I loved my dad oh-so-much, but he had moments of not-niceness. He made fun of fat people when he himself was far from svelte. He was mean to service people; he always talked down to them, and undoubtedly ate more than a few spit-laced meals during his life. Really, he was mean to anyone he thought was “beneath” him. It was embarrassing.
And stubborn? Oh my word, the guy was so stubborn. So opinionated and so stubborn. Having a conversation was sometimes impossible and sometimes very un-fun. It was a mistake to bring up politics in his presence. As soon as I realized my political views had veered far from his, I tried to avoid the topic.
But Dad had admirable qualities too. He absolutely adored his grandchildren. Extended family members told us he never shut up about how proud he was of his own kids. He took pride in his home and was usually neatly dressed. For years, he wore a shirt and tie to wash his car and dress shoes to mow the lawn—no joke; we have photo evidence. He got haircuts faithfully every four weeks. I remember visiting him in the hospital a couple years before he died and he had gone several days without shaving—I thought he looked homeless! I don’t think I’d ever seen Dad with a day’s growth of beard.
My dad was incredibly clumsy. He didn’t have an awkward look to him—he wasn’t always tripping or running into things like a doofus—but if an accident could occur while he was doing something, it would. One day he was installing a shelf above a windowsill for the cat to sleep on, and he lost his grip and the heavy shelf fell right into his forehead. He had a gash and huge bruise for weeks. He broke his elbow twice doing I don’t remember what. He was like Michael Jackson with tape on his fingers—always, always, always. The Harrison Ford-like scar on his chin, which he told us he got in the war, was actually from when he fell on a coffee can as a kid.
Dad’s hands were callused because he worked hard his whole life, though for the last 15 years he was all white-collar. He was thorough and reliable and smart—a sales manager’s dream employee. He didn’t believe in calling in sick to work. My 9th-grade home ec teacher went on and on one day about how men are such babies when they’re sick, and I had no idea what she was talking about because Dad was never like that.
If he knew a little bit about a subject, he’d make it sound like he knew everything about it. He could B.S. like nobody else I knew. We were adults before we ever figured out how full of it Dad was. When Jack starts making up stories, we tell him how proud Grandpa Curt would be to hear his grandson becoming a bullshit artist like himself. Dad also had an amazing way of making people laugh—sometimes at him—and his sense of humor was endearing. Besides his big hugs, I think I miss his laugh the most.
Today Vic and I were on our way to lunch when I started talking about what a butthead my dad could be. I supported my statement with many examples (I didn’t even have to think very hard) and he agreed that Dad was full of contradictions. I said, “It’s a good thing I turned out nothing like him.”
Then Vic smiled.
“Tell me how Dad and I are different, Vic.”
(I didn’t say that in a demanding voice at all.)
He smiled a little bigger. “You’re a girl,” he said.
I waited. He said nothing. Not real words, anyway.
“Um…” He started to turn a little red.
“Just shut up. Just shut up right now.”
Today Dad would have been 69 years old. I am more like him than I want to admit or my husband dares say. I like to think I inherited just his good traits, but I know I got some of that rotten stuff too. Now you have more sympathy for Vic than ever, huh?