Not Enough Ways to Remember a Dad
BY LISA ROMEO
Since my father died, I’ve noticed that when people talk about gone fathers, small things bubble up. The conversations I love begin, “Remember how he loved…he liked…he hated…” I am struck by how a father’s likes and dislikes, even idiosyncrasies that weren’t particularly endearing, bring our dads back.
He only went to church on Christmas, Easter, and Palm Sunday and made and sent tiny palm crosses in the mail.
My father seemed to know everything, and when he didn’t know, he made something up that sounded completely logical.
He read the Wall Street Journal daily because he knew that with a 10th grade education he didn’t know everything.
He knew how to palm a twenty in the hand of a maître D’.
He ran a polyester mill in the 1960s and 70s, but wore bespoke wool suits made. He wore cotton shorts up past his waist with socks and Italian leather loafers, and he wore ripped up old clothes around the yard and seemed comfortable in everything.
He said POOL instead of Pull, SAHARE rather than Sahara, and addressed my friend Grady as BRADY but understood put calls, margin and going short, and made enough from polyester and the stock market to retire at 55.
He whistled too loud, but when he whistled a ballad with his arm around your shoulder, you heard only love
He read widely, but never left books on the coffee table to impress.
He had hearing loss, but denied it, and answered questions with something unconnected, because instead of “Want me to get you a drink?” he heard, “Will you go away so I can think,” and replied, “Okay, I’ll take a walk.”
He was scared of others choking, always ready to do the Heimlich, and told me to “calm down” when I inherited that same fear.
He walked for exercise 20 years before it was popular, so slowly few people were willing to walk with him.
He liked the New York Times when he lived in New Jersey, and in Las Vegas, he called the local papers “rags” but read them anyway.
He bought a bicycle built for two, rode it once with my sister, then let me and the neighborhood kids ride it everywhere.
He taught me, before I was 21, to play blackjack, baccarat, craps, and roulette, but all I ever liked was keno.
He taught me the fox trot, waltz, and cha cha, and when I met a man who could dance, I was glad.
He taught me to drive, but was nervous on curving roads, and once I had a panic attack driving canyon roads from Malibu to L.A, had to pull over, and thought of my father.
He drove luxury cars, and once offered me his reliable Lincoln when my pick-up died and I needed to travel 400 miles for a horse show, and I reacted as if he’d offered to hold my hand at a job interview.
He said Fuck only once in my presence, but I frequently heard SonofabitchBastard.
He liked suites or the penthouse in luxury hotels, but didn’t like balconies because he feared we might lean over too far.
He liked non-tourist parts of big cities and buying an ice cream cone from a mom-and-pop shop.
He went to local art festivals, always bought something, shook the artist’s hand, and proudly displayed the item, though he could afford expensive art from galleries.
He was once an artist himself, something I’d forgotten until he was dead and I found the scrapbook with the brittle brown pages.
He paid landscaper, pool guys, and maids, but until he was 78, he cleaned four toilets every Saturday because he didn’t think anyone should have to clean someone else’s toilets.
He liked salami sandwiches on crusty Italian bread, olives before dinner, lobster fra diavolo, crepes suzette, escargot, Italian bread dipped into simmering tomato sauce, runny eggs, well-charred steak, frogs’ legs, Napoleon pastries, and fries from Burger King.
He was the only adult in my young life who never told me I read too much.
He liked to cook scrambled eggs mixed with peas and cut up hot dogs, and sauerkraut with tomato sauce and cut up hot dogs, but he didn’t eat hot dogs in buns.
He disliked rock music, the way people wore sneakers all the time, church on Sundays, cats, and anyone who was unkind to an old person.
He would do household repairs if it involved duct tape.
He laughed one Christmas when we gave him a book, “100 Unusual Uses for Duct Tape,” and laughed again when we wrapped up a half-dozen rolls of duct tape.
He liked to have the last word.
He would have made a great old fart know-it-all, the kind who knows everything was better before. Before, when he was here.