The 18th anniversary of my father’s passing occurred last week, bringing up a lot of memories. Happy, sad and humorous. My dad was highly intelligent, sensitive, creative as well as extremely funny. Deadpan funny at times. Irreverently funny. Like the time he called his hospital roommate a “disaster” for no reason other than the man was too loud and talked in his sleep. Or the time he called a short, water-carrying tanker truck we passed on the highway “humpty-dumpty.”  Or the time he called my former next-door neighbor “backfield in motion” because her rear end was large and jiggled from side to side when she walked. 

Politically incorrect? Absolutely. Misogynistic? Certainly. But I challenge anyone who saw my neighbor to not find a kernel of truth in his description. 

Life on Life’s Terms

We all regret things we’ve said in haste without fully understanding the person to whom or about whom irreverent things were directed, and my father was no exception. He had no problem apologizing when necessary. And he was sensitive to a fault, having been subjected in his youth to vile and incomprehensible behavior from his parents. His father methodically—and with great pleasure—beat him when my dad didn’t practice the violin properly. His mother abandoned him at the impressionable age of 13 for three years when she left the family to cohabit with another man and produce two more children. My grandfather’s inexcusable rage could have easily been attributed to his wife’s philandering and my dad was an easy target on which to take out his anger. Still, my dad never became a violent person because of his father’s abuse, never took out his anger on anyone, family, friend or foe. My dad’s terrible childhood was likely the reason he developed a brazen sense of humor to live life on life’s terms.

Because he was placed in foster care while my grandmother made a new family with another man, my father had to deal with social workers, which were mostly women back in the day. His mother’s abandonment and disloyalty created in him a cauldron of contempt for women, exacerbated by these social worker women’s regular visits. He never told me how he felt when my grandmother returned to the family with two more children to raise. Two babies too young to ever know the truth about their biological father. My father may have simply been so happy to have his mother back than to question her bad decisions. He may have also been thrilled to have siblings, even with the big differences in age.

Fighting His Nature

Throughout his life, my father battled his misogynistic tendencies, his love-hate connections with women and he had a contentious relationship with his mother till the day she died. The biggest irony was that he produced two daughters and I believe that fact tempered his disdain for females. Still, he never missed an opportunity to remark negatively about the new phenomenon at the time of female sideline sports reporters, or how women TV anchors’ shrill voices hurt his ears. He also had a soft spot for blonde women of all ages and may have acted out inappropriately in his advanced age when he met blondes of any age. 

He was a great provider, an educator, deeply spiritual and always wanted the best for his daughters. World travel for the family, ballet and piano lessons for me and flute lessons for my sister. Yet I’m sure he was expecting (and wanted) a boy when I was born. While he discouraged any tomboy tendencies in me, he subliminally encouraged me to watch sports on TV, particularly football. Which I fell in love with immediately. Some of the best times we spent together were at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum watching the 1960s Rams fight it out on the gridiron.

For all the politically incorrect and at times inappropriate comments and behavior he made during his wonderful life, he made up for them with his guidance, love and humor. Those priceless times watching football with him—on TV or in person— will remain with me till the day I die.