what with my parents' anniversary, my friend's wedding, and now father's day all falling out in the same week, i have been thinking about my father a lot lately.
(since i'm currently home for the summer and usually within spitting distance, he may find this disconcerting. but anyway.)
i started out thinking about what to get him. that wasn't a lucrative vein of thought. i was going to get him the other firefly book (i bought my mom volume 2 by mistake), but then he went and bought it earlier, which required me to come up with a whole new idea. on average, it takes me about two years to come up with a good gift concept, and about a week for the plan to fall through, forcing me to resort to a hasty and painfully lame plan b, such as the time when i gave my best friend a slice of cold pizza for her seventeenth birthday on a napkin that said 'HAPPY BDY' in green marker.
so even though i had very little faith in my ability to actually put together something nice for my dad, i found myself looking at the pictures around my house and thinking about him. in the pictures, like my mom, he looks pretty much the same. my mom had a few different sheitel patterns, my dad's suit alternated between grey and black. the newer pictures, of course, look waaaay better, because they are in high resolution. even though as the oldest, i got major camera time, my youngest sister definitely has the better footage. and recognizing that made me wonder: how different is the father she has from the one i had at her age? is my dad the same guy he used to be? my mom always said that he would be nine on his next birthday, but video games and sci-fi shows aside, i don't know if that's so true anymore. i never realized before how young my parents were when i was born. it's no wonder they've changed so much - they must have still been maturing.
my little sister, for example, doesn't know about the cars.
these cars are both life-sized and plastic. she will never see the huge, rust-eaten green car my father used to drive us around in. i think it was my great-great aunt lizzy's. there's still an oil stain on the garage floor from that. all i remember was how terrifyingly vast the back seat was.
so that car was pretty scary. my mom also tells us, although i don't remember, that my father used to have a car held together solely by duct tape, and once the door blew off when they were on the freeway.
what i do remember are the boxes and boxes of little toy cars that my dad used to have. the boxes were made of blue vinyl and had exciting racing pictures on the front, and inside, in neat little ice-cube kind of trays, were these sparkling little cars. cement trucks! buicks! police cars! more trucks! they were murder to get back into the trays. but what makes me laugh now is that i'm fairly sure we were only allowed to play with some of them, because there were certain ones my dad didn't want us to lose. i think we used them mostly on friday nights and shabbos.
my dad also had a cardboard model of the bridge from the original 'star trek', complete with moving action figures, hidden in his dungeon in the basement. i remember sneaking down there one sunday morning when he wasn't home - i must have been six or seven - and finding it on one of his shelves, next to the cds. i believe my exact thought was something like, 'eureka!' or 'he has a REALLY COOL SPACESHIP down here! how come i've never seen this before?' followed by an immediate, sneaking suspicion that i was Not Supposed to see this stuff. (he had little models of the enterprise, too.) so i didn't play with the action figures: i just stared at it for a very long time, and then rushed off to report my big find to kovi.
there was always something down there. we weren't supposed to be there at all when we were little; all of my dad's music equipment was in the dungeon, and i realize now that he must have been doing a lot of recording then. but we kids were pretty clever. we found ways to get in. and even though the shelves are too high and far back for me to see even now, we would clambor on to the top of the table (you know, with the mixing board on it) and wedge ourselves into the shelves. we found a dismantled train set (still there), with minute little houses and painted trees, which we had no end of fun observing. we found badly written star wars novels. when i was older and bored on shabbos afternoons, i would go down there and read all the lyric booklets out of the cd cases from albums by the police and led zeppelin, and try to imagine what the songs sounded like in my head.
that was the side of my dad that we had to guess at. but when we weren't busy spying on him, we were watching him more actively. back in the day before playstation or multiple computers - actually, back in the day when computer games consisted mostly of mud-toned blinking pixels - there was nothing me or my brothers got more excited about than sitting on the edge of my parents' bed and watching my dad play things like 'duke nukem' and 'tomb raider.' (actually, my mom too - she had a point-and-click murder mystery, 'lara bow.') looking back on it, these were not always the most riveting of games; for example, i cannot imagine now watching a vague blob jump off the edge of a cliff over and over, but in the tomb raider game you spent a lot of time doing that. nevertheless, we couldn't wait for it. it was an interactive experience. we made comments, my dad made comments, we all screamed when his character got rolled over by a boulder or fell off a cliff (noticing a theme?). and we learned valuable life lessons. one of my brothers concluded from the game that 'you gotta look before you leap,' or some garbled version of that.
and then we would go to my dad's gigs and watch him when he was on stage. as a kid, i hated being dragged along to those concerts- we always got there hours early, and it only takes so long to explore all the cobweb-covered nooks of an auditorium. we would get so bored we'd want to leave before the concert started. but then, when the band did start to play, i was brimming with pride. my dad was IN THE BAND! i wasn't just any other kid turning out to hear the music - my dad was on stage! how many other kids had dads like that?
where i grew up - not many.
other kids had dads who were rabbis and teachers, mashgiachs and kollel learners. a few, like mine, had other professions. but their house wasn't like my house. their fathers didn't have clay models of the enterprise or play the bass line along to police songs.
and the truth is, i think it's been a very long time since my dad has taken down those models, or the cars in their blue vinyl cases. the cardboard bridge set we kids destroyed a long time ago. sulu now enjoys tea in the pt's barbie doll's jean skirt.
but it amuses me that for all that my dad has gotten older, more careworn, and more serious over the years, many of the things he used to do with us when we were little are things he still does, in a modified way, with the younger kids. the pt watches him play his games and offers him the kind of helpful advice we used to offer, like, 'maybe you should just fly' or 'can't you teleport to a place with a save point?' iguana races to the basement to watch movies with him while he exercises. and all of us kids - i mean all of us - can quote monty python by heart.
it amuses me how different my father is than the stereotypical 'dad' most people conjure up. my father could not tell you which teams are going to play in the superbowl or the world series; he probably could not correctly identify what kind of sport any of those teams play.
but my father gives us something that is increasingly rare and difficult to part with in this millenium: he gives us time. he gave us time when i was little, and he gives just as much time to my younger siblings as he did then, even as he and my mother become busier and busier. i doubt anything of any humeric (sp?) value has ever happened to any of us kids that we didn't immediately tell my dad to see if we could get a laugh out of him - whether we were in the living room with him or 900 miles away on the phone. and he usually laughs.
and i think that's why we all like him so much.
needless to say, we bought him a kitchen appliance for father's day.