So it’s Father’s Day. And THIS is my Dad. It’s one of my favorite pictures of him, and in it he’s celebrating a professional victory. A BIG win on a BIG case in the BIG Easy. He looks cool, right? I mean, everybody has a picture of their dad wearing a leather Bomber jacket over a duck appliquéd sweater over a fancy Cousin Eddie mock turleneck dickie, for sure. He’s smoking the celebratory cigar, and I can still remember his favorites – Flora Fina 858. Look carefully, and you can see my reflection in the glass of the frame. You can see a lot of him in me today. He helped frame who I am, and as I reflect on the 24 years that I was blessed to have spent with him, I do it with a smile on my face. Good, but with no cigar… Yet!

One time when I was flipping through old photo albums, my daughter, who was about 4 at the time, entered the room and the conversation went something like this:

JC: You know, I KNOW what your dad was.
Me: Oh, really? How did you know? Did I tell you?
JC: No. But I know what it means.
{dramatically looking down her nose at me as I was sitting on the floor}
He was one of those guys that stands around a store or parking lot and doesn’t pay for anything.
{And she narrowed her little eyes disapprovingly}
Me: Wait, whaaa?? HUH??? Where did you hear that?
JC: I saw it on a sign and asked you what the word meant.
Me: {frantically flashing back through my mind to recall what I could POSSIBLY
have said to have disparaged my dad so…. BING! Light bulb illuminates}
Oooooh!!! No, Honey. I must’ve confused you. My dad was a LAWYER not a LOITERER.
JC: What’s the difference?
Me: Well… Um… Nevermind actually. Just go with that I guess.

Dad was an attorney. He was a pretty damn good one too. His strength was in the courtroom where he had an amazing ability to connect with jurors and colleagues alike. It was just something that came naturally to him, and his personal attributes helped him professionally. He was a small town guy that was more relatable to the every day Joe than the big city high falutin corporate types. I’ll never forget the time he told me about how opposing counsel walked into the conference room to prepare for depositions and everyone had to wait while Bentley, Baron & Higgins (or whatever their Ivy League sounding names were) inked up their Mont Blancs with their little wells. Dad finally got annoyed, I guess, at their tactics used to intimidate the poor little commoner being deposed, and pulled out his Bic like a knight in shining armor brandishing his sword to save the day. “C’mon, Guys. Let’s get this going,” he said. He was a great litigator and his reputation as such allowed him an edge when trying to settle cases out of court. He was a formidable opponent in the courtroom so other attorneys often wisely chose to settle rather than risk a duel. People almost HAD to like him even if they were against him. It was a double edged sword for an opponent.

Daddy held an office on the 6th floor of a local building with a view of the lake. I even got to work there as a runner for the law firm. It was a very prestigious position as I believe I was the ONLY runner in town who’s job title was truly accurate. I literally ran all over downtown in the summer heat and humidity frizzing my hair with each important delivery that I made since I did not have a car. Ever the outdoorsman, he also kept a set of high powered binoculars perched on his window sill in that office so that he could look out and into the boats on the lake. If the birds were working and his own work could wait, he’d fly down the road to the house where he kept his boat. Many a partner of his may recall getting a phone call saying, “Meet me downstairs at the seawall. I’ll pick you up in the boat in 10 minutes.“ Those same guys may also remember getting into a bit of trouble at home when they’d arrive from a long day at “work” with their suit paints smelling of salt water air and fish guts. I may need to set my own sights on a nice set of binoculars for myself someday because from where I sit at my vanity/writing desk, I have a similar view. Except I don’t live in a big HOUSE. Or have an OFFICE. And neither are on a LAKE. But since I DO have a second floor apartment, my view of the SEWAGE POND from the TRAILER PARK behind me and it’s residential POOL offer me quite an entertaining view from my HOME/OFFICE ifIdosaysomyselfthankyouverymuch!

We weren’t fancy at all. At least I never thought so. My father did wear suits everyday however and drive a mean silver Buick Park Avenue which got me into trouble when The Counselor himself decided I needed to go to Crazy Camp one summer due to the despair and devastation that I exhibited after having lost the student council election. Yep. His intentions were good in trying to bolster my self esteem, but I ended up being ostracized by the other kids at camp who had “behavior disorders” because my father dropped me off every morning in his “fancy” car while wearing his “fancy” suit. The day my Book About Me was showcased to the other kids as a wonderful example of how to think positively about oneself was the day I presented MY argument to the camp counselors as well as The Counselor himself as to why I did not belong there. I won my case and never attended again, though my sisters still like to tell my Crazy Camp stories when we‘re sitting around the fire. {Sigh}

Would you even think it possible for a man that had shamed me by being so dapper to also find a way to shame me with his rags? With my dad, anything was possible. This same guy, admittedly on advice from a Summer Art Camp counselor, attended our open house at the end of camp wearing his grass cutting clothes – torn jeans (before those were cool) and a stained shirt – should some sudden desire to paint and participate overtake him. Thank goodness my mom set off his hobo look with her own Dynasty attire – purple one piece jumpsuit, rhinestone belt with her Linda-Carter-as-Wonder-Woman-esque cuff bracelet and hair stylishly pulled back into a banana clip. If only she’d brought along her invisible plane, we could’ve whisked away and left my father when he refused to quit drawing attention to himself and blend in or be quiet as I ghastly watched for disapproving glares from my fellow artists. He just wouldn’t stop introducing himself and talking. It made me wanna cut off my ears.

My dad was my guy. He taught me to hunt and didn’t complain when I never really enjoyed it. He taught me to fish and how to shut up so that I wouldn’t scare away the fish. Fishing is when you STOP talking. And though THEY don’t have ears, they really can hear you from the boat. They stay away because they know that talking means you’re going to throw a hook into the water, jerk them into a boat and eat them for dinner, right?? It’s true. My daddy said so. He was a marathon runner and I’ve compared some of my own hurdles in life to finishing a marathon like he did. I hung his picture from the Boston Marathon in my new room to serve as inspiration for me to keep a steady pace. He taught me to ride a bike, and as the saying goes, “Life is like riding a bike. In order to keep your balance you must keep moving.“ I wouldn’t say Dad was a lot like Einstein, but he WAS smart and one of my fondest memories of him was mountain bike riding in Wyoming in 1997. We shared an apple under a tree and a beer in a bar after that ride. He attended dance recitals for his girls and missed a few weekends with his buddies and their SONS to video tape us, too. My guy only mildly protested to me when I chose opening weekend of turkey hunting season for my wedding and probably had his friends bribed into attending and missing opening weekend as well so they could see his daughter walk down the aisle and not leave HIM behind.

Daddy didn’t make it to the wedding. He went on vacation, went for a run on the beach, and then succumbed to a sudden heart attack. I know he saw it though. And his best friends were still there in the church for me. After they buried him, they also hung out around his truck in the driveway just like they used to do at hunting camp and roasted and toasted him. Big tough manly men cried when my dad died which was awkward for me to watch but helpful for me as an adult to see that those Gus & Call Lonesome Dove-types were human too. The day I arrived back home after his death was like a carnival. Literally. The neighbor was having a party and using our driveway and wharf for the horse carriage rides and balloons. Kinda surreal at the time, but not that extraordinary or unexpected if you know us. Of COURSE that’s what would happen on such a day. He still watches over us now. I think he gets his kicks out of watching his girls and his grandkids lead their fabulously flawed and hilarious lives. I also think he’d be as proud of us as we still are of him. And between looking down on our crazy earthly moments, I bet he’s watching the birds. Because if the birds are working, so are the fish. And if the fish are there, I bet he is too. And I bet he’s happy. And I am too.

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