Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The difference between two squares is not a menthol....

In the very early-eighties, when I was a shin-high innocuous eyed snotty nose little moppet who was just learning the Lord's Prayer prior to the alphabet, Mom would buckle me into the car seat of our mackerel-flavored station wagon as she guzzled around town attending errands. Wedding snapshots framed from August of '72 show Mom looking like the daughter of a mafia "He's-a-freind-o-mine" bussiness mongrel. Her skin was graced with a gentle olive tint. Her black licorice hair was one long exotic drape skiing down her back. Mom was a Lutheran elementary school teacher and was on loan from Conocrdia Riverforest doing her student teaching in Peoria, where she met my father.

God love my old man. He wore black framed glasses and had a mop of curly black hair. Sometimes he sported a thick beard (he would have accelerated reading contests with his kids at school and if they read a certain number of books, Dad would volitionally shave his beard in front of the whole school!) Dad was thirty when I was born and was twenty-four when he and mom married. They were married exactly 29 1/2 when he died.

Dad was gangly and goofy. He was modest. He spent thirty years teaching fourth graders. He led the class in AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL every morning. He would get offended by vulgar language and televised nudity. Instead of saying the word "shit" or "damn" when he was emotionally irked, he'd say the word "crow".The only time in my life I can ever remember my father crying was two weeks before his death, it was the day he was diagnosed with cancer and I snuck back into the hospital after hours to see him. It was maybe nine at night. Dad was in his bed. He told me very calmly not to worry. He told me that he had his faith. He then asked me to hand him the phone. When I did he tapped in the number to his school secretary and told her that he would have to take a week off. That he was sick. She was concerened and kept asking dad what was wrong. At that moment Dad's face just fell apart in tears. I think he knew that he was going. I think he knew that he was saying goodbye to friends and co-workers. That he was saying goodbye to the three deacdes of students.

Dad then gave me the phone. I told him that I loved him and he told me that he had his faith. Told me that he'd be fine. He then asked me a favor.

"I need you to take care of your mom."


Rather than Lee or Wranglers, Dyslexia is the pair of jeans both my father and I share. Every time you see a 'teh' typo, know that that's how the word 'the" appears in my head. When I was a kid and was maternally mandated to rinse my germy paws off before dinner, I always told my mom that I washed my hands thoroughly with LAID-or DIAL soap. Not bad for a five year old.

My dad always wanted to write. He often would submit editorials to the Urinal Jar (Journal Star, Peoria Newspaper). The coolest thing my father did growing up (although I didn't appreciate it until my mid-twenties) was that he read to his children. Every night after dishes, dad would prop open a literary tome compliments of scholastic books and read to his three children--doing all the voices. To this day Dad's indelible Dawn Treader raspy-pitched Reepicheep ranks only second to his perfectly-peeped Lloyd Alexander curious-voiced Gurgi. Everyone loves a Gurgi because Gurgi " loves crunchies and munchies."

Dad would adjust his weight in the old rocker we refurbished, toating his voice back and forth, sawing ideas and sculpting stories into fledgling mindframe of his young students. At the begining of every night Dad would always do what he called an "instant replay," He would read teh (or "the") final paragraph of the previous chapter. Hs kids would offer typical pre-adolescent grouse.

"Dad you already read that." Us kids would point out in a nightly anomolous squeal, all to anxious for my father to finish reading so that we could have our indivualized ideas uprooted compliments of the 'one hour' of mostly public television we were allowed to watch everynight.

"I know," My dad would say, clicking his tongue in his mouth for suspended affect. "It's time for a little, In-stant Re-play."


I've been thinking about my dad because Booma Jaspers who works at teh (the) University bookstore handed me a poloroid this morning of my family in the very late seventies. It was an easter egg hunt at my old church. My face was unblemished and inocent and I bore alter-boy bangs. I am in the center of the picture holding my easter egg basket, looking curiuosly at life through the filmy-yellow poloroid tongue that emits from Booma's face. My mom cut her hair while I nested in her womb and growing up, she almost always wore a kercheif. My Mom is pointing at the spring soil like she has never seen grass. My father is holding my sister. He is down on one knee, fixing her outfit. He is wearing a cool-retro style hat I have never seen before.

"Dude man." My friend Nick the writer told me this afternoon when I whipped out the double-decade old print. "He certainly looks like a man of charachter."


daku said...

D, this made me thing of the following quote:

My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting.

That's how I see your heart.

David Von Behren said...

It's only a mirror for your smile...thanks for reading....(smiles)