This year I joined the group I had been dreading for years, the dead parent’s club. It’s not a club I wanted to belong to; I didn’t ask to join, I would have refused if given the option, and I may have even kicked someone’s ass to keep out of it. I want to be honest, it sucks to belong but there are others that feel your pain and give you strength. My parents both made us kids promise two things; first no matter what we do and how much we disagree we would always love each other and second, that we would not mourn their deaths and focus on the good times. My dad was a funny guy, probably where I get most of my charm and sense of humor. He was always trying to do things to make us laugh and when we got too old for his antics he just switched to our kids. My brothers and I had several things about my dad that drove us crazy and made us laugh, my kids love these stories and actually beg me to tell them at least once a week.
My dad loved a good buffet, actually he loved ANY buffet. The cheaper and dirtier the place, the better – or so he thought. He had one place in particular that he loved to go, it was a Chinese buffet in a rundown strip mall, and while he got food poisoning every single time he went he could not help but return. I would try to lay out the logic for him every time he called and said he had gotten the “flu” after eating there, but he wasn’t buying it. I would tell him he couldn’t catch the flu 6 times in one month and that shitting yourself silly wasn’t actually the “flu”, but he thought I was crazy and would still invite me to go every time he went. My kids ask why grandpa would keep going there even after he got sick, I finally told them I thought it was some type of diet where he could consume 8,000 calories but crap out 10,000 and other people would probably catch on to it eventually. We call it the Larry diet!
My dad was a collector of junk and could not physically pass up a yard sale sign, it was like his car was programmed to stop. When we were kids they would pack us up in the car and we would drive around for hours, hitting every yard sale in our county. I seem to remember getting a Members Only jacket with someone else’s initials on the front of it and being told to wear it anyway cuz it was 50 cents. While I don’t think he was a hoarder he would buy things that he knew he would never use. “Check out this quesadilla maker I got for $6, it was only used once!” The fact that he hated Mexican food and would not cook anything other than a fried egg had nothing to do with his decision, it was a good deal and he was getting it. In the garage he had boxes of every size screw you can imagine and all sorts of scrap metal, just in case he was ever going to weld something (did I mention he didn’t own a welder?). I have a severe aversion to clutter and clean out my closet every three months, I am guessing I don’t need a therapist to tell me where that issue came from.
Sometime after age 50 my father became obsessed with gas prices, weather and certain politicians. I have no idea what triggered this to happen, it was like an overnight change, and it was how he opened every phone conversation we had. Sadly whenever he asked me what the current gas price in Virginia was I had no answer for him and I could hear his disappointment through the phone. He really wanted to be able to get worked up over what I was paying per gallon and all I could tell him was I think I paid $56, and no I did not remember how low the tank was when I fueled up. I sensed he had a calculator out and was trying to break it down to overcome my lack of gas price knowledge. When driving from Michigan to Virginia at Thanksgiving, my 9 year old pointed out that gas was $2.07 a gallon and wouldn’t grandpa be thrilled if he were alive. I told them my best guess was that grandpa got the Gas God in a full nelson and was squeezing him until the prices drop back under $2.00.
Losing him was hard, but remembering him is easy. I do my very best to think about all the fun we had for more than 40 years and how lucky I am to have had him all that time. Even now when I have tears forming in my eyes I look up one paragraph and see the Gas God comment and I laugh out loud and I am reminded to give all the love I can to my own little darlings, and to offer up some kind of bribe so they don’t repeat all the crazy things their mom did to strangers one day.