24
Oct

My awesome dad.

A little past midnight on October 6, my father decided that he had charmed the world long enough with his cheerful blue eyes, goofy grin, and easy laughter. He was 71 years old.

He didn’t want a fuss made over his passing, so my dad requested direct cremation. I have honored his wishes, but he’s still going to get a fuss. Sorry, Dad, but you were just too wonderful to not tell the world about you…

I had this amazingly intelligent, beyond funny, and steadfastly loving dad, yet not that many people knew him. I suppose that’s the way it is most of the time. A select few individuals get to be an Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates and are recognized by the world. The rest of us come and go with relative obscurity, known and missed by perhaps a few friends and family. My dad certainly falls into the latter category, but he meant the world to me.

When I was a little girl, my dad had a Sunday afternoon ritual. He would buy a weekend edition of the Chicago Tribune, spread it across the living room floor, and spend hours reading it from cover to cover. Of course, I couldn’t just let him read it in peace. When I saw him lying on the floor, I would hop onto the back of his ankles and walk up and down the length of his body over and over again. Each time I would see if I could make it all the way up to his shoulders, which let me tell you, was quite the feat since he would prop himself up on his elbows to read. If I were successful, I would then jump triumphantly from his shoulders onto the papers below and mess them up. Maybe rip them. I can’t imagine that my Wallenda act was as much fun for my dad as it was for me, but he never said a word.

As a kid, I also loved to style my dad’s hair. When I would spy him relaxing on the couch, trying to catch an episode of Taxi or Hill Street Blues, I would immediately ask for his comb. Then I’d grab a cup of water and climb to the top of the couch. For the next hour or so, I would fashion his hair into wonderfully innovative hairdos. During at least one or two of those styling sessions, I would also knock over the cup of water that was precariously balanced on the couch cushions. My dad never yelled at me, though, and the following week, I would do it all over again.

But my favorite way to test my dad’s love for me was when I would make my kitchen creations. Bored, I would stand in front of the refrigerator and grab random ingredients – say relish, milk, mustard, and Kool-Aid – and mix them together into a frothy treat. I would then present it to my father. We would warily eye each other as he would first sniff it, grimace, and finally put it to his lips. I could only imagine how awful it must have tasted (I never tried my own creations), but without fail my dad would take a sip, exclaim a phony “yum!” and tell me that he was going to save the rest for later because it tasted so good. Grinning from ear to ear, I would walk away and never see that concoction ever again.

I could share with you so many more memories of my dad, but these are the recollections that capture exactly who he was… and I don’t mean a man with the patience of Job, though that is true. He just had this gentle, lighthearted nature that made it so easy to be happy around him, and he loved making people smile. I witnessed it all the time.

I can’t remember a single time at the grocery store where he didn’t strike up a conversation with the cashier. He knew by name all the tellers at his bank. And he would always take a few minutes to chat with the host or hostess at each restaurant we visited. Usually, he’d start with some small talk about the weather, then good-naturedly moan about the Cubs, and finally crack a silly joke at which he would laugh the hardest. But without fail, my dad would find a way to make the recipient of his goofy charm laugh.

Even when he got sick, my dad never stopped being his naturally happy self. While in the hospital, he received a stuffed teddy bear that played “I Feel Good” by James Brown when its belly was pressed. My dad would hide the bear under his bed sheets, and each time a nurse or doctor walked in and asked, “How are you feeling?” he’d squeeze it and wait for a reaction. He loved it. They loved it.

I miss him so much.

My dad and I had a great relationship, and I told him many times how much I loved him before he passed. I’m not sad because he didn’t know how I felt about him or because we weren’t close. But I’ll never see his grin again or hear his laugh. I won’t get to witness another moment of his silliness on full display. It’s those little things that make my heart ache… And no matter how much time you have with someone, it’s never enough. You can never have enough memories. You can never have too many moments.

But I am so proud and blessed that this man was my father. He taught me so much. Above all else, though, he was this amazing example of how to live in the moment, find joy in the little things, and always be kind to others. That is his legacy, not just to me, but to all those who knew him. And now, hopefully even to those who didn’t.

I love you, Dad.

12
Sep

Let's make it a true Daily Double, Alex.

My dad and I had a ritual that began when I was in junior high. Every couple of weeks, I’d get off the bus after school and notice his car sitting in the driveway. That meant he had knocked off early from work not only to beat me home, but also to beat me at our favorite game show, Jeopardy! We both had developed a fixation with this program. Rice-A-Roni was also part of the ritual. Couldn’t tell you why. But each time I would walk through the door, I’d find my dad at the stove, stirring a saucepan full of our favorite Jeopardy! snack. We’d quickly fill our bowls with a heaping helping of that starchy goodness and settle in for a half-hour of answers and questions.

My dad never went easy on me. Didn’t matter that he had 35 more years of worldly experience; his goal was to destroy me each and every time we played. In fact, if he cleared a category, he would looked over with a huge grin and point at me so that it was perfectly obvious just how awesome he was at this game. A lot of categories were cleared and many fingers pointed.

I never cleared a category. I mean, seriously, I was 12. I was lucky if I got 10 questions right during a show. But as the years went by, I slowly gained on my father. By the time I was a senior in high school, I could even do some finger pointing of my own. He still could obliterate me in American history, though. If the Civil War or U.S. Presidents were categories, he would actually squeal with glee. Abraham Lincoln? Forget it.

Then I went off to college and our Jeopardy! matches came to a sudden halt. Even during those first few years when I was home during the summers, we never resumed our long-standing competition. More years passed, I moved to California, and that was that.

Until last month. When I moved in with my dad, his Jeopardy! fixation returned with a vengeance. Earlier in the summer, I would try to schedule my daily visits to coincide with the 2:30 p.m. airtime, but my stupid job would sometimes get in the way. Now that I work 20 feet away from my dad, he refuses to accept, “I have a deadline” as an excuse. If I don’t respond to his first warning yell, I will promptly hear a second “Anna! Jeopardy!” that repeats in 15-second intervals until I shut down my computer and head for the living room.

My dad has become much more opinionated about the categories. He usually hates them. Even I have to admit that the folks over at Jeopardy! have tried a little too hard to spice things up. They once named all the categories after Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” Granted, it was for the Teen Tournament, but needless to say, my dad was none too pleased.

Apparently everything about the Teen Tournament bothered my dad. To protect the innocent, I won’t name any names, but upon telling Alex that he wanted to be President of the United States one day, my dad said of one contestant, “I bet he’s not liked much at school.”

Aside from his colorful commentary, my dad hasn’t been very vocal in actually attempting to give the questions. Among its many lame side effects, cancer apparently makes you tired all the time. Then my dad’s doctor prescribed him steroids to help with the inflammation in his lungs. The good news is that his new prescription has helped tremendously with his O2 levels. We haven’t had to bump up his intake in two weeks. The bad news is that my dad has completely annihilated me during the last few Jeopardy! airings as well. Who knew that those little pills would turn him into a Jeopardy! savant. He’s even taken to saying “I got it!” or “I got it before you!” or some variation thereof after every. single. question. he gets right.

I should be annoyed… I’m not.

Image courtesy of Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

15
Aug

Diet, schmiet.

“Live every day like it’s your last.”

My dad is certainly taking that advice to heart. Which, ironically, is probably bad for his heart.

We found out about the cancer when my dad was rushed to the hospital with a heart attack. His third. While his smoking was likely the main culprit in his health decline, his eating regimen might have been an accomplice as well. My dad has always been a meat and potatoes man, minus the potatoes. What’s the point in eating those when you can just have more meat?

Since receiving his diagnosis, he has thrown all dietary caution to the wind. It began when he was still in the hospital. Because a heart attack put him there, he was placed on the cardiac diet – or in his words, the “no flavor” diet. Not to say that he could eat only fruits and vegetables; on the contrary, hamburgers, beef stew, and even bacon were on the menu. I think my dad might have set a record for ordering the most hamburgers in a row of any patient ever admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital. And the puny side salad that came with it? He would immediately shove it toward me. “You’re a vegetarian. That’s what you eat anyway.”

Once he came home, my dad made up for lost time. Now that I have become his personal chauffeur, I accompany him each time he goes on a grocery store run. If Jamie Oliver were to look into my dad’s cart, he’d cry hot, silent tears. Hotdogs. Meatballs. Frozen Salisbury steaks. Oh, and a bottle of V8. Can’t forget those veggies.

My dad’s passion for meat is rivaled only by his ardor for desserts. He doesn’t discriminate. Cake, muffins, ice cream, candy bars, cookies – it’s all the same sweet goodness to him. Unfortunately, my dad happens to be an extremely generous man, so each time he sits down with a sweet, he insists that I have some as well. I can almost hear the seams on my jeans screaming for mercy.

He used to also fancy himself quite the cook – my dad can make a mean steak so I remember – but nowadays would rather just throw a Stouffer’s into the microwave. Since I neither eat nor cook meat, he waves off any dish I want to make. So aside from his sweet treats and frozen meats, the only other culinary option my dad will consider is takeout.

It began with Jimmy John’s. Before I moved in with my father, he’d tell me to pick up a few sandwiches prior to heading over to his place. At first, I was more than happy to oblige. For some unfathomable reason, Los Angeles doesn’t have Jimmy John’s, so I was downright giddy to grab a #5 and #6 before seeing him. The store was just down the block from his condo anyway, so it took only about 90 seconds (they are crazy fast at JJ’s!) to get my sandwiches and get on my way. So convenient. Too convenient.

Apparently my father is a man of habit because one week we got Jimmy John’s about four days in a row. I didn’t think it possible, but I was all JJ’ed out. Given that nearly the entire menu is inedible to me, I soon tired of my once favorite #6. So I Jedi mind tricked my dad into going somewhere – anywhere – else. I convinced him to try Potbelly… and now we’ve probably eaten there about 15 times in the last month. My dad finds the roasted goodness of the Italian subs at Potbelly highly superior to the bland cold cuts of Jimmy John’s. I once got him to try Jersey Mike’s, but the disdain on his face when informed that the Reuben doesn’t come on rye immediately told me that we would never pass through their doors again. He hates Subway, but won’t elaborate on why. And Chipotle’s meat is too hard. Now no matter what I suggest, he asks for Potbelly. And though my belly is aching for something different, I will not say a word. If my dad is on a mission to eat as many Potbelly Italian sandwiches as humanly possible while he has the strength and appetite to do so, far be it from me to oppose his quest.

Image courtesy of iosphere / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

07
Mar

My heart will go on.
I knew it couldn’t last forever. At least that’s what I prayed.

My antennas went up about a week ago. When you work from home, you quickly become attuned to the comings and goings of your neighbors. Though the foot stomping and door slamming have always made it fairly easy to tell when the Dude Bros were home, I suddenly detected another presence making its way up and down my stairwell at least once a day. It was my landlord.

I know for a fact that my landlord has two phones, but apparently he has no need for either of them. He never calls. Instead, he simply shows up at your door with new smoke alarms, a sink faucet, or baklava. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate each of those gestures, but when you don’t bother to change out of your pajamas five days out of seven, you don’t take too kindly to unexpected visitors. Between you and me – and because I know that my landlord will never read this – I’ve simply ignored his gentle knocking on more than one occasion.

Which is why it didn’t surprise me that he was trying the same tactics with the Dude Bros and getting the same results. I could hear him walk up my steps every evening, knock on my neighbors’ door, knock some more, knock a third time, knock again… and then make his exit back down the stairwell. After two days in a row, my suspicions grew.

I began to evaluate the situation. Was it an urgent repair? No, otherwise they’d probably just let him in. Was it a late rent check? Perhaps, but given my completely unfounded assumption that both Dude Bros were getting bankrolled by their parents, I doubted it. Hmm… Could it be Eddie Murphy?

Not THE Eddie Murphy. Because I typically hear and not see my neighbors, I often assign certain attributes to their noisy friends that come over all the time. For a while, it was Annoying Girl, who had a special gift for making the clicking of her high heels delightfully piercing against the concrete stairwell. She was equally charming when she would make phone calls on the steps or take a smoke break out there or both.

Now it’s Eddie Murphy. I call him that because he sounds exactly like the actor. The first time I heard him in my neighbor’s apartment, I enviously thought to myself, “How did those two mofos make friends with Eddie Murphy?!” Now I know better. If he really were Eddie Murphy, I assume he would have brought over one of his 25 kids by now. He must have custody some of the time, right? Regardless, Eddie is over quite frequently, and I concluded that my landlord must have noticed.

Now you might think that it’s none of my landlord’s business regarding whom the tenants have over. You’re probably right, but that doesn’t matter to him. He owns the property, it’s been in his family for decades, so it ain’t no thang for him to get nosey about visitors. I distinctly remember my landlord once tell the unsuspecting friend of a past neighbor that he didn’t know him and he had to leave. That’s just how my landlord rolls.

I’m not sure if the Dude Bros really hadn’t been home all those other times that my landlord knocked, or if they realized that he would never, ever give up, but they finally answered the door the other night. And I was there to hear it all. Though my door. With my ear right up to it.

First, my landlord wanted to know who Eddie was. As it turns out, he’s not Eddie Murphy, nor is his name Eddie. Go figure. He’s a Jerry. Once my landlord wrote down his name – and made Jerry spell it out – he questioned Dude Bro #1 about Dude Bro #2. Apparently he’s gone missing.

Dude Bro #1 then told my landlord that Dude Bro #2 was in a hospital back in Miami and that he would be there “for a while.” My landlord pressed the issue.

“For how long?”

“I don’t know. Maybe a few months.”

Please, I’ve lived in LA for too long now. I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em, and that kid’s in rehab. I could sense that my landlord was extremely perturbed by this non-answer answer. He wanted it in writing from Dude Bro #2.

“Well, he’s in a hospital. He can’t write to you right now.”

That’s when Dude Bro #1 started asking if he could sublet the place. I thought my landlord was going to have a heart attack right then and there. Needless to say, he quickly shot down that suggestion.

My craned neck was beginning to hurt, so I was forced to leave my post at the door. I don’t know how their conversation was ultimately resolved, but it looks like this might be the end of an era, folks. The end of the Dude Bros. Godspeed… and party on.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

21
Feb

Winners never quit and quitters never win.
Nestled between its congested highways, strip malls, and high-rises, Los Angeles has amazing parks and scenic trails. The Eastsiders usually favor hotspots like Griffith Park and Runyon Canyon, while Westsiders typically frequent Topanga and the Santa Monica steps. I live somewhere in the middle, which means one thing: I never go to any of these places.

Well, that’s not entirely true. A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I headed to Griffith at about 8 a.m. on a Sunday. It still took over a half-hour to get there. Because it had been more than a year since my last time to the park, it took even longer to find the trail that I kept promising him I knew by heart.

That’s why we tend to stick around my neighborhood. “Zero commute time” is one of my favorite phrases in the English language, so more often than not we just walk through my own neck of the woods. Though my ‘hood isn’t exactly swimmin’ pools and movie stars, I do distinctly recall once walking past a house that had an entire zoo of animals in its front yard. They were fake, of course, but I was so shocked and impressed by the homeowner’s no holds barred tackiness that I was determined to find this abode once more. For several weeks, I dragged my boyfriend up and down and back again throughout a three-mile radius of my apartment. Needless to say, we never found the house again, and I’m pretty sure my boyfriend thinks I just hallucinated the whole thing.

That’s also about the time he suggested we find somewhere else to walk.

I wasn’t willing to waste gallons of $4 gas just to sit in weekend traffic, so I racked my brain to find anything that resembled a hiking trail near my home. And that’s when the epiphany struck – Baldwin Hills!

Technically, I had never been to this park, but driven past it many a time. Given the dozens of weekend warriors that I would see upon each drive-by, I figured the place was legit. However, I had overlooked one crucial aspect of Baldwin Hills… its 282 steps to the top.

As soon as we spied the steps during our first outing, my boyfriend was super excited about them. Me, not so much. It wasn’t the physical challenge of climbing the stairs that bothered me. It was the prospect of tripping and falling down all 282 of them. Which can theoretically happen.

But we climbed them, and I didn’t die. So we came back the following week and climbed them again. I still didn’t die. In fact, I felt kind of good once I made it to the top and viewed the beautiful smog of downtown LA. When we reached the top of the stairs again last week, I was feeling pretty dang awesome until my boyfriend said, “I think I want to do it again.”

To buy some time – hopefully enough for him to forget his insanity – I asked if we could take the long way back down the hill. You know, so I could properly loosen up for the next stair challenge. However, once we finally made it to the bottom, he looked at me with eager eyes and a wide smile. We were doing this.

As I prepared myself once more for the stairway of pain, I got distracted by a father and son duo also making the climb. Cute, right? I thought so, too… until I heard the dad yell, “Come on! Let’s go! It’s a f*cking piece of cake!” after which he promptly dashed up the stairs, all the while berating his young son for his lame-ass climbing abilities.

The poor kid offered up a few weak moans of protest, yet he continued putting one foot in front of the other. In fact, he was going faster than me. By the time I made it to the top, I quickly scanned the area for Commando Dad and kid. While the dad was doing that weird jogging in place thing, his kid looked like he was about to pass out. He was leaning heavily on the railing for support, but his respite was short-lived. His father again began to chastise him: “Come on, let’s go! You don’t need that much time to rest!” The kid staunchly refused to move, and for about 30 more seconds, Commando Dad acquiesced. In the meantime, my boyfriend and I decided to make our final journey down the hill. A few moments later, Commando Dad walked past us with kid in tow.

“You ready? You ready? Let’s go!”

His kid was clearly not ready, but that made little difference to Commando Dad. He started running anyway. Dejected and defeated, his kid finally picked up the pace to catch up with his father. This made everyone nearby, including my boyfriend and me, laugh lightheartedly at this poor kid’s relentless misery.

We still were smiling from Commando Dad’s wacky antics when we passed yet another father and son sharing some bonding time at Baldwin Hills. That’s when we heard the dad solemnly inform his young son, “He’s coming up here right now, and he’s gonna kick your ass.”

Hiking is very different than what I remember it to be.

Image courtesy of smarnad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

07
Feb

We are the champions!... But no one will care tomorrow.
It’s over. Another season of football is done.

Just a mere three months ago, I was ridin’ high. The Bears were 7-1, and I was certain that this was our year. Well, it didn’t happen. We got smacked by the Texans. Humiliated by the 49ers. Whipped by the Seahawks. And beaten by the Packers. That always stings.

So even though we were first in our division for the entire first half of the season, we didn’t even make it to the playoffs. My hopes were dashed, and Bears fans everywhere were forced to wait yet another year to bring back the Lombardi to Chicago. Even our go-to wellspring that is the ’85 Bears was somewhat tempered when Ditka suffered a stroke in November. All in all, it was a rough year for the Monsters of the Midway. Maybe we could use a Canadian to get us back on track.

And even though Lovie’s firing was a holiday highlight, I had to endure a month more of faking my enthusiasm for the playoffs. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I had plenty of reasons to be excited for the playoffs. Namely, to see the Packers get eliminated from them.

Here’s the deal. The Packers have the Bears to thank for winning the Super Bowl two years ago. It’s a dubious honor to be sure, but it’s true. Last game of the season. The Bears already had a bye, so it was what many would call a garbage game. Except that it’s never a worthless win over the Packers. Every victory counts, and according to trusty Wikipedia, we still hold a series win record of 92 to 88 over our rivals to the north. It would be 93 to 87 had we not lost the game that let Green Bay get a wild card into the playoffs, show us up at the NFC Championship, and swipe the Halas Trophy from us at Soldier Field. Of course, Green Bay did not repay the favor and beat Minnesota in their last game of the season this year so that we too could have our chance at Super Bowl victory.

So it felt oh so good when Green Bay finally succumbed to the 49ers last month. And though Harbaugh’s a complete loon, the fact that the Packers got beat by Jim and company felt like a small victory for Chicago fans, too. (Harbaugh played quarterback for the Bears in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.)

It counts.

Anyway, with the Packers out of Super Bowl contention, I really didn’t have a horse in the race anymore. (My horse was whoever was playing the Packers.) The Falcons are boring. Plus, they’ve pretty much perfected the art of choking in the playoffs. I have family on the east coast who are New England fans, but I want to see New England in the playoffs as much as I want to see another installment of The Fast and the Furious. Then there are the Ravens, who I don’t know much about, except that Ray Lewis is sketch and John Harbaugh is big brother to Jim. Hmm… Okay. That made it interesting. Once the 49ers made it to the AFC Championship, my picks were set. The only thing that was going to make this Super Bowl any fun was seeing an all-Harbaugh fight to the finish.

Despite the fact that I got my wish, it’s always a little sad to watch the Super Bowl when your team’s not in it. Yeah, it’s a great excuse for one last bingefest before you finally make good on your resolution to lose weight, but still… It’s not the same. I can still remember that sweet, sweet first quarter during Super Bowl XLI when the Bears were leading the Colts 14-6. The rest of the game is a little blurry.

And that’s my only consolation. Though the Ravens beat the 49ers just four days ago, you’d have to scour the news outlets to find a single article about it anymore. I’m sure all the Baltimore fans are still raiding their local Targets for as much Ravens gear as they can get their hands on, but their incessant craving for hats and T-shirts and commemorative DVDs will soon pass as well. Because sports fans are fickle. Season after season, we celebrate and commiserate with our teams’ victories and losses. We argue over bad flags and questionable catches. We writhe in pain with our favorite players when they suffer a concussion or ACL tear. For four months – five if you count preseason and six if you’re lucky enough to make the playoffs – we rise and fall and live and breathe with our teams.

And once that Lombardi Trophy is hoisted high once more… We put on Netflix and pass out from the 5000 calories we ate. ‘Merica!

Image courtesy of antpkr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

03
Jan

No cavities? I don't believe you.The dentist’s chair has not been kind to me over the years. But I’ve gotten used to it, and my dentists have gotten used to me. Because something’s wrong with my teeth every time I go in for a checkup, I’m required to come back for multiple visits, which has given me ample opportunity to get to know my dentists. In the past, I would chat with them about their kids, their German Shepherds, whatever. Sure, they did most of the talking, as I was typically laid out with a mouth full of dental equipment, but it has always made the minutes pass by a little more enjoyably.

Then about two years ago, my dentist hired a new hygienist. She’s great. In fact, she’s so cool that I actually get a little bummed when she hands me a cup and tells me to swish, which indicates that my visit is over.

The first time I met her, I immediately liked her. She’s like me; she loves to talk. Plus, even if you’ve known her for only ten minutes, it feels like you’ve been BFFs for ten years. Thing is… I can’t remember her name. I know that’s bad, but cut me some slack. I only see her twice a year. I’m sure she must have introduced herself upon our first meeting, but now it’s far too late to ask her name. To avoid total awkwardness, I have to find creative ways to say hello and goodbye without being obvious that I don’t know if she’s a Jane, Jennifer, or what.

That aside, our visits are very pleasant. I learned during our very first appointment that she had just moved to Los Angeles, so we immediately bonded over being LA transplants. And then there’s the boy talk. Yes, I discuss my love life with my dental hygienist. But for the record, she started it. All it took was, “So are you dating anyone?” for me to totally regress into junior high mode and divulge all information. Her squeals of delight and outcries of “I’m so happy for you!” only encourage my behavior. It can be tough at times to hold up my end of the conversation as she looms over my gaping mouth with her cleaning tools, but this doesn’t seem to hinder our talks in any way. In fact, she is very adept at interpreting my gurgles.

Then the last time I saw her, she revealed the reason why she left her hometown. I’m not at liberty to disclose such private information, but needless to say, it was a shocker. At the same time, I took her revelation quite seriously. She had waited two years to tell me, so obviously this was a big step forward in our relationship. Suddenly I was wishing that she could knock off early from work so we could grab a coffee and chat more about the motive behind her move. But wouldn’t you know it… I didn’t have any cavities. My time at the dentist was over for another six months.

Which is beginning to concern me a bit.

I always have something wrong with my teeth. However, I have gotten a clean bill of health after each of my last four checkups. Coincidentally, all four appointments have been presided over by this hygienist.

As much as I love her, I’m beginning to wonder if my rapport with my hygienist is to the detriment to my oral health. Could it be possible that she’s too distracted by our conversations to notice my cavities? Or maybe she does spy them, but is too nice to tell me? I could totally see her doing something like that. Whatever it is, I’m not altogether convinced that my years of dental misery are miraculously behind me. If even she could find just one teeny tiny cavity, it would put my mind at ease. Odds are, I’d get to hang with her a little longer, too. That would be so nice.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

15
Jun

Hell froze over a few months ago when my father decided to start texting. Though millions of people around the world have been texting, Tweeting, Facebooking and Skyping at each other for years, my dad doesn’t even have an email account. He trusts only three modes of communication: snail mail, the telephone, as in the kind that’s plugged into a wall, and talking to someone face-to-face.

A simple man with simple tastes.

However, my sister and I did manage to convince him a few years back that it was time to get a cell phone. He warily gave in, but as it turns out, now calls more often from his cell than landline. As he puts it, “Well, I got over 800 units on this thing that I need to use by next March, and I don’t talk to anyone but you and your sister.” However, his tolerance of cell phones is fairly limited to just his own.

My sister is notorious for not ever picking up the phone, regardless of whether it’s her cell or houseline. Because she is just as notorious for being a homebody, I can’t count the number of times I’ve left her a message that goes a little something like this: “Mila? Hey! Are you there? Mila? Mi-la. I know you’re there… Are you not there? Okay, I just wanted to…” That’s when puts me out of my misery and finally picks up the damn phone. But whenever I’m with my father and he tries to call my sister, I can see the cartoon-like smoke coming out of his ears when it goes to voicemail, which it always does. I think he finds it insulting that my sister won’t pick up even for him, although she can’t know it’s him until he leaves her a message. (My sister may or may not have caller ID. Regardless, I’d bet good money that she never cares to check it. She’s fairly unprejudiced like that.)

My father gets just as angry with me whenever we’re on the phone and the call drops. Inevitably, it is my fault. When I call him back, I am usually greeted with a “what was that all about?” I then apologize for my inferior iPhone capabilities, to which he replies, “My phone never drops calls.”

Given our family’s cell phone dramatics, I suppose I shouldn’t have been that surprised when my dad made the leap to text messaging. However, it felt like I had witnessed a fish walk onto land, sprout wings, and fly into the air; a few evolutionary steps had been skipped. My dad still doesn’t own a computer. Yet one day he happened to mention being bored, which I guess is normal when you’re retired. An hour later I was the recipient of his very first text message.

He’s been a texting machine ever since.

We still chat about the same subjects – sports and the weather – except now I get little notes from him ala “I’m about to watch the Cubs lose their eighth in a row” or “I hear there’s a storm coming through, so be careful.” While I appreciate these updates, I’m beginning to feel a bit slighted by my father. Is there a reason why he can’t pick up the phone every once in a while to say hello?

Granted, my dad still worries that I’m somehow accruing additional cell phone charges if we’re on the line for more than ten minutes. We’ll be in the middle of a conversation when all of a sudden I hear him say, “Well, I don’t wanna use up all your minutes.” Though I have told him multiple times that my phone plan allows me to talk to him whenever I want, he still deems it necessary to wrap up our chat fairly quickly, which leads me to believe a different theory as to why my father no longer wants to speak to his baby daughter.

I can talk a lot.

Though in the past I’ve said that my dad and I share great communication skills, in retrospect I’m realizing that perhaps we’ve been having rather one-sided conversations. Because he’s my dad, I feel comfortable espousing my views to him on pretty much anything and everything. While I may feel remorseful when making my friends suffer through one of my tangents, I don’t feel those pangs of guilt with my father. After all, he’s my dad. Isn’t it his job to put up with me? No questions asked? Which, by the way, is exactly what happens. I don’t give him the chance to ask questions even if he wanted to, but the moment I take a breath before resuming my tirade, that’s when I hear, “Well, I don’t wanna use up all your minutes.”

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I will be calling you on Sunday whether you like it or not.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

03
May

I’m a dog person. Always have been. I fell in love with them the moment my family surprised me with a puffball of a Pekingese for my 5th birthday. Leo was the bestest dog ever. We grew up together, though technically, I suppose I did most of the growing. He never weighed more than ten pounds and was barely a foot tall. Plus, most of that height was fur. Yet for a little dog, he had a lot of love, and to this day I can’t think of him without getting a wee bit weepy.

It would be great to have a dog again, but there’s always a good reason – aka excuse – why I can’t. First it was college. Then a cross-country move. Grad school. And now an apartment that doesn’t allow dogs… even though my landlord lets his sister have two annoying yappers that go Cujo on anyone who gets within a twenty foot radius. The only reason why I have yet to “accidentally” step on or kick one of them is because I’m afraid they might “coincidentally” raise the rent on me the following week.

But fo’ reals, I love dogs. That’s why I’m always happy to dog-sit for a friend if I can. Everyone I know has pretty awesome pets, so it doesn’t take much beyond a few slobbery licks and a look from those big puppy dog eyes to break down Auntie Anna. They get a responsible caretaker, and I get snuggle time… sometimes against their will.

Curly Sue* is one of those dogs that makes you involuntarily go “aww…” when you see her. She’s a rescue, so though her breeding is a question mark, most likely it’s Basset Hound mixed with Corgi mixed with adorableness. When I babysat her last weekend, not a walk could be completed without at least one person asking, “What kind of dog is that?” Curly Sue is also a big sniffer of things – trees, flowers, unidentifiable smells emanating from some unknown source toward which she would lead me – so often our walks would last upwards of an hour. This meant that I would many times be stopped long enough to have any and all passersby interrogate me as to her genetic background. Even though she isn’t my dog, I just pretended that she was and happily answered their questions. (Mostly with information that I made up.)

Moreover, Curly Sue is keenly interested in other canines. The moment she spots a dog, she freezes and stares them down for many, many minutes at a time. That’s not to say she isn’t friendly. On the contrary, while other dogs that we encountered would sometimes flip out when they saw her, Curly Sue would quietly assess the situation by sniffing their rears and then be on her way. The problem is when she sees a dog too far away to sniff. If she can’t get up close and personal, she’s not satisfied and will stubbornly stand there until the dog is out of eyesight… and sometimes not even then. Curly Sue also weighs sixty pounds, so once she zeros in on another dog, there’s no moving her until she is good and ready to be moved. No amount of coercion or leash tugging will get that pup to walk unless she agrees.

So naturally Curly Sue and I were in the middle of crossing the street when she spotted another dog two blocks down. Upon spying her fellow canine, Curly Sue simply stopped dead in her tracks and stared ahead. Uh oh. First I tried mild coaxing…

“Come on, sweetie. Let’s go.”

No response. Then gentle urgency. “Curly Sue, honey, we gotta go.”

No response. Then insistence mixed with fear. “Curly Sue, now! We have to go now!”

Realizing that if we didn’t move in the next five seconds we would both be at the mercy of an oncoming Kia, I had no other choice but to drag Curly Sue to the sidewalk. Given that numerous other dog owners were in the vicinity and watching us, I felt like the biggest jerk ever. After years of ridiculing them, I suddenly felt intimately sympathetic to parents whose children have temper tantrums in planes and restaurants.

Curly Sue followed, but she wasn’t happy about it. I barely got her to the curb when she turned around and once again stared at the dog that I could barely see anymore. To help repair my image to the dozen or so strangers that had witnessed me yanking this sweet dog across the street, I began to lavish her with praise and petting to make it obvious that I wasn’t a monster.

A few minutes later, Curly Sue was sufficiently satisfied with her stakeout and ready to move on. We had walked maybe another block when she stopped for a second time. I scanned the area and realized that she now had in her sights a Chihuahua about thirty yards away. I gave her a gentle pull. Nothing.

I think I’m good being just Auntie Anna for a while longer.

* All names have been changed to protect the innocent and furry.

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

05
Apr

I was just lookin’ for a little sympathy. It had been a rough workweek, and I wanted to vent. Sometimes friends just don’t cut it, though. Sure, they may understand, but only too well because usually they’re going through the exact same thing. Complaining to friends about work is like complaining to a Jenny Craig client that you’re dying for some cake. Plus, there was only one person that I wanted to invite to my pity party, and that was my dear old dad. I knew he could make me feel better. Yet the second he picked up the line, I lost it. I could feel the hot tears welling up in my eyes. “Hello? Hello?” Instead of answering him, I could only articulate a high-pitched screech that sounded something like a DJ scratching records while accompanied by the vocal stylings of an injured bird. He recognized the cry for help. “Anna? I can’t understand you. What’s wrong?”

I took a deep breath and willed myself to calm down. I then bombarded my dad with a long and detailed explanation as to why my life was so unfair. By the time I concluded my rant, my father had only one question: “So why are you so upset?” Hello?! Had he not been listening to anything I said? Is it time for the hearing aids, Dad?

“Because… I’m frustrated.”

“Well, I’d rather see you get mad than sad.”

Okay, good point. I suppose the only thing my tears would produce is a trashcan of wadded up tissues and a pair of bloodshot eyes.

“Lemme tell you a story…” That’s when my dad launched into his own work tale, and I was once again reminded of where I get my affinity for talking… So here’s something that will blow your mind: my father worked at the same company for his entire career. That’s over forty years of office meetings and cafeteria lunches at the same place. Moreover, he loved work so much that he would many times come in during the weekends. Just because. Anyway, he proceeded to tell me that at some point over his four plus decades of employeedom, a few work friends informed him that a position in another department had opened up, and they wanted him to apply. Given that he was perfectly happy where he was, my father refused. These friends of his would not let up, though. (My dad made sure to emphasize this part of the story several times. “They kept coming at me and coming at me to apply for that job.” I get it, Dad. You were popular at work.) Finally caving to their repeated appeals, my father threw his hat into the ring. Shortly thereafter, a few of the higher-ups approached him and indicated that they had someone else in mind for the job. Needless to say, my dad wasn’t heartbroken, but apparently these executives were concerned that he just might be and gave him a raise. A raise. Just because.

The end.

Okay. Wasn’t quite sure how this little anecdote was supposed to help me. Was I missing some kind of life lesson here? Though I could appreciate the good fortune my father had experienced, it seemed, well, totally and completely unrelated to my own situation.

“Awesome, Dad. I’m so glad that happened to you.”

“Right? I didn’t even want the job.” That’s when I lost it again… and started laughing. I still had no clue why he thought this story would cheer me up, but maybe my dad was more perceptive than I had realized. Twenty minutes earlier, I was dramatically wallowing in the depths of my own despair. Now I had a sappy smile plastered across my face and couldn’t stop giggling.

My father might be a genius.

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...