My dad in early June of 2001.
He was riding his bike home and went straight through a turn-only light and got clobbered. By bike, I mean Harley and by clobbered, I mean flung 60 feet or so into a concrete embankment. The young woman driving the car that hit him was terrified and crushed. If she ever stumbles across this (which I doubt) I hope she knows I bear her no ill will. The accident was not her fault, it was just one of those random events that shakes up the worlds of the people who experience it.
Still, I prefer to not dwell on his death save to say I believe each of us has a heaven. My dad’s heaven probably consists of loud motorcycles, guns, and young women who are smart (but not quite as smart as him) and are into skimpy clothes.
I prefer to remember my dad’s life. He was every inch the caricature of masculinity: divorced multiple times,loved guns, rode Harleys, used to race motorcross. He was a giant in many ways and I loved him very much. So, with that in mind, I’d like to share a few tidbits and stories.
Once, when I was visiting him in Arizona we were eating a some fast-food restaurant when a young woman from college came in. My dad took one look at her and told me I should ask her out. I tried to explain to him that I lived and went to school in New Mexico and this was Arizona.
“You’re thinking buy. You need to think rent.”
His first piece of advice when I got my first car? Bear in mind now, this was a beat-up ’65 Volkswagen Beetle with no headliner, no carpeting, and torn up seats. The back seat was about a foot wide and made out of some kind of vinyl that had seen better days. So, anyway, my dad’s first piece of advice?
“Don’t get anyone pregnant in the back seat.”
He also patiently told me that I should never kill anyone, but if worse came to worse and I had to, to use a bow and arrow because guns already had too bad a rap.
From the outside, he seemed a larger than life character, brash and boisterous, and full of ill-conceived advice about women, politics, and guns. Tear away that facade, though, and he was different. I remember going to Arizona for a speech and debate tournament once and he came down to see me. Somehow or another, the guys I was sharing a room with managed to take off with both keys so my dad and I sat in the Motel 6 parking lot talking. It was at that time that I actually got to know him. I found out a little more about why he and my mom got a divorce and what he was really like when you stripped away the veneer.
He wasn’t actually a bad guy, he just really liked for people to think that he was.
His final piece of advice to me on women. “Treat them right because, you know, they really deserve it.”
So, those are the moments I choose to remember. He was a good guy and I really miss him sometimes.
This weekend, my son and I were at the AKKA Black Belt weekend. My son was officially acting as support for one of the other kids in the school that was testing for his junior black belt. I was kind of along for the ride and wound up remembering why I took the art up in the first place. It was the kind of father/son bonding that I hope feeds into his memories, so some day he can tell his son or daughter the story of the time he punched me in the jaw and kicked me in the nuts. I was assisting with a blocking lesson and my son was one of my students. My blocking was slow and he got a little exuberant. I hope he remembers times like that and how I looked him square in the eye and said, “I’m totally gonna tell mom.”
So, happy Father’s Day to y’all. I hope you have some good memories or, better yet, a dad you can talk to without using a Ouija board.