Dad’s Birthday

Usually you see tributes to dads around Father’s Day. But since today is my dad’s birthday, I thought this would be a good time to share some stories that demonstrate what I’ve learned from him.

First of all, he has always stressed the importance of uncompromising honesty. Consider this tale:

Dad has a very analytical brain and therefore has always been very good at card playing. While I’ve grown up playing euchre, apparently I’m not good enough to play with the family unless they’re really desperate for a fourth player or we’re teaching beginners, like cousins who aren’t from Indiana. Dad thinks I slow up the game; he doesn’t understand that I can’t remember every card that each person has played. To give further ammunition to his belief that this should not be a difficult task, he points out that euchre doesn’t even use the entire pack of cards, which then leads to the comment that Stef isn’t playing with a full deck, which in turn restores Dad to good humor.

But the best euchre story happened when Dad was asked to substitute in his mother’s group. There he was, playing with Nana’s friends and getting clobbered. We’ve already established that he can remember what cards have been played. He posed the problem to Nana later, stating that during one round, one of his opponents didn’t have a strong hand, yet she “went alone” and was able to win the points. He explained how the odds of her accomplishing this were extremely unlikely, given what was in her hand. Nana let him stew about this for a while before enlightening him: “Tom, they cheat!” I guess it speaks well of Dad that he does not expect dishonest behavior in others, and therefore it did not even occur to him as a possibility. It probably didn’t make getting snookered at cards by a bunch of little old ladies any more palatable, though.

(Speaking of Nana, as children, my Dad and his sister would be responsible for doing the dishes. Apparently at one point Dad got it into his head that this was “women’s work,” and therefore he should be exempt. He expressed this sentiment to Nana. No one ever told me exactly what happened next; it was simply stated that he was “promptly corrected.” Interesting that to this day, loading and unloading the dishwasher seems to be Dad’s domain.)

Dad has always offered good advice on a variety of subjects, but mostly his diagnosis of any dilemma I would present could be boiled down to one of three mistakes on my part: (1) I do not play golf. (2) I did not go to Purdue. (3) I do not eat enough fiber.

Dad has always been willing to step up to help when necessary. Usually Mom was the one to dress up at Halloween to answer the door, but one year she was out of town so Dad took up the candy-distributing mantle. He found a dress shirt, cummerbund, bow tie, fangs, and I added white makeup and red lips for a complete Dracula look. Dad really got into it, so much so that when he realized we were running out of candy he jumped into the car to obtain more. Apparently he forgot what he looked like because he didn’t understand why people were giving him strange looks at the drugstore.

Dad also exhibits a well-developed sense of humor:
The most enduring of family pranks started when Mom made a very eye-catching knit cap for Dad out of bright gold yarn, complete with a large black pom-pom on top, black and gold being Purdue colors. The sole purpose of this hat was to poke fun at Dad and his Purdue obsession. Alas, the joke was on her because he wore it everywhere, all the time. I would have friends tell me they saw my Dad downtown, taking a walk; they recognized him because of the unique cap.

After several years Mom had finally had enough and put it in the bottom of the bag of clothes to be donated to charity. Somehow Dad chanced to look in the bag and retrieved the cap, wondering how it could have gotten in there in the first place. Just when Mom thought she was rid of it forever, out it came again the next season. She finally just gave up and accepted that she was to blame for creating that particular monster (the hat, just to clarify).

Finally, I must attribute my penchant for storytelling to Dad as this trait clearly comes from him. Thanks Dad, and Happy Birthday!