The Things Dads Say

dad_daughterI was at a friend’s party some time ago when someone noticed a rather meaty-looking cobweb hanging from a light fixture, and said something about not wanting to run into the spider that had spun it.

“It’s just a cobweb,” I said, authoritatively, “they’re made from dust, not spiders.”

I don’t remember if I punctuated that statement with a highly creative and mature-sounding duuuh, but I probably did.

I do remember conversation coming to a standstill and everyone looking at me like I was drunk.

Most likely, my misconception about cobwebs and their connection to actual arachnids was not my fault. It probably came from a day when someone wanted me to practice piano like I was supposed to, and not whine about how scary and cobwebby our unfinished family room-slash-piano-storage-space was.

The most likely origin of this weird belief is the person in my life whose factoids usually went without question. My Dad.

I’m sure everyone carries a memory of something silly or untrue passed on by a parent. My dear friend Sally once attributed to her dad her belief that static electricity came from light bulb sockets mistakenly left without a bulb to plug them, although now she tells me that’s something she came up with on her own.

Makes me wonder what kind of crap I might have told my kids when I wasn’t thinking they’d carry it with them forever.

… or what kind of stuff they’ll falsely attribute to me when everyone’s staring at them like they’re crazy.

In any case my Dad was full of dozens of genuinely helpful factoids as well:

There’s nothing you can imagine that you can’t one day accomplish – I can’t decide whether Dad gave my lazy way less credit that it deserves … or my imagination more. Or if he just didn’t fathom that I would one day dream about owning a laser-shooting, flying unicorn that would slay my enemies on command.

Never put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the paper – This is good advice. Especially today, when snark can go viral.

Why on earth would you run when you have a perfectly good bike? – This is one for which I will probably never have an answer.

Activities 041For his part, Mike has a couple of good Dad-isms I’m sure our kids will remember:

If you have to eat a frog, do it first thing in the morning. This Twain quote inspires some Olympic-level eye rolling, as well as pointless speculation as to what circumstances would actually lead to someone being served a frog for any meal, much less breakfast.

Measure twice, cut once. This is one he usually attributes to his dad, but this morning he confessed to not being sure whether his dad actually said it, or just lived by it. In any case there’s almost always more cutting than there is measuring going on around here, so they’d be decent words to live by, if any of us ever paid attention.

Mostly, though, Mike just likes to throw stuff out there that makes people groan, and it usually involves his flashing his best gangsta signs with an exaggerated what’s happening, daaawg.

…. Something I’m sure all the cool kids are still saying these days.

This time of year, when stepping outside some afternoons feels like stepping straight into a sauna, I think a great deal about my Dad, and the insightful, sometimes goofy, occasionally inane stuff he used to say. I’m grateful he said it, and that I happened to be listening.

I do wish he could be around to say more, with his deep voice and easy laugh.

It was one of these same sweltering days that I called their place in the mountains, wanting advice and reassurance, and feeling like a character in the movie Mean Girls after my two business partners had announced they didn’t feel like being my business partners anymore.

It was mom who answered, cheerfully sympathetic. Dad was busy getting ready to head out, she said, but he could more or less grasp the gist of the conversation from what he caught on her end. I could hear him in the background.

“Tell them to go screw themselves,” he said (or something very much like it), “she’ll be fine on her own.”

… She’ll be fine on her own.

Even if he was never really with me on the laser-shooting unicorn-thing, even if something he said did happen to inspire a misunderstanding when it came to cobwebs and the whole spider connection, Dad could always be counted on to come up with the right thing to say when it came down to it.

Later on that same sweltering July day, I was on the phone again with mom, who calmly filled me in on the details of Dad’s accident. She’d been there, with him in the mountains. A scenic ride, a peaceful lunch.

It all happened so fast, she said. She was fairly certain he hadn’t felt a thing.

Today I’m thinking about dear friends and family who find themselves without a father, or a father-figure, or someone who used to be counted on to say just what they needed to hear at a time they needed to hear it.

Even though the internet can answer any question, like details about sticky strands of web gathering dust to produce fluffy streamers we sometimes miss with the Swiffer. Even though things happen on a regular basis within my little circle, or in the broader world, about which I’d like his perspective, commiseration, advice, or just a patient ear, I’ll just need to be content with the wisdom he left me, sharing it in turn with my own kids.

Along with the thing about the frogs.


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  1. Your dad sounds a lot like mine. And if so, you\’re lucky to have had him.

    I am lucky that my (now 82 year old) dad is still with us. I am taking my kids to visit my parents next week and can\’t wait to see my dad\’s warm smile and hear his voice say \”Hi Honey\”.

    1. You ARE lucky. One of the things that sticks with me about dad was the way he answered the phone when he saw my number. He could be in the middle of the biggest shit-storm on the planet, but I could hear the smile in his voice when he said \”Hey there.\”

      Enjoy your visit.