June 19, 2005

Conversations with my Father

Setting: I'm seven years old and doing this thing that I do where my dad pulls the couch out from the wall a foot or so and I get up on the back of it and pretend I'm walking the balance beam.

My mom: Ilyka, get down from there! You're going to fall and crack your head open doing that!

Me: I will not! I'm being careful!

My dad: She's fine. I'll keep an eye on her.

My mom: Don't contradict me in front of the children.

My dad: I'm not contradicting you. Cripes! I said I'll keep an eye on her. Could you relax?

My mom: Fine. When she falls and breaks her legs, you'll be the one driving her to the hospital. NOT ME.

My dad, to me: You hear that? If you feel like you're gonna fall, try to fall towards the couch. Don't fall towards the wall. I'm not missing the game to take you to the #$@^ hospital.

Me: I won't fall.

My dad: Yeah--did you hear what I said? AIM FOR THE COUCH.

Me: I heard you!

Me: . . . but I'm not gonna fall.


Setting: Driving my recently-deceased grandfather's car home to Arlington, Texas, from Middletown, New York, my father and I find not one hotel vacancy in the entire state of Pennsylvania, and we damn near don't find one hotel vacancy in the entire state of Virginia . . . until, at 2:30 a.m., we finally find a hotel in downtown Roanoke that could politely be said to "have seen better days" and could rudely (but more accurately) be said to "stink of mold."

Me, opening door to room: Uh, wow. This is really craptacular.

My dad: It's also $230 a night.

Me: For each room?

My dad: $230 a night each. Too bad you're not a boy.

Me: That's highway robbery. This place is a pit.

My dad: Listen: For $230 a night, you love this hotel room.


My dad: Right. See you in the morning.


Setting: I am arguing with my father about a female relative's habit of simultaneously giving me money, then criticizing me to death.

Me: I'm sorry I said mean things to you about her.

My dad: Eh, it's all right.

Me: But I'm not cashing that check. She thinks she can pay people to let her be rude to them and I don't play that.

My dad: Oh, cash the check. What are you, stupid? Look: Someone sends me money, they can insult me all they want. It's Italian rules: You do a favor for me, I do a favor for you.

Me: It's doing her a favor to let her point out my every flaw?

My dad: Who knows? That's not the point. Look, I'd be suggesting new flaws for her, is what I'm saying. Just give me the money.

Me: "Thank you for your generous donation. Incidentally, have you ever noticed how clumsy and awkward I am?"

My dad: Now you're thinking.


Setting: My father and I are loading the moving truck at my old Dallas apartment.

My dad: Two vacuums? Whaddya need two vacuums for? Wait . . . three vacuums? Is this a hobby for you?

Me: It's only two vacuums. That one's a carpet cleaner.

My dad: But this carpet is filthy! It's embarrassing. I can't believe my daughter lives this way. Three vacuums, you'd think you could plug in ONE of them sometime.

Me: I have good intentions.

My dad: That's what the road to hell is paved with.

Me: If I'm going to hell, it's going to be for something more serious than not vacuuming.

My dad: I don't wanna hear about it.

Me: No. You don't.


Setting: Again, we're driving home a car after a funeral! This time it's my (still living) grandmother's car and we're going from the Salt Lake area of Utah back to Dallas. This time, we already have a hotel room reserved in Pueblo, Colorado, but what we don't count on is hitting 6 hours of steady snowfall, starting in Vail.

My dad: I can't see the road.

Me: You're fine. I can see the edge on my side. You're in the lane.

Me: . . . I think.

My dad: How many hours has it been?

Me: I think two.

My dad: I can't stand this. This is the sort of driving your mother should be doing. She's used to this crap. I'm not.

Me: You're doing fine.

My dad: #*%$! Did you see that guy?--He hadda be doing 70, at least.

Me: Native. Probably thinks we're pathetic.

My dad: Better pathetic and alive than reckless and dead.

(Here I go silent to try to get in a rosary. I figure we need all the help we can get.)

My dad: Could you talk to me? It keeps me alert.

Me: This BLIZZARD isn't keeping you alert?

My dad: I mean I need the reassurance that I'm not about to pitch us off the mountain.

Me: Sorry. I was trying to say the rosary.

My dad: When the Virgin Mary offers to pilot this car through the snow in the middle of the night, THEN you can talk to her. Right now you talk to me.


Setting: I'm over at my parents for Sunday dinner, and they have the missionaries--the Mormon missionaries--over. Mormon missionaries depend on other Mormons for meals, is how it works. Let's not get into that now; the point is, it's me (the apostate ex-Mormon), my father (a Mormon convert), my mother (Mormon from birth), and two eager-to-spread-the-gospel young missionaries.

My dad, winding up a discussion about his conversion to Mormonism: I'll tell you what I do miss sometimes, though. I miss having a beer.

My mom: [shoots my dad Look of Death, laughs awkwardly to cover for it]

My mom: George . . . .

My dad: What? It's the truth. I do, I miss having a beer sometimes. On a hot day, a nice cold beer--it just tastes really good.

Missionaries: [grinning their eager-to-spread-the-gospel little ASSES off.]

My mom: You shouldn't say--

My dad, to missionaries: A lot of people, they drink beer for all the wrong reasons. Because their buddies drink it. Or they just want to get drunk. But I really liked the taste of beer. That's what I miss. The taste. Oh, don't get me wrong--I did a lot of drinking in college--

Missionary Uno: Uh, Brother _____, did . . . didn't you say you went to BYU?

Missionary Dos: [dispenses with the grinning and moves up to outright giggling.]

My dad: Oh, yeah! You know, they really didn't have much of a football team back then. Not like now. You guys ever wanna watch a BYU game, just give us a call. We got the Dish, you know. I get all the games now.

My mom, icily: I think Brother Missionary Uno was trying to express his disappointment at learning that you were drinking beer at Brigham Young University.

My dad: And you weren't?

My mom: George?

My dad: What?



Happy Father's Day to my dad, he of the many sarcasms.

Now you know where I get it.

Posted by Ilyka at June 19, 2005 12:12 PM in navel gazing

I'd love to buy him a beer. The rosary story is priceless.

Posted by: Rob at June 19, 2005 02:33 PM

Gee, I like your Dad.

Thanks for telling us about him.

Posted by: Claire at June 19, 2005 06:52 PM

Great post! And yeah, I see now where you get it :)

Posted by: Ith at June 19, 2005 08:25 PM

Those are marvelous stories! Yep, our dads DO mold us. And this is how they do it. Moms would never think of stuff like this.

Posted by: Dr Alice at June 20, 2005 01:42 AM

Your dad is WAY cooler than my dad.

Posted by: Helen at June 21, 2005 05:47 PM

Wisdom from my Dad --Always treat the members of your family as well as you treat your friends.
If you have nothing good to say say nothing. Higher education is very important -- unfortunately there are those who have been educated beyond the limits of their intelligence.
Never judge another until you have walked 30 days in his shoes -- (this, he said, was an Indian proverb.) Listen to what you are told, and then think for yourself. For your life's work, find something you enjoy doing, and then hope it pays well. Don't lie. If you always tell the truth you will not have to try to remember what you said.

Posted by: Evelyn at June 21, 2005 09:27 PM