Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Father knows best. Usually.

I have a mental block about when I lost my dad, Don Williams.

I can never remember the exact date nor even the year for sure, but I think it was eight years ago this month, February of 2002. I guess I just don't want to think about that.

I still miss him terribly.

I miss his kind, warm smile and the feel of his arms around me. I can remember the sweet smell of his pipe and cigars as surely as if I was with him in his old pickup truck right now.

My dad was the smartest man I ever knew and he's still my hero.

Dad taught me how to camp and fish and how to use a slingshot. He helped me with my homework and took me to major league baseball games in San Francisco.

In the evenings after he got home from work Dad would sit in his chair, fill his pipe and read the newspaper. (The Sacramento Bee was an afternoon paper in those days.) When he held up the Bee, spread open in front of his face where he couldn't see me, I would sneak up on him and plunk that paper with a flick of a finger to startle him. I thought that was a hoot! Sometimes he'd growl at me for it but often he would launch himself out of his chair and wrestle me to the floor and tickle me until I hurt and had laughed so hard I couldn't breathe.

Sometimes I'd just be walking through the living room and he would quietly crumple an empty cigarette pack into a tight little ball and throw it at my head, hard, just for fun.

That hurt too, but it was fun.

As I grew up, so did Dad. He and my mother were divorced when I was a young adult. Then, when it was my turn to divorce and I was in great emotional pain he took me out for beers and to shoot some pool. He counseled me some but not much. What could he say? He just wanted to be with me in my time of need and he was right, I have never needed anybody as much as I needed him then.

I know nobody is perfect but he was as close to it as anybody I ever met in my life. Still, there is one other thing I know for sure about my dad:

He did some damned silly things.

I recently wrote about that incident in the garage with the blue spray paint. I have quite a few stories like that and they amaze me because Dad was a truly intelligent man. Everybody said so, not just me.

But he did some real bonehead stuff!

When I was about eighteen and still living at home I bought a used Fiat Spyder. It was a slick, sporty little convertible and I loved zooming around the winding roads near our rural home in Loomis, California. One day the Fiat's gas pedal spring broke. This was the spring that allowed the gas pedal to lift up when I removed my foot to slow or stop the car. Dad wasn't much of a mechanic but he fixed it in a jiffy. Took him...I don't know, ten or fifteen seconds.

He tied a rope to the gas pedal so that when I need to use the brake I could just lift my foot and pull on the rope simultaneously to return the pedal to its normal position!

Oh, I have more stories like this.

As Jimmy Durante used to say, "I got a million of 'em!"

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