Category Archives: Dad Stories

Memorial Day

Today, I delivered a paper to everyone on my route.  Regardless of normal delivery schedule.  Then, I worked my other job for an extra hour.  Not where I wanted to be.

Did I want to be home?  To enjoy a cookout with friends and fam?  That’s a given any other day.

No.  I had somewhere else I wish I could’ve been.  I wanted to go to Alger.

Alger, Ohio.  The center that draws my family back again.  A small town you may never have heard of.

I wanted to go to Preston, to walk the stones.  Too many for a man my age.  I’d recall the military first, then the civilians.  My grandfathers, grandmother, great relations, my father, and uncles.  One in a grave far too small.  I never knew him, but would’ve liked to.

Onward into town, I’d pass my great aunt’s old place.  I’d hang a right and pass ‘tween the funeral home and the church.  I would not see the school you see.  I would see the school that was.  With a playground that never closed, full of swings and slides.  Of merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters.  Monkey bars and balance beams round out the set.  I’d see myself and my sisters, rolling in the grass, down the hill out front.

I’d turn left, onto the red brick main street, and pass the old Shadley place, Grandma’s former dwelling, the Waughs, and so on.  I’d soon reach the memorial of those from the town who had served.  I’d park at the general store next door and walk to the decommissioned cannon holding it’s eternal vigil over the village.  I’d sign the guest book and search for a grandfather’s name etched into the stone.

Soon, I’d come to the strange gravel path that leads beyond sight in either direction and remember the tracks that once lay here.  I’d turn around before I reached where my other grandmother lived.  She’s since moved, and will move again soon.  She will be close to mom.

Did I ever mention that as a child, my imagination was once so vivid, that it bordered on hallucination?  I remember dreaming of a circus, only to wake to the nightmare of a tiger in my room!  He wasn’t there, of course, but I saw him all the same.  I could point to him in the room.  These days my imagination pulls no such trick, but it would come close as I slowly cruise my way back.  Scenes of what was, memories of the past.  They would impose themselves over the scenery as I drive by places from my youngest days.

I would turn left down the alley, though the next street was only a house away down the empty streets.  Old habits, I guess.  As I pass grandma’s garage, I remember the Smurf face that was once painted on the faded and peeling orange paint.  Right at the next and last street.  I’d go until I saw the single-story place where my uncle lives.  I’d pull in the drive, and as I got out of my car, I’d not see what you would see.  For a briefest moment, I’d see the two-story green place that burned down.  I’d see the treehouse too.

In I would enter, welcome and unannounced.  I’d sit and I’d talk with my aunt and my uncle.  He never served in the military, but he is the last surviving member of the original local EMS.  He was the oldest of his siblings, and as such would remember grandpa better.  Grandpa was in WWII.

If you thought I’d have I dry eye, or if I would cry, the truth I will not deny.  I would choke up, I would tear, as I remembered yesteryear.

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Dad Stories – Pull Over The Van

“Don’t make me stop this car!” The famous words uttered by many a father on a family road trip. As siblings begin to fight, argue, and quarrel, the parental sanity grows thin. But what if dad actually did stop the car? Even dad doesn’t know.

My father actually did pull over the family van on a long road trip. Of course, I was the Chief Instigator of Mischief. Dad uttered the familiar words, “Stop that! Don’t make me pull over this van!” I didn’t stop. Dad did.

As the dad pulled the van over to the side of the road, I was in shock. He was actually pulling it over. I must really be in trouble now. What was he going to do?

Dad got out of the vehicle and came around to the passenger side. I was instructed to remove my seat belt and to get out of the van. Dad put me just off the gravel where he could see me in the mirror and told me to stay put. I began to scream and cry. Dad returned to his seat.

Come to find out, dad was winging it. “You are NOT leaving our son behind!”, snapped mom. “Of course I’m not.”, was dad’s reply, “I just don’t know what to do from here. I need to think.” Dad watched me closely in the mirror to ensure that I was still safe and sound. I was. I was also still crying. After a little while, dad decided that the scare itself was punishment enough. He got back out, put me back in the van, got back in, and drove on to our destination with me securely in the back seat. I didn’t act up anymore on that trip. Or any of the next few trips for that matter. I now always obeyed the warning.

Dad Stories – The Last Christmas

I gained a lot from my father, including my love of science fiction.  My fondest memories are of sitting with him on the couch, watching Star Trek: The Next Generation.  These were my best bonding moments with him.

One of my favorite science fiction movies to watch with dad was the original TRON.  It wasn’t on often, but now and again it would make the Saturday night movie.  I was fascinated by the concept of a brightly colored world inside a computer.  It made me curious as to just how computers and other electronics worked.

I grew older, until I went to college and fell in love.  As I was on my honeymoon, dad had a test that revealed his colon cancer.

Cancer.  It brought me face to face with the mortality of my role model.  My emotional rock.  My sagest advisor.  My father.  No one ever wants to think that one of the people who has been there their entire life won’t be there anymore.  Human nature resolved my dread the only way it knows how, denial.

Oh, I knew on an intellectual level the gravity of the situation.  But as I kept on living, I kept operating on an emotional assumption that dad was somehow immortal.  All evidence was to the contrary.  Dad did defy odds.  He was given an estimate of months, he lasted years.  But dad was able to do less and less.

Dad got to not only attend the weddings of all three of his children, he danced at the receptions.  Unless you’ve seen a cancer patient on a bad chemo day, you just do not know the full impact of that statement.  Dad also met his first grandchild, the only one he would ever meet.

When the news from the San Diego Comic-Con had all of the comic, movie, and science fiction blogs abuzz with some test footage of lightcycles for an upcoming TRON sequel, I got excited.  More and more news came.  It was going to have original actors returning to original roles.  It was going to take place 20-30 years after the events of the original.  It was going to be a father/son story.  Then the release date was announced.  It was in December 2010, right around the Christmas celebration with my folks.  Dad’s health waxed and waned.  I took a small financial risk, I bought two tickets for TRON: Legacy to a theater near my parents via Fandango.  I knew there was a chance dad’s health could prevent him from going.

Fortunately, dad’s health allowed him to attend.  It was the first 3D movie he had seen since the days of red and blue lenses.  It was the first time in a long time that he’d been to a theater.  We had a blast.  After the movie we were excitedly talking about all of the easter eggs we found from the original TRON hidden in the background of Legacy (with one of my brother-in-laws who had come along).

Dad wasn’t feeling well the next day, but he insisted on crawling around a hardwood floor on his hands and knees to play with my daughter.  She was delighted.  I honestly thought that there just might be one more Christmas left in him.  There wasn’t.  He passed away at the close of the following summer.

In Legacy, Kevin Flynn dies.  His son, Sam Flynn, and Quorra have to move on without him.  So, too, did I have to move on without dad.  To this day, those last scenes always make me cry as I am doing while typing this.  I keep on keeping on, living up to his example as best I can.

Now I am the father.  If I retain only a portion of all he taught me, my children will still have a better man for a father than most children do.  I struggle to provide financially, but they will never want for love.

Every time I watch an excellent science fiction movie or show, I hear of a great theoretical concept, or I see the science fiction we watched become reality (as with the announcement that NASA is working on a warp drive) I get moment of “I can’t wait to share this with dad!” followed by an “Oh, wait.”

My children now watch things with me, my daughter in particular.  We watch old Adam West Batman reruns, Lynda Carter Wonder Woman, Classic Star Trek, the new Star Trek movies, and among other things, yes we watch the TRON movies.

And Daphne seems to remember the man holding her in old pictures.

Dad Stories – The Pastor Sensei and the Flaming Sleeve

     Our entire family was involved in martial arts. Of course, being christian, we were nontraditional. Most traditionalist schools incorporate eastern religions. Dad saw the value in the discipline of the art, and of defense, even if he preached against offense.

Thus as he became a pastor, he and mom kept a class running as a church outreach ministry. In addition to bringing discipline and stability to at-risk youth, the demonstrations were a way to bring an audience to hear the word of God. An audience not likely to sit through ordinary sermons.

     Dad would incorporate the message throughout the entire theme of the demo, using each skit, display of skill or weapon, and every break as an illustration to his narration. One such break was the firebreak, performed usually either by mom or himself.

     Dad’s normal attire for demonstrations was the pants of his gi (or karate uniform in layman’s terms), his belt of rank, and a short-sleeved t-shirt with the school logo on the chest. On one particular demo, dad was wearing a brand new gi. This also meant that he was wearing the long-sleeved jacket to it. He forgot about this by the time the firebreak came around.

     A firebreak is essentially a speed and accuracy break. A series of wooden boards are stacked with spacers and are then coated in rubbing alcohol. The alcohol is then lit. If the performer has perfect technique, and does so before the alcohol is used up, then the lower burning temperature of the alcohol will not burn them. If the technique is off, or the performer is slow, they are burnt.

     When dad performed the firebreak this time his technique was flawless and his speed was sound. Just one problem. His long sleeve absorbed some of the still-burning alcohol!

Dad didn’t panic nor did he miss a beat. He simply kept preaching as he beat his arm against his body to extinguish the flames. He was unharmed, and the back of his right arm was as hairless as a chihuahua for weeks.

The Great Beetle Heist

     It should be noted that my parents were raised in the small town of Alger, Ohio, on opposite sides of the tracks. Literally, there were railroad tracks going through the town at that time where now only a long path of gravel now remains. This town had exactly one traffic light, now removed, and you can walk from one end of town to the other without breaking a sweat. As a matter of fact I have done so many times after playing in the park on one end to visit the grandmother on my mom’s side of the family when she lived in a trailer next to a junkyard/used car lot on the other end.

     A teacher came to Upper Scioto Valley schools from a larger city in the state. I’m not quite sure which one, but I think it was Toledo. He thought that the most trouble country kids could manage was tipping cows. He was wrong.

     This teacher drove a VW bug and when he parked it he would thread a chain through the slightly open windows and over the roof, where it would be padlocked. He dared the class my dad was in to steal his car. In fact, on the day of the dare, he was going to do extra paperwork to give the class more time to steal the bug. I’m sure one can see where this is going.

     Someone from the class brought bolt cutters to make short work of the lock. Hot wiring is often a necessary skill for a country kid when the keys have been lost to an old tractor, so starting the car was no problem whatsoever. Once the car was driven a couple of miles out of town, someone got the bright idea to buy an identical lock with a different key from the local hardware and refastened the chain as it had been in the parking lot.

     When the teacher came out of the building, he found all his student sitting atop their cars as if nothing had happened and they were just hanging out, chatting. The beetle was missing. Acknowledging defeat, he asked for a ride out to his car. A student quickly volunteered, dropping him off.

     A little while later, the teacher returns to town on foot. “Now,” he said, “can somebody give me the keys to the lock?”

Further Bug Fun

     This was the self same beetle that was light enough for the pranksters, on another occasion, to lift and carry through the double doors of the school building. They set it in front of the school office while the same teacher was in a meeting with the principal.  Unfazed, the teacher simply got in (as if he had parked it there), started the car, drove up to the double doors, and then rolled down the window to ask someone to hold the doors open for him.

Dad Stories – The Pastor Sensei at Bethel

 

One of my father’s first sermons as a head pastor of a church is so memorable, that those who attended will probably still talk about it from time to time.

From the other anecdotes on this blog, one will see that my family was still involved in martial arts as a christian ministry. Before the service, dad had hidden the self-same sword from The Broadsword Incident behind the pulpit. No one knew, yet.

One of our black belts, Jeff Stissel, agreed to be dad’s accomplice. Dressed in a black gi, black halloween hood with the black one-way mesh hiding his face, and his customary black tabi boots, Jeff entered the church grounds well into the service but before the sermon. He waited patiently beside the sanctuary doors, looking in the window for his cue.

Dad preached a sermon about being constantly on your guard against sin, for Satan looks for any opportunity to tempt. As dad reached the climax of his sermon on the importance of spiritual vigilance, Jeff burst through the double doors screaming like a banshee, bokken (a wooden practice sword) raised overhead. The congregation jumped. In the mere seconds Jeff charged down like the main aisle, everyone looked to the front left pew where we were sitting. Dad’s behind the pulpit while mom, Lauren, Rachel, and I were still seated up front. Who was this madman!?!

Dad pulled the huge sword from the pulpit with a yell and blocks the oncoming wooden blade. If I recall correctly, the bokken was broken. The mock stage battle ensues, with dad as the victor. As Jeff crawls away to symbolize the fact that the battle against temptation is never finished in life, dad calmly walks back up to the pulpit to wrap up his sermon and carry on with the service in the usual manner.

I have never seen a congregation sit more bolt upright at attention, nor with so wide of eyes.