It’s Fathers Day morning, and I’m not gonna lie…I’m a little bummed out. Yesterday was my dad’s birthday and I wasn’t really that bummed at all, but then this morning, waking up and seeing everyone on Facebook’s pictures with their dad, I got a little sad, a little angry, and a little sad again. I think this is my 13th Father’s Day without a Father here. The first 3 or 4 I went to the track with my great friend Chris and his dad Dan, who was definitely a second father type to me. They always invited me and the gesture always meant a lot. I find I usually distract myself on days like today. Go do something fun or adventurous, get out of the house and off the computer. But I was thinking about some lessons I learned from my dad and things he taught me. With him, many of his lessons were what not to do. Here are some of my favorites.
1. “Do you want to be a truck driver the rest of your fucking life, cause you will if you don’t get your grades up”
My fathers opining on academic success summed up in one sentence. I don’t think he ever even knew what classes I took, but he always studied that report card when it came. At some point in 7th grade, someone told us “Your grades don’t really count until 9th grade starts.” Well this was some nice information. So second semester of 8th grade I slacked. I did nothing. And my grades reflected that. I was so scared to get that report card and I rushed to the mailbox to grab it. I opened it. 5 C’s and a D. A 1.8. I sprinted in to my room and immediately thought of what to do. I told mom first, because mom never got mad at me for anything. So she and I strategized that she’d tell him and show him and bring me out once he calmed down. She was out there for about 5 seconds and showed him before the scream down the hall of “Ball (that’s me) get your ass out here!” Oh fuck. I walked out there, my still short, barely pubescent self and prepared for the worst. I sat by mom as dad sat in his chair. “Nice fucking effort Ball. Nice fucking effort.” I can still hear those words now. “Do you want to be a truck driver the rest of your fucking life? Do you want to come home from work fucking miserable and hating your job? Cause that’s what’s gonna happen if you don’t get your grades up?” I saw my dad come home from his truck driving job for 20 years, miserable and hating his job. I didn’t want to be like him. I got a 3.3 the next semester and never got below a 3.0 again in my life.
2. Don’t lie to people
My dad was not a bullshitter. He was pretty on the surface and would tell you the truth, good or bad. I remember asking my mom once “what did you like about him when you met him?” and her first reply was “he wasn’t fake. there was no bullshit with your dad.” I wish this was a lesson I took more to heart, because when I started gambling and doing it very seriously, I became a liar. I lied all the time and nobody knew about my problem. And that lying carried over into my personal life and made me someone I didn’t want to be. Learning to not bullshit people and be upfront and brutally honest has been one of the toughest parts of my recovery.
3. 0 and 1 Bollacker
My dad was a great baseball coach and he used to scream at our ace pitcher, my wonderful friend Chad Bollacker “0 and 1 Bollacker! 0 and 1!!” It’s amazing how much easier it is to pitch when you get ahead in the count.
4. If you play music you’re a hippy and if you get an earring you’re gay
These were literally his thoughts. When I told him I was in a band in college he literally responded “Oh so you’re a hippy now? You’re going to grow your hair long?” And he was dead serious. He was stuck in the 1950’s in some of his belief systems and he literally thought if you played music or were artistic in anyway…you were a hippy. If he knew I wrote a novel, he’d think I was a total acid dropper. I’ll also never forget when my cousin got an earring and my dad’s first response was “So does this mean you’re gay now?” And once again…dead serious. He thought if you wore an earring, that meant you were gay. People ask me sometimes why I have no tattoos or piercings….how on earth could I get either one of those knowing that man’s voice would be haunting me forever after?
5. “See that’s the dumb fuck light…and it’s supposed to tell the dumb fuck, that’s you, that something’s wrong”
My first car was a beautiful 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cierra…Brougham edition. Classy. Comfortable. And ran like dog shit. This thing would overheat if you drove more than 30 minutes straight. But it was my car and I loved it. Well the check engine light essentially was always on and nothing too bad ever happened so I never bothered with it. I mean this was like 2 years nothing happened. So one week, the battery light came on. The car kept starting so I figured it must have been a faulty light. So one friday night I went to the Golf Park to hit some balls. When I was done I returned to my car….and it didn’t start. Dead battery. So I called Dad who came and picked me up and I told people at the driving range “Hey we’ll be back in the morning to jump it and we’ll leave.” So we come back in the morning and the car is gone. They towed it. Dad went in there all kinds of pissed off and yelled at the guy, who after 5 minutes of dealing with dad, offered to pay for the towing and gave us 5 free buckets of balls. score! On the drive to the towing place my dad was mentioning that this needed to be quick because he had a horse he really liked in the first at Emerald Downs. Well it wasn’t quick. The tow yard had to go back and forth with the Golf Park to see how to get payment, it took forever. My dad gradually got more and more pissed. At one point he finally asked “So just out of no where the car just didn’t start?” I replied “yeah, i mean the check battery light has been on the last 5 or 6 days, but it kept starting so I figured nothing was wrong.” My dad dropped his head straight back and went into lesson mode. “Let me tell you something about those lights. See that’s the dumb fuck light…and it’s supposed to let the dumb fuck…that’s you..know that something is wrong.” Aw..thank you for that not only educating, but also self-esteem building lesson there Danny Tanner. He didn’t make the 1st at Emerald and his horse lost anyways, so I saved him money.
6. If someone doesn’t live in a trailer, don’t call them trailer
I had a friend….who I’m actually still great friends with…who when we were little kids, someone started calling him trailer. It might have been me, but I can’t remember. But I certainly joined in. Now he didn’t live in a trailer. I don’t think he ever did. I think it was just a way for us to tease him as young shit head kids do. Well one day we were all at my house and I called him trailer and my dad heard it. My dad instantly didn’t like the name calling. “You shouldn’t call him that. Does he live in a trailer?” I replied “No, we just call him that.” My dad retorted as only he could “Well does he call you fatass? Cause that at least would be true.” No he doesn’t. “Then stop calling him fucking trailer!” It was actually a great lesson and to this day I feel guilt about calling my then and still now great friend a hurtful name.
I could go on all day listing lessons I learned from my dad. I miss him, even though I don’t miss some things about him. He was very complicated and tough to live with and in many ways, he’s still tough to live with. Even though he’s been dead for so long, his presence, good and bad, has always been with me. He’s a daily reminder of things I want to be, and things I don’t want to be. I idolized him though. All I ever wanted to do was make him proud. Nothing hurt worse than when he would put me down. Especially about my weight. He hated that I was fat. He hated it. I hated it. I still hate it. Part of me wonders if all the hate towards that part of my life needs to be transformed into love. Just haven’t figured out how to do that one yet. Anyways…happy father’s day dad. I love you.