In honor of Father’s Day, just around the corner and down several blocks, I pay homage to my own.
Oh, Pop was sure no Ward Cleaver. He never drove me to Little League games and I’d pedal the six miles on my groin-unfriendly bike, sometimes in the rain.
In his defense, older than all my friend’s fathers, he worked grueling shifts at Bethlehem Steel and in his leisure time was busy tending his beloved, legendary garden. Good God the man loved his rototiller. And no Beaver Cleaver, I’d be pedaling off to town any time he needed help. I guess we kinda had a symbiotic, uninterested understanding.
Remember the old commercial where the proud father puts his arm around his young son after a sporting event? He says, “You did great son. Here, have a Life Saver?”
Conversely, as a pretty handy, senior second baseman, Dad had never actually seen me play. Brother Jess was home from Cody visiting and took Dad to one of my games. I believe it was the fourth inning when Dad asked, “Which one is Doug out there?” After the game and an uncharacteristic, nervous error, they walked off with me and Dad says, “I see you made a little boo-boo out there.” I’d have killed for a Life Saver.
In odd retrospect, it only adds to Alf’s rear-view mirror, hilarious goofiness we all still hysterically relive at family gatherings. I said in my eulogy when he passed at 90, “We all know about Dad’s quirky shortcomings, but he was a good and decent man.”
Then I related some familiar Alfred stories that brought down the house. The man was a pip; I truly believe he could have been a famous comedian had he not quit school to work in eighth grade and endured steel mill layoffs to raise a family of six. To grasp his underrated, often unintentional hilarity, you need to picture him. Think me, but a little shorter and slightly bigger nose. Basically think Groucho Marx.
His stories about old buddies were surely made-up, but he made them sound like they really happened. “Ol’ Ted Besecker was some family guy. Cupboards full of food but not a drop of whiskey in the house.” That’s ratings gold!
His homemade vocabulary was nonsensical, but curiously descriptive. When mad at someone, “He’s lucky I didn’t show him how the hog went through the cabbage.” Relating someone’s nervous smile, “He was grinning like a toad under a harrow.” When tired, “I’m ground down to about 7/8th.”
A heavy-set person walking by was inappropriately, “A log horse.” I didn’t know what a log horse was, but he forced your imagination to see it vividly. About my teenage friends, he’d ask, “Who’s was that woodhick?” “That little gimlet seed would never be found if he fell into a bowl of noodles.”
His gems came fast and furious – more so the older he got and bigger his nose grew in his golden years. So on this looming Father’s Day, I sure miss all the times my one-of-a-kind dad made me grin like a toad under a harrow. The “hayseed” was a true diamond-in-the-rough.