Saturday, August 11, 2012

I'll Remember

Sorry about yesterday. We left for Disneyland at 6:30 am and when we got back at 11:30 pm there was just no way that anything was getting written. I drove the last 50 miles home at 90 miles an hour. I figured if I was going to fall asleep at the wheel it didn't matter whether I was going 65 or 90, so I might as well gamble on making it home before I nodded off and killed us both. Don't get me wrong. I don't have a death wish or a disregard for my life; I was just seriously exhausted from running around two theme parks for 12 straight hours and didn't have any real choice except to do everything in my power to get us from Anaheim to San Diego in one piece. Mission accomplished. Anyway, what it means is that I won't be 31 for 31 this month. There are other obstacles coming up along the way – trip to San Francisco, my five-year birthday (which I'm planning on celebrating in LA), the sober round up I'm on the committee for – but I'm going to do my best to be 30 for 31 at the end of the month. The good news is that the old me would have just given up because I wasn't perfect. Now I realize that the real victory is not letting the setback completely derail me. So on we go.

[It pretty much sums up how I feel about what he gave me.]

Tomorrow's my dad's birthday. He would have been 79. I always think of him more than usual at this time of year. In the past it's made me crazy for a couple of weeks leading up to it because I never seemed to be able to pinpoint what I was feeling. This year has been different. I was on a pretty even keel the first ten days of the month. Today was really difficult. I was feeling really alone. I wasn't even close to being alone, but reality rarely has any influence whatsoever on my emotions. Fortunately, one of the small niceties of having some time sober is that I have started to recognize when my feelings have nothing to do with what I think they are about. I was feeling alone because I miss my dad. And that's not a bad reason to be feeling crappy.

I was supposed to go to a water gun fight in Balboa Park tonight. After Disneyland yesterday and the zoo today however, neither my friend nor I really had the energy for very much tonight. And we want to have energy to go kayaking in the La Jolla Caves tomorrow so this seemed like a good night to do nothing.

I mention the water gun fight because my dad is the main reason I wanted to go. I don't really remember ever having much fun with my dad when I was a kid. When I was really little I remember playing Lion and he'd growl and chase me around the living room; that was fun for sure. But after about five or six, the only fun thing I remember doing with him was answering baseball trivia questions. He was kind of an angry dad back then and I was a kid who was terrified of everything. It didn't make for a whole lot of happy hijinks.

As an adult, however, all of my memories of my dad are either fun or happy. By the time I moved back from San Diego to Philadelphia in 1997 we were on our way to being pretty much best friends. There were lots of nights on the back porch smoking cigarettes and conversations at the kitchen table in the middle of the night because neither of us could sleep. But there is one memory I have that is my favorite.

I don't remember when it happened for the first time. For the first year I was back in Philly I was living with my parents again while I looked for a job, so I spent a lot of time with my dad that year. But at some point, I remember coming down for breakfast and sitting at the table directly across from him just like always. I got my coffee, my cereal (or whatever breakfast was that day) and part of the newspaper. I wasn't moving very quickly, but eventually I was settled in. Now this whole time, my father hadn't moved from his chair. In fact, he barely moved a muscle. It wasn't unusual for him to sit and stare over his coffee for minutes at a time without doing anything, so I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.

All of a sudden, he raises his arm and starts firing a water pistol at me. He must have gotten about five direct hits to my face before I even realized what the hell was going on. And then he calmly put the pistol back in his lap and laughed like a hyena for about five minutes.

Son of a bitch. I was not pleased to say the least. But instantly I knew what the worst part of the situation was. The man had a water pistol. This was going to go on forever. He was nothing if not relentless. I knew my only hope was to arm myself.

For the next several months that I lived there, we would try to catch the other off guard. I got some licks in occasionally, but mostly in retaliation. I never had the gift for stealth that he had. One day I came running down the stairs and into the kitchen to get something to eat. As I passed the refrigerator, he was hiding there and just calmly and repeatedly drenched me. This had the added bonus that he scared the hell out of me and I almost shit my pants because I had no idea he was even in the kitchen.

He had an apprentice at his job – a young guy maybe 22. This kid thought my dad was the greatest thing since sliced bread (actually, almost everyone who knew my dad thought that). He was always calling to ask for advice and my dad was always busting my balls about how Chad paid attention and blah blah blah (I don't know, I stopped listening).

One day Chad came home with my dad for some reason I don't remember. What I do remember is that my dad is a show off. So, he called me down under some pretense and when I came down from my bedroom he just started chasing me around the house with his stupid water gun. Up the stairs, outside to the sidewalk, back inside and up the stairs. He was just being the crazy bastard that he was, laughing like an idiot the whole time. He finally wore himself out and left me alone. But he told me later that when he went back outside, Chad said (I'm paraphrasing because I only really remember the sentiment), “My dad never would do anything like that with me. You guys must really love each other.”

Indeed. Happy birthday PaPa!

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