Yesterday was my dad’s birthday, which in the realm of this blog means its tribute time! A moment to reflect on some of the cool, odd or interesting memories of the person. Now the hard part about this is that with my dad’s birthday being the last of the year, I feel like a lot of the stories that would normally go into the birthday post have already been shared. So, to make this a post that is worthy to be deemed a birthday post, I am going to have to dig deep and find some really good and original stuff.
1) My dad is fast!
I think most people tend to think that their dad is the best, the smartest, the fastest, the most… whatever. Hence the classic childhood line “My dad can beat up your dad.” But I can unequivocally say that my dad is more athletic than your dad.
Starting from when I was a little kid, I realized that my dad had some freakish athletic abilities that he really never but to the good use of acquiring fame and fortune. Ever since I can remember, he has been able to beat me in a foot race. If we were to line up and run a race today, him having just turned 61 and me a spry 34, he would crush me in a 50 yard dash. It’s like he is part gazelle or something. (It probably doesn’t help that my running style could best be described as “plodding”.)
It is not only the track where my dad excels. He is also a rather good golfer and he has always been a tremendous softball/baseball player. When he was in the Army, he played in a softball league at the base and had the best batting average in the league. He got a trophy and everything! I remember him ranging the outfield the abandon during family picnic softball games (not high stakes) and during Little League end of season picnics (higher stakes with other highly competitive parents.) About the only thing that could stop my dad on the diamond is the Red Cross, as I distinctly remember him passing out trying to turn a single into a double while playing softball after having donated blood in the morning.
2) Determination, thy name is Dad
You got to hand it to my dad, when he puts his mind to something, he sees it through. No matter how hard, how difficult or how tedious. If he sets a goal, he is going to reach that goal. Especially when it comes to video games.
I remember once, he decided that he was going to play an NHL Hockey game for the Super Nintendo. He made it his goal to defeat every team in the league… using each team in the league. At the time, there were 27 teams in the league and in the game a team was allowed to play itself. So, if he did not lose a single game that would be 729 games! That is almost 2 years worth of games if he gets one win a night. Each game would take about 25-30 minutes, so that is a lot of time spent. Lesser men would have given up after awhile and moved on to a different goal, especially when they got stuck on one of the bottom feeder teams of that season. But not Dad. He stuck with it and he finally did it. And he didn’t even get a medal or a trophy or a ribbon. So here in this space, I would like to publicly recognize this accomplishment and give my dad this laurel and a hearty congratulations.
3) Home alone!
In our house, my mom was the cook. As I have mentioned previously, she was a fine cook and my dad, my brothers and I all enjoyed pretty much everything she would whip up. But because my dad didn’t do much of the cooking, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a few specialties that he can whip up.
If you have ever come over to our house for a party, you know that my dad is a master of the grill. At every McKenna party, will invariably find him working diligently over the hot grill to produce finely cooked burgers, brats and hot dogs. However, even before we had a gas grill that could be fired up at a moment’s notice, my dad could also fry up a pretty awesome hamburger in the kitchen, which he would do on occasion when mom wasn’t around and I remember looking forward to when I was a kid.
Even to this day, he apparently makes an excellent grilled cheese as well, although I can’t actually vouch for the delectableness of his cheese toasties because I despise grilled cheese with all of my being. He and other members of the family sure seem to enjoy them.
But when you talk about food that my dad can whip up, there is nothing better than his mastery of the milkshake. He wouldn’t make them very often (and actually I can’t remember the last time he made them) but when he did they were fabulous. He only had one flavor that he would make, chocolate. I still can remember the excitement that would start building as soon as my dad would go and pull out the blender. It was only a matter of time until the chocolate milkshakes were ready to flow. I am pretty sure he is still holding on to some kind of trade secret that he learned in his college days of working at Baskin Robbins, but he’ll never tell. (I do know for a fact that he used to be able to scoop ice cream, and throw it and catch in on a cone, in multiples.)
4) Riddle me this, Dad…
One of the best things that my dad instilled in me was a love of puzzles and games. I am not sure if this has added to my relative intelligence at all, but I can’t imagine it hurt. More importantly, it has filled my life with countless hours of fun and a lifetime of memories. If you ever need a quick present for my dad, a new game will always be a big hit. It is part of what makes family gatherings so great. Playing Risk where Matt had ‘Shorty’ and ‘The Fridge’, my fateful loss due to “The Stand at Irkutsk”, endless games of Scotland Yard or Apples to Apples or the one and only time Susie and I every played him in Scrabble and in his first word he dropped a 7 letter word on us for a 50 point bonus and proceeded to destroy us.
My mom and dad used to be banned from playing Trivial Pursuit with the family because they were so good that people thought they read and memorized the box of questions ahead of time. Even now, Dad is a big proponent of the monthly Trivia Night contests at Youche. They win quite often and one of his favorite things to do as soon as I talk with him after Trivia Night is to ask me a bunch of the questions to see how I would do. I have to admit that I enjoy it as well. Hopefully one of these times, I will actually get up there with him.
5) Dad is SCARY!
For some people, one of the lasting memories of their father is being scared of him to some degree. “Wait ’til your father gets home!” and all that. Luckily for me, this was not an aspect of Dad that I ever really saw. He wasn’t the kind of guy to parent through intimidation and fear. He was a caring, loving and supportive guy and wasn’t afraid to show it. However, growing up there was one interaction with Dad that scared me beyond belief. So much so that it often would cause me to rethink what I was going to do or ask for.
My dad is a pretty sound sleeper and let’s just say that he wakes up rather violently. (At least he used to. I haven’t gone into his room at night to wake him up in a good 25 years or more.) There are the loud snorting noises, the thrashing and sitting bolt upright and the slight disorientation. I can’t remember a reason why I ever went in there to wake him up, but I definitely remember standing in the dark, next to his side of the bed for minutes at time contemplating if I really wanted to wake him up. Deciding I needed to do it, but still being sort of petrified to actually go through with it. Finally, I would screw up my courage and tap him on the shoulder while gently, whispering “dad….”. Then quickly duck and cover! No children were ever harmed in the waking of Dad, but you still went in there making sure that what you had to say was truly important. I think it was unintentional, but then again… maybe not. Maybe I need to start developing some of these techniques for the invariable early morning Saturday Hannah wake-up call. Then again, she doesn’t poke me. She just stands in the doorway and calls out to us. Looks like it took her only a year or so to figure out what I never did.
Happy birthday to the best dad a guy could ever had. Here’s hoping to many more and maybe someday I can actually beat you in a foot race. I think I’m going to start training this weekend.