Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day 2008

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I scored big. No tie, but a really cool—retro—shirt. Plus the latest titles by Jimmy Buffett (Swine Not?) and David Sedaris (When You are Engulfed in Flames).

Best of all, though, was spending the day with my wife, my kids and my dad. And fishing down at the small lake that my dad owns just south of Atlanta.

We call him Pop. The kids call him Poppy. And do they adore their Poppy. Why not? He has a lake, an endless supply of Fruit Loops, and believes that his grandchildren hung the sun, the moon and all the stars.

All three of them love fishing. Me too. And their mom—my wife—still speaks of the rod and reel that Pop gave her years ago as one of the most thoughtful and original gifts that she ever received. She still has me bait her hook, though.

Most days, I can barely get my little one’s to sit still for anything. It’s amazing to watch them when we go fishing down at Pop’s. The lake seems to slow them down. They can spend several hours doing nothing but casting and reeling in their lines, and tossing rocks into the water.

Yesterday marked my kid’s first experience with night crawlers. “Night Crawls”, my five-year-old daughter called them, which had my humming Bob Seiger’s song, ‘Night Moves’ (inserting the phrase, “Night Crawls”) all afternoon. I was a little concerned about them being squeamish at first, but they took to the night crawls from the start, wanting to hold them in the backseat of the van during the drive down to the lake. My daughter just couldn’t get enough of the night crawls. She’ll soon be baiting her mother’s hook.

So, Pop, again, Happy Father’s Day (and Happy Grandfather’s Day, too). Thank’s for helping to teach the kids to fish. And thanks for teaching me to fish, forty plus years ago. I swear that I will never reveal the dark secret behind the bass that you have mounted over your fireplace—the bass that you caught back in the late 1960’s. I’ll never tell how you finally landed him, or what you said to the taxidermist when he asked you, “Whut the hail happened to this fish?” I’ll take it to the grave. By the way, what caliber lure were you fishing with that day? I forget.

Pop. My dad taught me to fish and camp. He also made sure that I grew up with books, though never a big reader himself.

Pop introduced me to the world of trucking and logistics, where I cut my teeth in the working world. He just retired a few years ago after nearly forty years in the trucking business in Atlanta. He has a never-ending supply of stories that begin with some version of “You know, ol’ So-and-so, the traffic/warehouse/distribution manager up at such-and-such company….” If you got it by truck in or around Atlanta between 1960 and 2005, there’s a good possibility that my dad had something to do with your getting it.

My dad’s always had a knack for finding things that others have lost. Maybe it had something to do with his having always been out and about for work. He once had a sermon dedicated to him at a local African American Baptist church near Atlanta. He had found a bank bag out in the road and had looked up its owners. Turns out it was the bank deposit bag with all of the church’s offerings for that week. Someone had left it on a car, from which it had fallen on to the road.

My dad has helped a lot of people over the years, in one way, or another. He’s given money, references, and time. And more patience than Job. He has saved a lot of butts over the years, too. Mine, for one. Many times. He helped raise three children not his own. He’s intervened on many occasions to keep a few people out of very—very—serious trouble, for no other reason than it was what he thought was the right thing to do, and he thought the person needed another chance. Always patient, though he never gave genuine stupidity, irresponsibility, or bad behavior even an inch.

Pop’s always been a great teacher by example. A great dad, bottom line. And he did all that while caring for and sticking by my late mother through years of chronic illness, and more than three hundred hospital stays. So, great dad, great husband, doting grandfather.

Back in the early seventies, a drawing of straws took place involving the fathers in our neighborhood. I imagine it did, anyway. And my dad lost. Big time. That next weekend, he would escort me, and four of my best friends, to the Fabulous Fox Theatre in downtown Atlanta to attend the (all day) Planet of the Apes Film Festival. That’s right, all five classics (Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and Battle for the Planet of the Apes) all together, back-to-back. God, it’s tedious just typing the film titles. Even we kids were miserable by the time it was all over. And Pop insisted that we stay for the entire Festival—it was a stamina thing, I think.

Thanks, Pop.

GB&W recommend for this Father's Day:

Wisdom of Our Fathers by the late Tim Russert


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