There have only been a handful of times that Dad has caused me to wet my pants, and he finds these stories funny enough to recount to virtual strangers.
♦ There was the time we were at Disney World in line for the Carousel of Progress ride. I told him I had to go but we had been waiting in line for a while and he asked me to hold it. Sure enough, half way through I couldn’t hold it any longer. I looked at Dad wide-eyed, unsure of what to do and hoping he had a magical solution. Nope. He told me to pop a squat and just let it out. When we exited the ride, he told an attendant I’d had a minor accident and we were ‘still working’ on being a big girl. The nerve!
♦ The time I was mowing the yard and wanted to come in to use the bathroom but couldn’t open the door because of the big spider on the handle. Dad stood behind the screen door acting like he didn’t understand what was happening. I danced around, crossed my legs back and forth and begged him to open up. He finally did, but jumped at me yelling “ahhh the spider is on you!!” which terrified me just enough to wet my pants.
♦ Of course any time we were at the beach he encouraged me to just go in the ocean. One year I got stung by a jellyfish and was too scared to even go close to the water. So he just sat me as close as I would get without crying and made me go in the sand.
♦ Rather than stop even once on the eight hour road trip to my grandparents, he just made me go in a tupperware container which I then “got” to throw out the window.
But life with Dad wasn’t all pants-wetting and tupperware throwing. There was fire-fly killing (to make Dad a glow in the dark nose ring), cigarette ash drinking (that’s what I get for drinking out of his can of soda) and lots of laundry shrinking (which I think he did on purpose so I would wash my own clothes). But there was also coin collecting and sorting, ice cream for breakfast eating, and board game playing. So in honor of Father’s Day, I thought I would reminisce on life with a bachelor dad.
The first thing my Dad said when I was born was “I’m going to have to pay someone to take her to prom”. Granted, I had just arrived via emergency C-section and was a little blue, but still…this exemplifies our relationship perfectly I think. Teasing me, second-guessing me, aggravating each other and always trying to pay guys to date me.
Dad wanted a boy. He’s told me this many times through the years. He wanted a boy and he wanted to name him Mickey after his favorite dog as a child. In fact, even when he realized I was a girl, he wanted to name me Mickey. He dressed me in overalls and turtlenecks with trains on them and gave me toy cars. I don’t think it was until I was about four and demanded that I wear white lace gloves at all times that he finally acquiesced.
My parents got divorced when I was very young, but I’m lucky that Dad was willing and able to be at nearly every dance recital or school play. In pre-school I got to make TWO of every art project and when my class got in a single file line to walk to the park, we always stopped at the post office to mail my project to Dad.
He incessantly teased me; telling me I had a sister that lived in the hall closet named Sally who was around when I wasn’t visiting. He liked her better because unlike me she took naps and didn’t refuse to bathe, a fact that resulted in the still-used-to-this-day nickname Stinky.
He practiced behavior modification theories on me; rewarding me with M&Ms when I successfully used the potty or sang Zip-A-Dee-Do-Da to his friends. He taught me to tell time on a Mickey Mouse watch he got me after the Carousel of Progress Incident.
Dad would send me ‘homework’-notebooks where he had written out letters of the alphabet for me to trace and then recreate on my own. Mom would help and we would mail my work back to him to grade. If I did well, he would return it with grape smelling scratch and sniff stickers.
He would drive to Nashville in his old beat up blue Toyota and we would stay in La Quintas or Ramadas and watch TV, swim in the hotel pool for hours and eat at Cracker Barrel. Or we would drive back to Kentucky in the sticky heat of the Toyota with the windows rolled all the way down to compensate for no air-conditioning and sing songs at the top of our (my) lungs to compensate for no radio. When I could read, I would read him all the jokes out of Reader’s Digest and he would make me memorize them to tell people. Reader’s Digest turned into school reading and Wee Sing Silly Songs turned into New Kids On The Block, but Dad still listened. We would always stop at McDonald’s and he would always get a fish sandwich and I would always tell him it was disgusting.
He relentlessly played Barbie with me, even though I wouldn’t let him talk and made him be things like the closet (he held the clothes) or the shower (Barbie stood under his hand). He bought me craft projects like Shrink-a-Dinks and color by numbers and puzzles by the dozen. He took me to his office and let me play school with all his books and run up and down the halls talking to everyone.
Anytime I told him I was hungry or tired, he would respond “Nice to meet you Hungry, I’m John”. Every.Single.Time.
He let me wear my lace gloves and cut his hair and paint his nails and called me by my ‘salon’ name, Stephanie Lake.
He made me pretend to be younger than I was so we could get discount tickets to things.
One summer I went to Magic Camp and he sat through all my horrible tricks. That Christmas, he bought me a book on how to make balloon animals. He still encourages me to put both on my resume.
He taught me to ride my bike and didn’t curse when he fell over and busted his knee. He took me ice skating and didn’t curse when I tripped him and he sliced his leg open on my skate.
When I got chicken pox during spring break, he bought me a Nintendo system and tried to give me equal playing time on Dr. Mario. When I was suffering from some sort of vicious bug attack, he put me in a tub of oatmeal and tried not to laugh too hard at my rash.
He once presented me with a signed copy of Happy Potter and didn’t tell me for months that the signature was actually his.
After I ran into the picket fence trying to pull into the driveway, he made me park on the street indefinitely. If the dog was in the car, I had to sit in the back. If we saw someone backing out of the parking spot he wanted, he made me get out and stand there so no one else would park there.
When it was time to buy a bra, he took me to the department store and announced loudly to anyone who would listen that I thought I needed a training bra. When I started my period for the first time, I came home to a kitchen table filled with every single kind of feminine product available because he wasn’t sure what to buy.
When I started dating, he would ask my dates their intentions at the same time he showed them a picture of three year old me napping in nothing but my tap shoes. When I said goodbye at the front door, he would call out the window, encouraging me to ‘kiss him already.’
In high school, my curfew was 10 and if I missed it, he would find me. Like, literally find me. I wasn’t allowed to do anything or talk to anyone without him knowing, even though the things I wanted to do were totally innocent like getting ice cream after youth group or spending an extra hour at the mall on Saturday. At a pool party the summer before senior year, I wanted to stay out late and he said no. I tried to rebel and told him I was staying anyway. Fifteen minutes later Dad was by the pool, telling me it was time to go home.
He once went to a bar with me and a friend and tried to pay guys to dance with us. At my cousin’s wedding last year he not only paid a waiter at the rehearsal dinner to talk to me, he gave my phone number to both bartenders at the reception.
We don’t always get along and we rarely see things the same way, but he will always be the guy that took me bowling on Christmas afternoons, taught me how to dance properly (and to do the Gator) and bought me a snow globe from every place he traveled. He’s just Dad.