I was always the one my dad ran to to share his minor misfortunes. Not serious things – things like having to get bifocals or losing a tooth as he grew older, or being forced to eat mussels when sitting at the head table with the King of Spain. He’d come home or call and tell me the tale, exaggerating the badness of it, just so I could tease him and we would both laugh ourselves senseless. I think he relied on me to share the absurdity of life with him.
Because life is absurd. How else to explain growing hairs on the chin as a woman? How else to describe the endless madness of women’s shoes? Or the fiendish mismanagement of the banks (who have cleverly lost my cashier’s cheque and apparently cannot find it). Or the ongoing, persistent, appalling effects of gravity on the human body? (I had thought of getting a tattoo – now it appears the only region not in danger of sliding southwards – and thus distorting the design- appears to be my little toe.) And what about men? Always absurd. Often loveable, but absurd.
But how I wished my dad were around to share tales with. The stories of my marriage, or the antics of my kids. He missed all that and I missed seeing his eyes go wide and hearing his laugh. I would have loved to tell him about my son taking cooked squid to school for a science report and the resultant near riot as the smell of the squid oozed around the corners of the school into the kindergarten class, the screams of the girls in his class, the inevitable throwing of tentacles by the boys in his class. And finally, the weary call from the teacher that night, begging me to clear any such further presentations with her beforehand.
I would have loved to tell him about my other son’s WEEK OF DISASTER, which coincided with my ex’s marriage week rather poetically.
Or my job hassles, working with doctors and expectations and foolishness of such grandeur there should be a park dedicated to it.
He taught me to look at such events with green tinted goggles, making them look funny and slightly off. It’s been a good survival strategy.
One of my fondest memories of his look at life is of a time when I was still in high school. We’d both been working hard in the backyard veggie garden and were just settling down for a restful sit and gaze over our hard work. My dad plomped down into one of our lawn chairs – you know, the ones with fabric stretched around a rod and then to either end of the chair. What he didn’t know was that the fabric had perished in the sun, and in an instant he’d plunged through the seat and was trapped with his knees up to his ears, wedged into the chair frame.
Well, of course I laughed and he laughed (as much as he could, given the lung compression) and then I went to sit down beside him – and plunged through my own chair.
So there we were, both of us folded into Ns, and not another person around to help us get out of our predicament. Out feet were elevated, our arms were trapped, and we were laughing so hard we nearly asphyxiated ourselves.
There was a pause as we tried to figure out how to extricate ourselves and then I lost the vote (as parent, he argued he had two ballots) and had to roll myself over onto the grass, wriggle out and go to pull him out.
Years later, when I had to buy lawn chairs, I couldn’t help but see that vision again….
Of course by then, I had had to get bifocals. I could hear him laughing.