Monday, June 17, 2002

A (Father's) Day Late...

I was going to blog about my Daddy and my Grandpa over the weekend, but unfortunately I didn't have the energy on Saturday or the time on Sunday. So I'm doing it a little late. But then, better late than never.

I was thinking about my Grandpa on Friday when I was writing about the Barbie doll he bought me when I was five. That was just one of the many kindnesses he showed me when I was little. He was a very thoughtful man.

Some memories of Grandpa Manners from my childhood (this was my paternal grandfather...he was Chinese, so of course 'Manners' wasn't really his name): he used to cut our nails for us, take us in his lap and hold our hands and feet over his pedestal ashtray and trim away with his special gold-plated clippers; he always had jelly-beans for us, Brach's jelly beans, which he kept in the pockets of his snazzy sportcoats (he always wore a coat and tie, even after he retired, whenever he left the house), and sometimes to keep us surprised, he would have lollipops instead...and when he'd been to Reno, he gave us silver dollars; he smoked a pipe sometimes with that sweet floral tobacco that always smelled so good, the rest of the time he smoked Chesterfields (which also smelled pretty good, especially with the Tres Flores brilliantine he used on his hair); he was smarter than anyone else I knew, and worked three crossword puzzles a day. Grandpa had the same thing for breakfast every day for fifty years: two eggs sunny-side-up, two pieces of bacon, one slice of white toast, one slice of raisin toast, a glass of milk, a glass of orange juice, and a cup of coffee (when we were little he'd give us bites of his breakfast...and since there were four grandkids, he wouldn't get much himself). When he had his first stroke, such meals were only indulged on the weekends. After dinner (which he insisted always consist of a meat, a salad, a vegetable, a potato, and a bread, without exception ever...he once walked out of the house when Grandmother served hamburgers for dinner), he would take the afternoon Examiner crosswords out to the living room and sit in his chair with a cup of coffee and a bowl of peanuts and watch television...usually cop shows, his favorite was Mannix.

I started off earlier talking about my grandfather's life, but it got out of hand, so I'm going to create a tribute page to him on my website with pictures and everything, and publish it in time for his 99th birthday (he won't be 99 himself...he passed away in January 1987).

I don't remember my other (maternal) grandfather very well. I remember he enjoyed doing handicrafts, like paint-by-numbers and rug-hooking and making decoupage from Christmas cards and origami from cigarette wrappers. He was very quiet, overshadowed by a domineering wife, and all I remember about him was how gentle and kind he was. He had a very sweet smile. He died of leukemia when I was ten. I was eating Red Vines when they told me (I just now remembered that!...I guess my step-mother wanted us to have something sweet to soften the blow when she told us). It was my first family death, and I took it hard, but forgot about it fairly soon since there was no funeral or memorial service.

My father is still alive, but apparently not everyone knows that. I was talking to a fellow AA I ran into at the grocery store today, and he remarked (after I told him about spending Father's Day with my Daddy) that I never talk about my father, and with such an omission he wasn't sure I still had one. Even when I was a teenager, people would ask if I had a father. I do have one, he's alive and reasonably well and living in Concord. But I guess my relationship with Daddy has always been fairly benign...his presence in my childhood was kind of vague, he was an easy-going guy who always married and got overshadowed by rather dramatic women. I don't spend a lot of time with him, so he doesn't come up in conversations so much, and he also doesn't drive me crazy like my mother and grandmother (Daddy's mother) tend to do...which is why they get so much more airtime in my AA shares than Daddy would.

I can't really think of any childhood memories of Daddy. I remember when I was very very small he told me the story of how he shaved off his is my earliest memory, trivial as it may seem. I remember after he and Mother divorced, he would come by sometimes and read me stories, and he'd always leave me one of his pocket t-shirts to sleep in when he left. I could probably remember a lot more, but so much of my time with Daddy was dominated by the presence of my stepmother and his substance-abuse problems, and so much of that part of my life has been blocked out by a self-protective memory.

One of the things I feel guilty about as an adult is that I don't spend enough time with my father. There's no real reason to avoid him, but he doesn't live terribly close by, and we often have difficulty talking for very long. Daddy used to be a very loquacious, gregarious person, but the years of drug and alcohol problems (though he's clean and sober now) have seriously escalated his natural manic-depressive personality, and he now has to be medicated for that condition so much that he's rather subdued these days. Along with that, he doesn't hear very well any more; the encroaching deafness and the medication (and the fact that he still smokes and is always ostracized to the porch at family gatherings) have combined to turn him into something of an introvert. And I guess that change in his personality has made it difficult for me to find topics of conversation with him. But I still enjoy spending time with him, even if we aren't talking at all.

And this is the most important thing: Daddy always let me know that he loved me and that he was proud of me. Every one of my achievements was met with congratulation, all of my failures were met with encouragement. He didn't always know the right thing to say, in fact he often said the exact wrong thing, but he always tried his best to be supportive. That is so important with a father.

So yesterday, Grandmother and I went out to Concord to attend church with Daddy and my step-sister Heidi. Aside from the fact that I am not a Christian, and Daddy's church starts at the most ungodly hour of 9:30 a.m. (so I had to get up at seven on a Sunday...that's just wrong), I nevertheless enjoyed it immensely. It was nice to see that Daddy does get out, that people besides us know him and like him. It's a fairly nice congregation, too. I sat in with Heidi's Sunday School class (I was going to go to Daddy's class, but it was in this teeny-tiny room, so Daddy dissuaded me from straining my claustrophobia there), and it was really quite fascinating: they're studying the book Letters from a Skeptic and were discussing Free Will in relation to some of the questions and theories put forward in that book. Questions like "Is there free will in Heaven?" and "Is love possible without free will?" and "Did Satan or Judas act of their own free will when they rebelled or betrayed God as foretold?" It was a really fascinating discussion, even though I hadn't read the book the discussion was based on, and I got a lot of ideas. Someday soon I will have to write a post about Free Will, it's one of my favorite topics (another thing I just now got...the pun inherent in the movie title Free Willy! God, that's awful!)

After church we met up with my sister Suzie and her brood (she is more anti-Christian than I am, and would not enter a church for any reason short of a wedding or funeral, and then only under duress) and went out to the Old Spaghetti Factory for lunch. We all had a great time, the food was good, it was fun watching Suzie and Heidi and their children interacting and giving the waitress a run for the money (I had to tip her 20%, even though the service wasn't so good, as a form of apology).

So it was a fairly nice Father's Day, and Daddy seemed to enjoy having us all together.

It was unfortunate for me that I also had a Galaxy Girls show that night...after getting four hours of sleep and then spending all morning and part of the afternoon en famille, then eating a huge and wildly starchy lunch...after all that, I had to rush home, shave again for maximum smoothness, throw my drags into the car, go jetting off to pick up rising new talent Miss Angelique deVil, and get over to Miss Daisy's house (through all this heat and Sunday-driver-slowpoke traffic) then get into face, then get over to San Rafael, squeeze into very tight dresses that were not designed to contain huge starchy Italian lunches, then put on one hell of a show with every scrap of high-energy I could muster (I performed Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine," and my arches are still killing me), schmooze with some of my favorite bloggers and some bloggers I'd not met before as well as other (nonblogging but no less dear) friends, then schlepp back and do the whole thing in reverse. I was exhausted! But it was all worth it.

However, it left me so tired that it's taken me the last six hours to complete and publish this one little post! After having accidentally published the unfinished and truncated version much earlier in the day! Jeez! I'm going to have to tell you the rest of what I was going to say tomorrow...if I remember what it was. God grant me the strength!

Good night, sweet darlings! (last edited and finally finalized at 11:15 p.m.)

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