I recently sent my mom and dad Storyworth subscriptions. If you haven’t heard of Storyworth yet, it is a service where you are prompted with a question about your life each week. Then at the end of the year all of your answers/stories get bound in a hardcover book. (This isn’t a paid post or anything like that. I just liked the idea.) Not only am I excited to learn more about the lives my mom and dad lived before my siblings and I came into existence, but, more importantly, I’m glad we’ll be able to pass these stories on to our next generations so they can have a sense of the personality that goes along with the name on their family tree.
And since I’ve assigned my mom and dad weekly homework, I figure it is only fair that I participate, too.
This week’s question is: “What was your dad like when you were young?”
The first thing that comes to mind is an image of my dad standing at the butcher block counter in our kitchen on Davis Islands reading the newspaper and eating cold steak for breakfast with one foot propped on the green stool that his grandfather built. Dad was always a big proponent of protein and he railed against carbs. Let’s just say it was never spaghetti night at the West house. He was Paleo decades before Paleo was a thing. He lifted weights nightly, too…while drinking red wine from a plastic travel mug.
He was prone to random bouts of silliness, pretending to karate chop us as we walked by, telling us to “keep it down over there” if we were having a coughing fit, or acting like he was going to step on our stomachs as we laid on the floor watching TV. Once he even short-sheeted my bed, a trick he learned in the Army, I think. It’s very confusing to try to get into bed and have your feet get stuck halfway down the bed. But he was right there to explain what he’d done. I thought it was hilarious. I assure you, all of these practical jokes were done in the spirit of fun, and they were taken that way. We always cracked up. I think a sense of humor is one of the best gifts you can give a person.
But Dad also had a serious job, with serious pressures, a family of five to support and all the attendant stresses that come with that. So sometimes, like any parent, he let a little bit of that heat out. He was strict. We were expected to do well in school and he wanted us to be productive people. He told us to never say we were bored, because only stupid people are bored. He taught us to make sure we turned lights off in rooms that we weren’t in and to not leave the air conditioner running needlessly upstairs when we weren’t up there. I learned that lesson so well that to this day the sound of a continuously running AC makes me a tiny bit anxious.
He was also generous and unfailingly kind to waiters, store clerks, yard men, his patients, and people in general. But he had no time for small talk. Cocktail parties were his nightmare scenario. He was an only child and could be an island unto himself. A family gathering would be in full swing and instead of participating he would be off doing a project, like building a deck or something.
He taught us how to do things for ourselves, to play outdoors, and to care for animals. He captured a million home videos in the 80’s when cameras were the size of concrete blocks, and then he spliced in clips of famous horror scenes from movies like Jaws and Poltergeist. Why? I don’t know. See the rest of this story. He’s a little weird.
He was brilliant, the smartest person I know. He almost always had an answer to our questions, and, if he didn’t, he never made up some BS drivel. He was man enough to say that he didn’t know. This quality is one that I particularly respect in a world filled with blithering idiots who seem to talk just for the sake of hearing themselves speak.
I’m extraordinarily proud that my dad is my dad and I’m grateful that I still have him around.
One last thing, he hates having attention drawn to him, especially for things like birthdays. So, with that, I’d like to request of anyone who read this far to please leave a comment wishing my dad a very happy birthday. 🙂
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!!!