Monday, January 8, 2018

Things My Dad Taught Me

My dad was, to put it in the best light, a unique individual.  He had many sides, not all of them pleasant.  But to me, his most enjoyable side was what I call The Child.  Poor impulse control, unbridled curiosity, and a lack of concern about what others thought of him while he was following his curiosity.  Of course there are definitely unpleasant aspects to having a parent who is a child, but I'm here today to tell you about the fun ones.

I picked this particular aspect of him to cultivate within myself.  Although I do try to be a little more circumspect about witnesses when I am in the throws of poor impulse control.  I can't tell you how many hours I spent as a kid crawling around on my hands and knees following ants to see where they were going- not because I particularly cared, but because it's what my dad was doing.   Or literally up to my knees in mud catching frogs and finding giant yellow clams. Who knew we even had giant yellow clams here?  Have you ever seen an ant lion?  Did you know they even exist?  I do.  and just for your general knowledge in case you are ever tempted to check it out, being up to your knees in mud is a very very difficult walking scenario.

We climbed (and jumped out of) trees that should never have been climbed, crawled through old stone tunnels under the RR tracks, trespassed anywhere interesting, and just generally messed around in places any reasonable adult would never have approved of.  I know more about what lives under rocks, rotted trees, old houses, in tunnels (with and without water) and a million other strange things that the average human wouldn't even think about checking out.  My brother and I can even accurately predict when to go out looking for spotted salamanders because we know when they are going to be heading for breeding grounds- and where those breeding grounds are likely to be.  

I look back to my childhood, the adventure, the stupid things we did, and the stories Dad would tell and I am damn impressed.  I calculate, if I was between 7 and 12 years old during those times, my dad was only late 20s and early 30s.  There was no internet.  But he knew stuff.  He knew all about King Philip's war (the Indian battle in the Berlin/Bolton/Lancaster area) and other stories that sounded like tall tales, which I learned later, were dead on.  He knew stuff to eat in the woods and how to judge if water drinkable- I'm going to assume due to the lack of intestinal parasites and that I am still alive he was correct on that too.  He was never in the boy scouts.  I have no idea where he learned all those things.  It sure wasn't from his dad who from all stories I have ever heard, spent every spare moment drinking.

I also learned from my dad that a grown man should NOT jump up and down on a giant coil of abandoned rusty fencing.  I can attest that it will NOT bounce as dad thought.  I do believe he broke his thumb on that one.  I learned that as cool as it is that your foot sinks in the sand where spring water is bubbling up, putting your foot there and seeing how deep it goes is NOT a great idea.  In fact, it pushes up all the water out of the sand and cements your foot into a freezing boot of solid sand (He kinda lost his humor over that one after the first hour of us trying to dig him out).  I learned McDonald's workers are neither paid enough to put up with, nor amused by, people who go through the drive through and order a Whopper with "yellow sticks."  

My father was, in current terms, a hot mess.  He never truly grew up and that could be both wonderful and terrible.  But I think for today I'm going to think about the amusing, shake my head in wonder that we survived, and share one final little thing-

For years I thought my mother was the biggest bitch ever for taking down the rope swing Dad put up in our yard.  Man that thing was fun.  Especially once a load of giant tree pieces was delivered and we could swing to so many different surfaces.  Truly, it wasn't until I had my own kids and Dad wanted to begin "adventuring" with them that I really got it.  Seriously?  What kind of Dad installs a rope swing directly over a huge swath of good old fashioned New England granite ledge and tells his kids, "go have a ball"?

I really should ask my mother if they had life insurance on us.  It sure would explain a lot if they did.

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