Early one Sunday morning a month or so before I married the Big Guy, my father showed up at my place with a box of doughnuts. And when I say “early”, I mean “before 7:00”. Really early. Too damn early to be conscious on a Sunday morning.
Especially since the Big Guy had stayed the night.
Now I realize it really wasn’t all that scandalous, not in this day and age. Especially not since we were both well into our twenties and our wedding was literally weeks away. But I don’t think any father wants to accept the fact that his little girl is no longer a blushing virgin; and no woman looks forward to the confirming that fact to her daddy.
I immediately went into panic mode and told the Big Guy to sneak out the back door.
“But he’ll see me.”
“Then hide in the bedroom until he leaves.”
“My truck is in the driveway. He’s already seen it. He’s parked behind it.”
We just stared at each other. Finally, I wrapped up in my robe and went to answer the door with as much dignity as I could muster with my wild bed-hair and mussed make-up . . . and quite possibly a visible hickey or two. We all three acted as though everyone was fully dressed, right down to the wedding rings that weren’t on our hands yet.
I left the two men alone in the living room while I went to the kitchen to make the coffee. When I returned, they were in the midst of an animated conversation about garbage pick-up day and which were the best neighborhoods for finding “stuff” that was still good, that could be fixed. In that moment, I had two thoughts: They really like each other and Oh, crap, they are exactly alike.
Dad and the Big Guy continued to get along really well over the next few years, although Dad had a few habits that definitely annoyed him. Most of those habits involved Dad showing up at our house unannounced.
Dad’s third wife kept him on a pretty tight leash. I still adore her and believe that the two of them really were soulmates, but she had certain rules that he had no choice but to follow. She dried him out, cleaned him up, and made him respectable; he still had his lapses, however.
Once in a while, he still liked to have a beer and a cigarette. Stepmom flatly refused to allow either behavior in their home, so he would park his little red truck in different places on our land and spend an hour or two “reading the paper”. It drove the Bug Guy crazy; he couldn’t understand why Dad didn’t just come to the door and have his drink and smoke in the open.
Dad also hated to give up his junk-picking habit. He loved to find “repairable” items on the side of the road, but those items were definitely not allowed in his house. On any given morning, the Big Guy and I might step outside to find a broken rocking chair missing a rung, or a lawnmower in need of an overhaul, or some other such “gifts”.
When he started dropping off rolls of used carpet, the Big Guy insisted that we didn’t want that in our yard. Instead of taking the hint, Dad started putting it in the ramshackle, roofless shed in the woods behind our house, where local cats promptly began to pee on it. Between that and the mildew that grew on it every time it rained, the carpet in that old shed began to give off an odor that could overtake the entire street on a really hot day.
Years later, the Big Guy finally got rid of it by asking the fire department to burn the shed as part of a training exercise.
Dad had one truly horrible habit that that really bothered both of us. He was a morning person, and after he retired from his job as a meat cutter, he started visiting us early in the morning several times per week. We were both on second shift, so he knew he would always catch us at home without any concerns about making us late for work. He usually brought doughnuts or coffee or a package of sausage or bacon to contribute to the breakfast that I inevitably cooked when he showed up.
Unfortunately, he also had an odd sort of radar.
Without fail, his morning visits always coincided with the mornings when the Big Guy and I were having morning sex. Every. Single. Time. If we woke up feeling amorous, it was a sure bet that Dad was going to be knocking on the door before we were done.
“Whatever you do,” my husband growled, “don’t ever give him a key.”
Dad died peacefully one November evening, after a long phone conversation with his sister. He told his wife that he wasn’t feeling well and wanted to take a little nap, and he passed away quickly and quietly a few moments later. We shouldn’t have been surprised; he’d had heart trouble for years.
My stepmother’s niece sang his favorite hymn, “In the Garden” at the funeral. It seemed odd to cry during the service because he’d been so happy in his final years, and because he had spent so many years trying to make others happy. As the lovely old song filled the room, I looked up and saw tears in the Big Guy’s eyes and realized just how much the old man had come to mean to both of us.
My dad wasn’t perfect, but he loved me. He didn’t say it and he had odd ways of showing his love, but at the end, I never had any doubts about his love for his daughters.
Happy Father’s Day, Dean. I miss you.