Suburban Snapshots

Sorry Dad, I Didn't Get
Pregnant for Your Birthday

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I've been telling people all week that my dad's turning 60, and without exception the response is, "Wow! That's so young!"

Dad may not share their assessment, but I happen to think it's awesome that though I'm about to be 39, he's barely past the age when AARP starts sending you things you didn't ask for in the mail.

My parents had me young; I can't do math but I think Mom was 22 and Dad was 21. Can you even imagine? Things between them were good and happy, and then I have to assume things were really neither good nor happy, and now that I'm an adult I realize how much credit they both deserve for keeping my sister and me mostly in the dark about the ugly stuff for a really, really long time.

As far as my sister and I knew, we pretty suddenly had a couple of new parents and a few trips a year to visit Dad in whatever super cool new place he was stationed (that's him below in an old Coast Guard photo, standing under the number 4 totally owning that mustache and tiny hat.) Dad showed up at all the big family functions and Mom still visited her ex-in-laws and my sister and I remained blissfully ignorant to any residual bad feelings.

We pulled the usual shit that kids with parents living separately tend to do — always wanting to go to Dad's when Mom was being "mean," (note that if you were my mom raising the three of us you'd be "drunk" as well as "mean" and also likely "clinically insane"), insisting that child support checks be cashed and spent immediately at Toys R Us, threatening to go live with Dad, you know the drill. It was all very After School Special.

And even though the time we've spent with Dad has been exponentially less than the amount our mom was forced to endure enjoyed, there's no mistaking that my sister and I are his own.

For one, my sister Steph walks just like him. Her feet turn out and her hips move in exactly the same way. She's practically his twin, her expressions — hell, just her regular face — have Dad all over them. And her sense of humor is all Dad. We both lucked out and got his thick, wavy hair; she got more of his red than I ended up with though my hairline is unmistakably his, as is Steph's mustache. Zing!

I'm over-analytical and thinky which Mom says is all Dad, as is my 5'10" height. Everyone says I got his brains, I know for sure I got his crummy eyesight (edit: this may have been a joint contribution).

I'm a car snob because of my dad, not because he's superficial but because he knows how to work on cars and appreciates good engineering. I drive a Passat because he owned 2, and maybe also because I still have some memory of the red VW wagon my parents had when I was born. I try to figure out problems that I notice in my cars because I've always seen Dad go to work on his. I used to be amazed that he could change the oil in his old diesel Mercedes. When the clutch cable snapped on my first car, it was Dad who taught me that you don't need a clutch to drive a 5-speed, then, if I'm not imagining this, he fixed it with the brake cable from my 10-speed. MacGyver who?

I'm proud of my dad. He's done a lot with his 60 years. I'm sure his next 40 will give me even more to brag about.

Happy birthday, Dad. I love you.

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