September 25, 2014 would have been my father’s one hundredth birthday. I thought I should write something, so I spent all day trying to figure out what to say. Actually, I have been trying to think of something for the past few months and I keep coming up empty. I’ve tried all the usual things: going for a bike ride, shower, sleep, thinking about everything but the thing I want to write about; but nothing is coming to me. Maybe I can write through it.
If this seems even more scattershot than usual, please forgive me.
Part of the problem may stem from the fact that I don’t really talk about my dad all that often… If ever. Most of his friends are deceased, and most of my relatives that are old enough to remember him live far away.
Whenever I meet someone new sometimes they inquire about my father. When I say that he is dead some will ask about how he died. My reply is either, “Pneumonia,” or “Long story short: pneumonia.” The answer I give depends on my mood and/or if the the person asking is just making small talk or someone that will be a part of my life for the foreseeable future. The thing is that not a lot of people ask anymore. Maybe it’s because they don’t care, or maybe it’s because I’m so old that of course my father is dead. Part of me misses answering the question, and another part of me never wants to go through that again.
What was my dad like? He looked quite a bit like me, but with less hair, and what he had was grey. More often than not he wore a cap. Unlike me, he could rock a fedora. I’m glad I don’t look good in a fedora; I don’t want to be that guy.
His favorite film was Smokey and the Bandit; in my lifetime that was the only movie he saw more than once in the theatre. He could pretty much quote all the dialogue by heart. Once, he drove at least an hour in order to see Thunder Road because there was the only one drive in theatre in all of North Georgia where it was playing.
Any of this sound the least bit familiar?
He was a NASCAR fan and his favorite driver was Richard Petty. He would go to races at the old Lakewood Fairgrounds, which coincidently, was where parts of the first two Smokey and the Bandit films were shot. In late Eighties they built an amphitheatre on the site and I have seen any number of concerts there. There are many stories that I could tell you about that place, both mine and Dad’s, but some things are best left as memories.
Dad taught me right from wrong, but more importantly, he taught me that things aren’t always black and white. Good men do bad things and bad men do good things and the reasons why are often complicated and more often than not they’re unimportant. Also: Knowledge is important, but sometimes not knowing is more important.
That sort of explains why I am a fan of both Batman, and Sons of Anarchy.
The best advice Dad ever gave me was given to him by his father: “Never drink from a river then walk upstream.” Yeah… It does sound more than a bit psuedo-Zen; like something found on a coffee cup or yogurt container. However… In my grandfather’s case, he meant it quite literally–he found a dead sheep.
But… If you buy into the psuedo-Zen interpretation, it kind of sums up the plot of Chasing Amy.
I wonder what my father and grandfather would have have made of that film.