My dad is the most imperfectly perfect person that I have ever known.
When I was 17 years old, I told him that I wanted to see a therapist and he sent me to see a psychic. In Santa Monica, an hour down the 405 from home. Named Odgenous. A psychic. In Santa Monica. Named Odgenous. All because I told him that I needed therapy. Which is not at all ironic.
One time my car was broken into outside of my dad’s condo off of Melrose Blvd. He told me to call 411. I asked him if he thought that they would know who broke into my car. He said that they might.
There was that Christmas that the cat, Murray, caught on fire.
Dad said to put some Neosporin on him.
My dad was unemployed for almost a year at some point during the late 80s. He wanted us to call him Mr. Mom. So, Mr. Mom, Sister, and I were driving around running errands one day and sister and I were being unusually awful. It might have been because she, seven years my junior, was allowed to ride in the front seat that day. Which was pretty much the biggest insult ever, gave me indigestion, and caused me to do this weird sneeze-burp thing in the backseat of the car after a bout of shouting with Sister as we pulled back up to the front of the house.
“SITDOWNSTOPITTURNAROUNDSHUTUP!” bellowed Mr. Mom.
And then we just laughed. Sister and I, cautiously at first, and then Dad, too. It was glorious.
Dad liked to take me to work with him in the summers when I was out of school. He would tell me how proud he was of me and I would think carefully about what I would wear to the office. Most times, I would plan it all out and lay my clothes out the night before. If Dad wasn’t available to take me to Marie Calendar’s for lunch, some of the ladies from his office would. And that was amaze because I would pick up all kinds of fashion tips from them. Which I don’t think has served me well in later life but, when I was fourteen, was a golden gift.
On a trip to San Diego in the summer of 1992 my dad said, “I’m gay.”
“That’s fucking weird,” I said. “I love you, Dad.”
That’s just how it was.
Once, riding through North Seattle with Sister and me, Dad shouted, “That’s a homeless man and he’s reading a homeless newspaper!” With the window down. At a stop light as we were stopped right in front of said man.
Dad shelled peanuts with me underneath a fig tree on Mesa Ave when I was little, before Sister was born. And gave me ice cream sandwiches in the back seat of Mom’s Chevy Nova on the nights that Mom and I went to pick him up from school after his law classes. He gave me an itty bitty sapphire ring, and put it onto my little finger, at my Kindergarten graduation.
He also hired a stripper for one of my mom’s birthdays. The male kind. Of stripper. Not birthday. It was the female kind of birthday.
And he loved listening to Donna Summer whilst sunbathing. My love of music comes from my dad, really. Especially the 70s tunes. The Mammas and Pappas. “Revolver”. “Tusk”. No matter how poor we were, we always had good music and a great stereo. Tower speakers bigger than me at one point. I blame my secret crush on Lindsey Buckingham on my dad. That, and my secret wish to sing along to the ‘Harold and Maude’ soundtrack with Cat Stevens. Who is no longer called Cat Stevens. But, whatevs. Semantics.
One time, I got an F in Physical Education class. It was an elective. And the elective was Weight Lifting. I got an F. Because I was a 15 year old girl. I wanted to take tennis with my friend Carolyn, but not enough people had enrolled so the class was cancelled and we were pushed into Weight Lifting. With a bunch of weird Junior and Senior boys. With mustaches (kind of).
So, I failed the class. Probably because I got my period or something. And my dad wanted to talk with me about it. Not the period part because that would have been super bizarre, but the failing the class part.
“You know,” he said. “You can’t have a nice house with a nice view like this if you fail your classes.” The view from our backyard, looking out over the valley, was amazing. “But you should know that I’ll always love you, no matter what. Even if you become a hooker.”
To date, I have not hooked. But, I have had quite an adventure.
I have lived in all the corners of this country. And I have engaged in my fair share of hobnobbery with intellectuals and bar flies alike. I have driven through these here Southern United States at least once and ate some spectacular cheese grits in Savannah. I’ve karaoked when I shouldn’t have. I aced Grad school and I helped the child in my life understand why Cyndi Lauper is completely awesome. I have fallen down more times than I’d like to admit but I keep getting up. And every time that I do I hear my dad say, just like when I fell off of my bike and skinned my knee for the first time, “There. That’s happened now. It won’t happen again. It’s over and out of the way. Keep going.” I have seen some amazing and mundane things and I have taken a picture where and when I should have.
All the while, I’ve traveled with the tokens that my dad has given me: a silver dollar in a leather pouch in the console of my car and, once, a bag full of marbles: “Just drop these out of your window while you’re driving if anyone gets too close. It works. I mean it.” The marbles were a gift he gave me just before my virgin cross-country drive from LA to Boston. I shit you not.