Wednesday, January 20, 2010


My father was an interesting dad. One of the things he did that drove my mother insane was to sit down when we are all watching TV and open up an encyclopedia. He would read quietly for a time, then impart some interesting fact he’d found. I loved it. I am sure that this is the reason that I developed a love of learning for fun.

 One thing that made my siblings groan were our trips to historical places. We spent most weekends traveling up and down California seeing what there was to see. Much of this time was spent on the gold highway. Like it or not, historical education with my father was a required course in our family. Few events could get you out of these outings. He believed that we needed to know our history to understand the present and possible futures. Likewise we were also assigned reading material to be discussed after finishing the books he selected. But that is another matter.

It was not the most comfortable travel, which is the major reason they groaned, but also because they would rather be hanging out with friends. By this time I was in junior high and they were both in high school. The two oldest sisters were off and married. The three of us teens were jammed in the rear seat of a 1965 Mustang.

I do not know what my brother and the Medusa were grumpped over because I was the one stuck in the middle. If you know vintage Mustangs, you understand. The rear seat rests on the drive shaft in the middle. I had about two inches of padding under my rump that topped what amounted to a steel pipe. My legs had to straddle the “hump” of the drive shaft on either side, which led to foot fights for space. In the end I often laid my legs down the hump to rest just to the rear of the shifter. Meanwhile my butt went numb. I was always happy to reach some site and jump out of the car if for no other reason than to get the feeling in my fanny back.

One time he was on his way home from a race. My dad was pulling the race car behind on the trailer. I cannot recall what track he had been on, but they swung by Santa Cruz to pick me up from a month of bad behavior with my funch bunch. I squeezed into the middle of the rear seat… myself in my first year of high school now and the Medusa in college, my senior brother a football back. My legs drifted down that hump to rest against the shift.

Some fool opted to cut my dad off. Two things happened in rapid succession. First, my father grabbed my foot and shifted. Well that didn’t work out well! Then my father, who never uttered a swear word in my hearing in my entire life said some very shocking words. All of the occupants of the car dropped their chins in disbelief while I reeled my legs back into the back seat. He deftly steered the car and trailer off the side of the road, escaping disaster by inches. The car sat there in silence for many minutes. No one would have dared to say a word. Not even my mother, who was queen of the world in dad’s eyes. We may have been an hour down the road before anyone tried to speak… and then it was my father, who apologized for his behavior.  I admired that.

All my life my father had chosen his curses carefully. There was “dad gum it, dog gone it, for the love of Pete” (Who was Pete that we did things for the love of him?) and my favorite, “cheese and rice!” Now that we are all adults, I do hear him swear like he was born to it. But not then. I was shocked despite my own colorful language use at the point in time. Somehow I deluded myself into thinking that he did not even know those words.

My father believed in educating his children himself. Some day I tell you how he taught me to drink. Ha. Or how he taught me to drive… very entertaining, both. C4C was a participant in the drinking training. Not to worry, her folks had a similar attitude. Kind of like the plan to keep me from smoking on street corners. Sometimes our plans backfire. Enough said.

It's shocking when we realize that our parents are human like the rest of us. If I had been another person, I might have thought worse of my father. Instead, I found his being human being with all their flaws a comfort of sorts. That perhaps I had this thing in common with a man that I had previously felt was so far above me that I could never manage to measure up to his level of quality. Yes, it did open my eyes a bit, but not at all in a bad way. In a very odd way, it made us more equal and gave me permission to be human too.


  1. My dad was, and still is, very quiet. He doesn't say much, but he is a good man who would help anybody. I don't think I ever heard him utter a swear word. It is shocking to realize that they're human, but they are. Great story.

  2. My dad drank beer, though not very much, and mostly for medicinal purposes. But he did it in such a way that we did not know about it. I was probably eighteen before I learned of it, and I think that I had already married and moved away before I realized this ever happened more than once a month.

    So this may partially explain why I do not drink and my younger siblings do.

  3. Great story. Loved it. Ah..."the hump" and "foot fights", I'm chuckling just remembering them. i had almost, but not quite, forgotten.

    I believe "Pete" is the beloved Saint Peter. One of numerous ways of avoiding the forbidden Lord's name in vain. Myself, I always wondered why the nuns found "Jesus Christ!" sinful but "Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" perfectly acceptable. There's a puzzler.

    My father did not give me any of those lessons. For good or for ill, I'm a self-made man, there.

  4. AlienCG-- Hi! Yep, it is a bit of a shock. Your dad sounds like a wonderful person.

  5. laughing-- Wow, that would be strange. My dad seemed to drink beer all the time, yet managed not to be inebriated. I associate the smell of beer with my dad.

  6. Cricket-- St.Peter! Of course. That makes perfect sense.

    Hey, the woman I almost ran down with my bike had a sister who was a nun in a different parish. But being in and out of their house constantly, I saw Sister M-M all the time. One day, while watching TV in the den, I looked out my second-story window to see Mrs. W and our revered sister skinny dipping in the Doughboy pool! Talk about a shocker!

  7. Uncharacterist swearing reminds me of an episode of Firefly. The doctor would sometimes talk of the importance of good manners, and Kaylee was teasing him because he didn't swear. He insisted that he did swear sometimes, but only when such language was appropriate.

    Right after that he learned that Jayne was "the hero of Canton", and there was swearing, but I don't know what he said since they tend to switch to Chinese when they get excited.

  8. My dad would have one beer (or a glass of red wine) with the guys if they were unable to leave early to beat the traffic. They went someplace that fed you for free as long as you were "drinking", and supposedly there are health benefits of having one glass of red wine (or one beer, though I am not sure that they have the same benefits or were part of the same study), as long as you do not drive or do something else stupid afterwards. So of course we did not see this, or even know about it when it was going on.

    This does in part explain his refusal to let me roam around Bryan towers while he was at work, though in years pryor to that he had no problems with my roaming about Tandy Center.

    As for drinking at home, again we knew nothing of it, as he might have a beer or two to help him sleep instead of sleeping pills, but he would only do this rarely and after we had gone to bed.

    I don't drink alcohol, so instead of beer I buy allergy pills in bulk.

  9. Ha! I remember the first time my dad casually dropped the F-bomb. I was in college at the time and was driving us somewhere talking about something and it just popped out of his mouth like it was nothing. I looked at him and asked,"What'd you say that for?" "Cause I can and I don't have to worry about messing you up anymore."

    What I didn't think up until too late was, "Why didn't you say "I don't have to worry about f*ing you up anymore"?

    And it wasn't until after I started college that I noticed beer in the fridge every time I visited.

  10. laughing-- Its funny how secretive our parents were and how much we missed.

    My parents had a thing about not fighting in front of us. I had such a weird view of marriage. Ha. I thought you never fought, your husband always did what you wanted and everyone kissed a lot. Yeah maybe the first few weeks.

  11. KenV--LMAO! Why is it we think of those great lines after the fact?
    Funny story.

    At our house everyone drank. We kids even had wine or champagine when special occasions arrived... in moderation of course.

  12. I'm glad you had a good relationship with your dad. I feel sorry for those who don't because they miss so much. My dad was very instrumental in making me the person who I am today.

    My dad used to tell me factoids about cool stuff in the world that I believe led to my lifelong interest in science.

    When I was little, he would take me to Times Square and we'd watch horror and scifi movies (My mother hated them and wouldn't go along).
    We watched the first episode of Star Trek and were both instantly hooked.

    My love of politics also comes from my dad. In fact, he called me this morning to discuss the ramifications of Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts.

    We butted heads during my teen years, but I guess that's pretty normal. Growing up, our house had alcohol, loud discussions, cursing, lots of life. We could not be accused of being that quiet family that was unemotional. Our house was loud.

  13. The worst I ever heard my mom say was damnit to hell. And that was when she was REALLY pissed off. Of course, I've cursed like a sailor since I was pretty young. Apparently, I never learned by her example.

  14. Cube-- Sounds like I would have been very much at home in your family. Mine was loud then... and mine is loud now. Lots of good times.

  15. Churlita-- My mother never, ever cursed up to the day she died. I'll never forget when I said "shit" to her one day. It just popped out and I thought I would die. But she understood that I was very angry and never said a word about it.

    I was 18 at the time. My father had begun to openly swear by then, but it still felt weird. No one talked to my mom like that... my dad would have had a cow. I must say when I started to openly swear around them, some of the fun of swearing fell off.

  16. One thing that made my siblings groan were our trips to historical places.

    America wrote it's history to suit what it wanted it to look like, it looks different in other countries.

    But I had a great camping trip.

  17. We went to lots of historical sites as kids, too, including missions all over California and civil war battlefields.

    By the way, just as "for the love of Pete" is a way around cursing by referencing St/ Peter, "dad gummit" and "dog goneit" are just ways of avoiding "god dammit." I've never heard cheese and rice but surely it is a substitute for Jesus Christ?

  18. Secret agent woman-- Yes it is indeed a sub for Jesus Christ.

    I love visiting historical sites. Any and all. Especially those places that have artifacts from that time.

  19. Billy B.-- Glad you had fun camping.
    I see no tree fell on you yet. :-)

  20. Better a tree fall on me than a monkeymobile smacks into me.

  21. What a great story Ananda girl. I really enjoyed it. I especially liked - Who was Pete that we did things for the love of him? because I am learning how to choose my cuss words carefully as well with the little man roaming around.

  22. Shife-- Ha! You better, they're little parrots as you know and he's getting all revved up to let words fly. Glad you stopped in and glad too that you liked the story. I thought maybe I should write something a bit more decent since I have been so lax of late. Big grins.

  23. Something about the way you tell your stories invites memories of my own childhood. I don't remember much that my dad said, but I do know that if my mom got mad enough to swear it was purely shocking :-) My own kids, unfortunately, have never batted and eye when I say whatever I feel moved to say. Oh well :-)

  24. laura b.-- My kids aren't very moved by my use of colorful words. But there is a fine point here... I do not swear at them and call them foul names. I swear at things, events, etc. And really, every last one of us can swear like an old salty dog.

  25. Yes, from the knowledge I have of you in the blogosphere, you would've been welcomed at my parent's house back then and at my house now.