Today is my Pop's birthday -- he would be 103 years old if he were alive.
My father was funny, mean, loving, alcoholic, smart, reserved, generous... I guess you could say he was complex.
I have good and bad memories of him, but since it's his birthday today, I'll share ten good ones:
- He used to sing to my younger sister and me -- prison songs and old blues, mostly.
- He told us stories too. Some were old folk tales like "The Three Billy Goats Gruff". Some he made up, like "The Chocolate Mouse, the Vanilla Mouse, and the Peppermint Mouse" and "Willoughby and the Fox". I suppose he might not have made them up, but I've never seen any versions of them.
- He quoted extensively from W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, and Marx Brothers movies. I never knew it until I actually saw the movies and heard my Pop's lines coming out of their mouths.
- He loved TV Westerns, especially Bonanza and Gunsmoke. He'd always let us watch The Wonderful World of Disney, but the TV was his come 9:00 Sunday night.
- He rooted for the Washington Senators and the Redskins. He also liked golf (he hit his first hole in one when he was in his 70s!), bowling, and boxing; but he didn't care about basketball at all.
- He invented a leprechaun, Old Hickory, who lived under the kitchen table and was always getting into some kind of mischief.
- He taught me to parallel park the day of my driving test. He also gave me a tire iron for Christmas, because he was sick of having to change my flat tires with the lousy jackhandle that came with the car.
- He took us fishing every year at the beach. He'd rent a motorboat and we'd go out into the bay, drop our hand lines into the water, and wait. One year he didn't put any sunscreen on his legs and the tops of his thighs got terribly sunburned. That night, he went to put some Solarcaine spray on the sunburn, but he grabbed my mom's hairspray instead. Ouch! His thighs turned purple from him having to scrub the lacquer off. From then on, he said he had the bee's knees.
- When I was angsting over whether to go off to the circus (my mother was dreadfully opposed to it), he said, "You should go. You can always come home." So I did go, and then I did come home.
- He paid for my private high school education, my college education, my first car, my wedding, and the closing costs on our first condo.
Happy birthday, Pop!