June 20, 2010

A day for all fathers. Even dead ones.

People with dead dads don’t usually love Fathers’ Day. It sort of says loudly, ‘Hey! Look at how everyone has a dad except you!’ However, since ads for toolboxes and necktie sales are blowing up, we might as well take the day to remember our dads and acknowledge them even if they’re not around.

I especially would like to pay homage to my pops, the weirdest and coolest dad I ever had. Here ya go, Daddy-O:

As a three-year-old, I thought you were a giant. I could sit in your size fifteen slippers. And when you came to pick me up at pre-school, I would wait for the top of your head to bob around the glass above the lockers. You were the tallest dad, and of that I was proud.

You had the driest sense of humor. I barely understood you back then, but now I think we’d crack each other up. Now I’d get your jokes. I wish you were here to discuss the state of Saturday Night Live. And politics. I bet we’d have drinks until late and laugh, laugh, laugh.

You always loved a nice scotch. And after a few, there was no doubt I’d find you sleeping in a chaise at any given family party. You had a snore like nobody I’ve ever known. Silent yet never unnoticed.

I bet if you were alive, I would call you up and ask you to read the newspaper in an accent. You should have made a living out of your impersonations. You could imitate any stereotypical twang, from ‘ghetto black dude’ to ‘Harvard scholar’ to ‘Indian 7-ll owner.’ I can’t believe you didn’t harness that. Or maybe if you had, someone would have shot you.

I think by now I would have persuaded you to go on Jeopardy. You were considered a genius by Mensa standards, and I’m sure you could have won us millions of quarters from Alex Trebek. By now I would have appreciated your intelligence. Back then I just thought you talked too much. But seriously, Dad. I asked you if unicorns existed and you spent two hours talking about all the different horse species and where the myth of the unicorn came from. Thanks, though.

You know what else you were good at? Wrapping presents. I used to think divorce was the way to go because of the silent competition between you and my mom on who would give better gifts. Yours always looked like they were wrapped by fairies. Ha. HA!
That just came out on accident. I wasn’t purposely calling you a fairy.
But let’s get that out in the open.
You were gay.
How cool is that? I love that you were gay. I love the fact that you had the courage to say it and live it. I’m so proud that you didn’t stifle yourself, even if it meant divorce.

Unlike many at the time, I thought nothing less of you. You were my dad. That’s it. My big and tall gay dad. I know you knew I supported you. I know you knew I stood proudly in the audience watching you sing in the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. I really was proud. I wish I had made that more clear.
But I was thirteen. I didn’t really know how to talk about my feelings so much. Now I’m much better. I bet now we would have long conversations about how it felt to finally be your real self or your first experiences frolicking with men. I would love to know.

But thirteen was bad timing for me. I was insecure, ugly, and trying my hardest with padded bras to be popular. ‘Faggot’ was the most common insult in junior high. So I told you to tone it down when you came to the suburbs to watch me lead cheers.

This has been one of my only regrets. You built up so much courage to let your real self out after so many years, and here I was asking you to put it back in once in a while for the sake of my popularity.

I sometimes close my eyes and wish that had never happened. But time never lets me change it. If it did, I’d have completely erased the whole Hammer pants trend (You, by the way, were the first to tell me that those were out of style and that I should stop doing my bangs. You were right! Sorry I didn’t listen. You were gay; I should have known.).

Now that I see this whole life thing from a different point of you, I would have treated the entire situation differently. I would have told you every day how proud I was of you for finally shedding the weight of your lifelong secret. I would have talked to you about everything. I would have asked more questions and given more hugs. I would have screamed to all the cheerleaders that I had the hippest, coolest, gayest dad around. I would have made shirts that said MY DAD IS A FAGGOT AND I LOVE HIM. I would have gotten NBC news to do a story on us and how cool we were together. I would have bought us matching earrings. I would have made all my clothes out of rainbow flags and worn them every day.

But I didn’t. So I’m doing it now.

I’m saying it here: Dad, I’m grateful that you ever existed. And that you were a bizarre quirky soul. You were silly and neurotic and cynical and hilarious. And I learned from each and every little piece of you. And I keep learning from the short time I got to experience life with you. Because you are half of me, and I happen to really like that half. I wish you were here so I could hug you harder than ever and tell you that you mean a lot to me. And tell you that I accept you just as you are. And wear your shoes.

James R Sala, original hipster 1948-1996


glasgowdick June 20, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Great story about your Dad. You have a brave way of opening up a vein and letting it onto the page. I guess you inherited his courage.

Monica Prelle June 20, 2010 at 11:21 pm

dude, i bet your dad WAS the coolest! i wish i could have met him, maybe one day…!

Anonymous June 21, 2010 at 5:57 am

This is a great post. Very brave. I get uncomfortable even having to tell people my father died when I was young. Like yesterday when my roommate said "Did you call your dad today?"

Sosidity June 21, 2010 at 6:40 am

I lost my Dad in 1997 so I get the whole "Father's Day not being the best day" thing. Great post though, I am sure he would have loved it!

Rahul June 21, 2010 at 8:45 am

Why do all the 711 owners have to be Indian?

Did someone peel an onion in here?

don't look at me. I'm HIDEOUS.

cata June 21, 2010 at 9:39 am

You are amazing! Human and writer. (and friend. and daughter, too.)

lbluca77 June 21, 2010 at 9:46 am

Aawww this made me cry. Your dad sounded amazing. But its true people that don't have a dad don't like the holiday, not just people that have lost their dads but also the ones that don't have relationships with their dad. Hard day.

Monica June 21, 2010 at 10:43 am

Laurenne, this post is so beautiful and special. And not in the sarcastic way I normally mean things. I'm sorry you aren't able to give your dad that huge, tight, powerful hug you long for. I have a feeling he's looking down on you with such pride and with full belly laughs. Thanks for sharing such a special post about your dad.

alonewithcats June 21, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Thirteen was bad timing for EVERYONE. I wouldn't go to the movies with my mom in a three-suburb radius, and she's straight. Your dad was thirteen once, too. He knew.

Dirty Derek June 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Really well done Laurenne! Very touching and well written… I love it! I am sure he would be very proud.

Ernessa from 32 Candles.com June 21, 2010 at 3:38 pm

That was gorgeous and so very moving.

laurenne June 21, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Thanks for all the comments! YAY! I was scared to post, so it's comforting to have you guys here.

Sorry if you cried. You should! Let's get emotional up in here. Let's love everybody. Except 7-11 workers. Sorry, Rahul. My dad wasn't racist. When I was little, I insisted on wearing a Malcom X hat all the time. And he bought it for me.

Thanks for getting mushy with me. LOVE YOU MoFos

this free bird June 22, 2010 at 10:50 pm

i love this post and i'm going to follow your blog. because you actually WRITE something in it.

something meaningful and real. you're brave.

loving. living. small. June 24, 2010 at 2:22 pm

what an amazing story, laurenne. you continue to amaze me with you soulful sharing. love reading your blog. also would love to, ya know, hang in real life? :) xx

this free bird June 27, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Laurenne I just saw your comment on the lemongrass crumble post and burst out laughing!! i'd get out of bed for that dessert too!

Aunt Becky August 18, 2010 at 1:40 pm

That's a beautiful story. Truly beautiful. Thank you.

Casey September 8, 2010 at 11:10 am

My boyfriend's dad died when he was 13. His cousin's dad died last year, so this past father's day was his cousin's first without her dad, and it was hard. They were at breakfast, and his cousin asked my boyfriend where I was:
"Jen. Casey's dad is alive, so she's hanging out with him."

Then they both laughed so hard they cried. And with that, Jen was inducted into the "Dead Dad's Club."

Sometimes you just need to laugh. Losing a parent is really hard, but sharing your experience helps others, so thanks. :)

Casey September 8, 2010 at 11:10 am

My boyfriend's dad died when he was 13. His cousin's dad died last year, so this past father's day was his cousin's first without her dad, and it was hard. They were at breakfast, and his cousin asked my boyfriend where I was:
"Jen. Casey's dad is alive, so she's hanging out with him."

Then they both laughed so hard they cried. And with that, Jen was inducted into the "Dead Dad's Club."

Sometimes you just need to laugh. Losing a parent is really hard, but sharing your experience helps others, so thanks. :)

Lisa September 16, 2010 at 3:51 pm

i love this. i come back periodically to reread it. i just love it so much.

Lisa September 19, 2010 at 9:04 pm

being blog friends will make me super happy. <3

lex [lexinthecity] November 13, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Thank you for sharing this story, I love your raw honesty. My best friend's dad died when she was 14, and now they sometimes bring his urn to the table so he can join in on the conversation. It's dark and morbid and completely hilarious and everybody copes in their own way. So thank you.

Anonymous December 4, 2010 at 2:38 pm

It's funny how you start typing in the names of old friends into Google when you want to surf for something new.

Your Dad was my best friend throughout college at IIT. He was a huge influence on me at the time.

You probably know about me. I am the one that moved to Texas (in 1972). This is why we never met. You undoubtedly know the rest of the bunch.

My knowledge of what happened after my move is lacking in details, some of which I just now learned in your posts. To say I am deeply moved by this is an understatement.

Thanks for the photos, which I have saved to my hard drive. The only one I had seen before was the family photo, which he sent me in the form of a Christmas card. That was the last I heard from him. It's in front of me as I write this.


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