that message for months. When I moved and had to unplug the machine, the message erased, which is just as well. I still think about it a lot.

The Dad-est thing that my Dad ever did, he didn’t even do. I kept a secret from him so his last days wouldn’t be filled with a terrible anxiety… the anxiety about the mail getting slightly damp.

I miss him every day.

true

There are a lot of things true love is, and here are just two of them:

True love is sending your exhausted husband home from the hospital overnight because there’s no sense in both of you going without sleep, and never regretting it during the long, lonely, sleepless night.

And true love is sitting in that rumpled hospital bed in the faint light of morning, hours before he could possibly be planning to return, hearing distant footsteps two corridors away, and knowing those are his footsteps, coming straight to your room.

 

small things

Today, I’m grateful for
– soap bubbles
homemade flour tortillas: startlingly easy to make, and so vastly superior to packaged tortillas in flavor and texture as to be a completely different creature
– new boots to wear in the rain
Radiolab
– hot tea and buttered toast
– the yanking of my horrible wisdom tooth, which appears to have reduced my once-crippling migraines to a mere dull thumping. I think this sensation is what you puny huuuuumans call “headache.”
– Tom Waits

gratitude

Things, little and big, to be grateful for this week:

- One Step Beyond! I’d never even heard of this Twilight Zone carbon copy, and now I have four DVDs of it, with its original Alcoa promos intact. Thanks to The Fella!

- Pajamas and pearls! (I ordered new pajamas, then made myself a new double-length string of pearls. Obviously, I’m going to wear them both right away.)

- Surprise bacon!

- Graduating from mooshy food to semi-soft food!

- Passover Coca-Cola!

gratitude

With practice, it’s possible to find moments of joy and grace in almost any chore, no matter how mundane or tiresome. For example: I hate doing the dishes. I hate it so much that dirty dishes have been the trigger for most of our (rare) household fights.

The height of the counter and the depth of the sink seem almost to conspire, like malevolent creatures, to tweak my lower back and my strained shoulder. The dishes are fragile and haphazardly stacked, sometimes with tiny crusty bits, sometimes a bit slippery. Once in a great while, my tender fingers find at the bottom of the pile the shattered (and sharp) remains of a dish I loved. The metal dish drainer marks the dishes; the wooden dish drainer rots. The water chaps my hands.

And there it is: I hate doing the dishes. This idea,  firmly entrenched in my head, repeats and repeats and wears itself a track in my brain, until it seems absolutely true.

But it isn’t. It’s only a thought. I’m training myself to see other thoughts, to find reasons to enjoy the small necessities of daily life. Here’s why I love doing the dishes.

- The high citrus scent of the natural dish soap makes me smile. With the orange scent sold out, we had to buy apple scent this time. Turns out apple makes me smile, too.

- The soft floursack curtain hanging on a rod over the kitchen sink. The odd positioning of our windowframe made it impossible to use a traditional curtainrod in our kitchen, so I thought and thought and then rigged up a simple solution for a few dollars. The best part: because it’s a floursack towel, when it gets dusty or spattered or tired-looking, I can whip it down and hang a replacement from the stack of towels. It makes me feel like a genius, in a teeny tiny way.

- Bubbles. I love the tiny stray bubbles that occasionally break away from the spout of the detergent bottle, floating in the still air of the kitchen or catching the breeze from the open window.

- Filling the rack and emptying the sink. How many tasks offer that simple visual metric of accomplishment? For the same reason, I enjoy laundry: if you’re doing it even half-right, you’re quickly rewarded with obvious progress.

- The old set of silver flatware, no doubt the wedding silver of a distant great-aunt, passed diffidently on to me by my mother. I love using these pieces, I love the feel of them in my hand. I love to polish them (using the baking-soda/boiling-water method), but I also love to use them even when they’re coated with tarnish. I love to scrub and soap and rinse them, I love to slot them into their little drawer. I love them.

- Breaks. When the dishes are stacked and towering and too numerous to face at once, I wash a batch, then take a break to let them drain. It’s a chance to sit peacefully with a coffee, a book, the laptop, or the phone, but still retain the virtuous illusion of doing the chores.

- A meandering mind. I do a lot of my clearest thinking during a mindless, mechanical chore. A great many of my big a-Ha! moments come while I’m doing dishes. I exploit this for academic writing by scheduling writing breaks during which I can wash a half-sink of dishes; I load up my brain with the subject matter, examine it carefully every which way, then take a break and do some dishes. As my hands scrub and rinse and my mouth hums a song, my brain ticks away in the background the whole time, poking at the dark corners of a thesis and looking for a new path.

I love doing the dishes. I should try to remember that.

“I do,” not “to do”

Presenting my to-don’t list, several things I won’t be doing in the remaining few weeks before the wedding:
– reading along with the Infinite Summer project. Sigh. Another month, I would have jumped on this.
– mastering the iPod in time to use it for the wedding playlist.
– getting a professional facial or a profession make-over or a professional anything. No, I take back the last one: I will probably go so far as to get a professional haircut.
– losing any damn weight, so please don’t ask. (Happily, because I’m not wearing a fitted gown, I have avoided the apparently rote question of dressfitters: “So, how much are you planning to lose?”)
– making a contingency plan for the eighty-bazillion things that could go awry at a DIY party of this scale. Why borrow trouble, especially when most of the likely disasters can either be shrugged off or solved with a cell phone and wad of cash?
– biting my nails or picking my cuticles to a red, ragged mess, as I often do when I’m nervous or on edge. No sir, nope, not a chance. No. Why would I? Yikes.

And, most of all:
– Clearly, I will not spend even one day between now and the wedding without a bout of teary-eyed gratitude to our families and friends, who have been so unstinting and creative in their generosity to us, and at my mindbendingly good fortune of finding The Fella in a whole crazy world full of people.

thankful

It’s odd to be lolling about in bed this late on Thanksgiving morning. Some part of my brain, trained for years, thinks I ought to have spent the past four hours bustling around the kitchen chopping, braising, and marinating. I’m not used to this indolence and luxury.
But I could get used to it.