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Saturday, October 15, 2005

My Father

I was born and raised just before the era in which parents could be jailed for frowning at their children. That means that when I was a child, if I did something bad, I was getting punished, sometimes physically. Every time I was beat, (3 times) I deserved it; and you know what?

I never spit on my mother again, I never again said “fuck you” during Thanksgiving dinner, and only once did I shoot my sleeping father in the eye with a ping-pong ball gun. I learned all these life lessons by the time I was seven years old.

These were the major incidences, and I remember many, many other minor occasions where I was smacked or restrained, and even then I still can not think of an instance where I didn’t have it coming. My Lord! You should have seen my mother when I was five, just before I got my first bicycle, and tooling down the parking lot in Louisburg Square in my sit-down pedal-powered fire truck! I was booking down the lot and about to come to the cross street, where I was supposed to stop. Did I stop? Of course not! I saw there was no traffic and cruised on through the intersection, grinning all the way*. I pulled up to the house and parked my ride, while I watched my mother stride toward me, anger and fear in her eyes. She pulled me into the house and spanked my ass but good for that! I did not understand that she was scared at the time, but I did later on, and I never rode my fire truck across the street again; but I digress: This is supposed to be about what my Father taught me.

When I was in pre-school, he would pick me up at about noon (he worked a midnight shift) and we would go home (at that time) to the Quivira Place apartments. He would make ham sandwiches, and we would sit and watch Sanford and Son while we ate. That was my favorite show at the time other then Scoobie-Doo. After we ate, he would rest for awhile, then, if it happened to be the summer, take me to swim at the pool, usually with the Jay Giles band blasting through the speakers, until it was time to pick up mom. At the time she was a waitress at this restaurant called Samples on 87th street, in old Overland Park. **

While I was alone with dad, he would teach me how to fight and be male, and he encouraged me to play with my Tonka trucks and slot cars, etc. I remember when the training wheels came off my bike, and he would push me down the hill… fast. I learned to control my bike just as fast, and it did not take long for me balance myself: The alternatives were bruises and scrapes! We watched professional wrestling whenever possible. My father LOVED the fact that my hero’s were Hulk Hogan and “Hacksaw” Jim Dugan. I ask you…what’s more American then Hulk Hogan and “Hacksaw?”

I learned these lessons, but even when I was very young I was a troublemaker. I thought that it was fun to talk somebody into doing something for me for my amusement. I did this often, but that is a whole other story.

When I was somewhat older we moved to Lenexa. There dad bought me a BB gun, and taught me how to shoot a target. It was during this period that my parents divorced and thereafter I did not spend much time with my dad, until I eventually came to live with him in my high school years.

For the most part, he let left me alone and let me do my own thing. He knew that my friends were the most important thing at that time and respected that. He knew that I would not do anything REALLY dumb: But just in case, He was there to correct me if I did.

I was with a muscle car and all American clique’ during the last two years of high school, and my father tacitly approved. He knew I was different then him, but was pleased that I wasn’t gay or a “pussy.” I was a creator with an abstract thought process, like my close friends. Not like my father and his friends, but close enough. We created art that contained muscle cars, fighter planes, mushroom clouds, naked women, etc. We were of the right mind. I had the right idea, modified for the 1990’s.

I admit that most of this is just reminiscing on my part, (which I have guiltily enjoyed) so I will skip ahead to the point; what I really learned from dad:

1.) Do not spit on your mother, curse at the dinner table, or shoot sleeping people.
2.) Real men like Red Foxx, MOPAR’s and ham sandwiches.
3.) Men twice your size can kick your ass, even if you think they can’t.

*I still have that exact same smile; my mother pointed this out a few weeks ago when she showed me some pictures that were taken when I was a kid.

** The building that this restaurant was in still stands: It is now the armed forces recruiting depot.

-Tommy T


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