Monday, October 20, 2008


October is not really my favorite month. I used to love it - football in full swing, I was still playing fall baseball. The weather had cooled, and the leaves were changing. It's a pretty nice time of year around DC. Then, three years ago this month, my father passed away suddenly. My father was great - he was my best friend; he was just about the smartest, most curious person I have ever known. He was a jock, a nerd, a band-geek, a carpenter, a lawyer, and an Army veteran. He taught me how to think for myself, how to always want to become better, how to take care of people who you care about, and how to be stubborn in pursuit of things that are important to you.

He had a head full of useful and useless knowledge - I am pretty sure he knew the answer to the Jeopardy! questions before Alex Trebek read them, and I personally witnessed him going through at least ten shows where he knew EVERY ANSWER. Why he never went on the show is beyond me, but I would say (admitting my bias) that if he had, nobody would know about that guy from Utah who won all those days in a row.

He never stopped to impress me with all the obvious things, but the more I think about him and look back, the more I remember the little things.

I was driving down Rt. 7 at Bailey's Crossroads the other day and went by what is now a furniture store and DSW Shoe Warehouse. I am sure most Arlington natives will recall that before the days of Home Depot and Lowe's, on that site, we had Hechinger's. My dad spent most hours on the weekends either at Hechinger's buying stuff to build, or in the basement building it in his workroom. Obviously, this meant I spent about the same time in those two places as he did. I would wander around and watch him fill the cart with stuff that would eventually become part of our house, in awe that he even knew what most of the stuff was.

I remember every time we left Hechinger's, I would beg him to stop off in the Toys R Us across the street, and on the rare occasion when he agreed, I would find that AWESOME GI Joe or Transformer, and beg and beg for him to buy it for me, but he never would...but he always remembered what I had been raving about, and I don't think there was a Christmas morning when all those toys wouldn't end up under the tree, in packages signed by different Christmas figures like 'Santa Claus', 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer', and numerous Elves, all in my father's distinct handwriting. It didn't matter that I knew they weren't from Santa. It was better that they were from my dad.

I can remember going to the congressional offices on Capitol Hill on Saturday mornings so my dad could talk to some congressman or staffer about some such thing he was working on at the time. I would run up and down the halls of the Longworth Building, doubtless not that amusing to all the folks trying to work, and just when I would get so bored that I couldn't stand it anymore, my dad would appear to take me downstairs to the Longworth cafeteria, where I swear they had THE BEST PANCAKES IN THE WHOLE WORLD. My dad would pick me up so I could see over the counter to order, and I would get a heaping plate of hot delicious food that I never finished, no matter how hard I tried. I am pretty sure it tasted so good because I was eating it with my dad. He would take me on the underground train that went from office to office, which NEVER got old. Then I would sometimes convince him that we should go see the Smithsonian museums AGAIN, and he humored me, looking at the same dinosaur bones and moon landers that we had looked at so many times.

I remember being allowed to stay up late, tuning into WJR760 to listen to Ernie Harwell regale us with the story of the magical 1984 Detroit Tigers. I remember asking my dad why they booed every time Sweet Lou Whitaker came to the plate, only to be reminded that they were saying "Looooooooooouuuuuuuu", just before he rapped a single to start another rally. I can remember living and dying with every Jack Morris strikeout, every double play turned by Lou and Alan Trammell, and every home run off the bat of Kirk Gibson. My dad tought me to love sports, to cherish competition, and how there were so many ways that sport was like life - practice makes perfect no matter what you are doing, sometimes equating math to batting practice. That October was a good one, with the Tigers mopping the floor with the Padres 4-1 in the World Series. We still listened on the radio even though the games were on television.

I remember being in college, moving into a new apartment, and talking to my dad, complaining that it was pretty hot because there was no air conditioning. I came home that weekend, and there was a window air conditioner that he had picked up at a garage sale for me that morning. I just sort of took it for granted at the time, but I realize now that the reason for that is because he had been doing that kind of stuff all along.

It's amazing all the stuff you take for granted. I talked to my dad sometimes 3-4 times a day. He was my best friend, like I said. When Michigan was actually playing well in the first half against Penn State this weekend, I picked up the phone and started dialing my father to express my surprise, like I had done so many times before. I stopped myself after dialing 703, like I have done so many times over the past three years. In the second half, when the tides turned, and Penn State was running away with the game, I started dialing again...


Rex said...

man - reading this entry reminds me of ed and the type of father i want to be...