“Where’s Dad?” a teenage Aunt Becky asked, mouth half-full of toast. I don’t quite know why I’d asked, it was a day ending in “day” so the answer was always the same.
“Making copies,” my mom said, distracted by the huge puddle of piss my dumb-as-a-stone-but-sweet-as-fuck dog had left on the floor in outrage at very notion that a chair would be moved without her oversight. I’d neatly stepped around it, thereby pretending it didn’t exist and therefore not tasked with “pee removal services.”
I headed out of the room, and using my most annoying voice, mimicked that SNL skit with Rob Schneider that was funny for about four seconds (this particular usage neatly using up one of those seconds), which no one seemed to realize, “Makin’ copies.”
Quite literally, I ran into him as I made my way back to my room to “put on some goddamned pants, Rebecca,” which I knew would be the first thing out of his mouth when he returned from his errand. His remaining three hairs on his head were standing straight up, his hands full of several reams of paper and a bottle of super pricy clear nail polish, he rushed, “I just had to make some copies” as he skittered up the stairs as though there was a real emergency, not just a frantic need to file papers.
Those same three hairs flapping in the breeze, he flew up the stairs, gasping, “I gotta nail appointment in 20 minutes,” to no one in particular.
I just laughed – that’s my father for you.
Earlier in the year, inspired by the windsong or the pattern of the sun on the hardwood floors or because he wanted to be a hip, cool dad, not just some guy who looked like a pharmacist, he’d managed to take up a hobby. Sweet, right? Everyone should have a hobby.
But this is my dad we’re talking about. My dad takes everything to eleven.
In an effort to increase his coolness factor or reclaim his long gone days as a rock-n-roll guitarist*, he took up classical guitar as his hobby, as my mother had put an end to the “annoying her” hobby he was so very fond of.
What began as a relatively benign hobby soon turned into… I suppose if’n you wanted to wrap it up in a nice fancy bow, you could call it an obsession, but it was more than that. Much more.
Not long after he bought his first classical guitar, painstakingly procured after months of deliberation appeared a second classical guitar. When asked about this mysterious need for two classical guitars (two dueling banjos I’d have expected, you see) came about, I asked him, “why the fuck would someone with only two arms have two guitars?”
“Well Rebecca,” he explained, without taking his eyes off the sheets of notes that he’d been playing and replaying for approximately twenty-niner years (but in reality had only been fifteen or so minutes), “I needed one to take with me on vacation.”
As though THAT explained it all.
I backed warily out of the room, more than a little afraid of him.
Soon, he was deforesting entire rainforests with the copies he’d make of various and sundry sheet music, the only person I’ve met who enjoyed visiting Kinkos on a daily basis. He’d file his sheet music in such an order not even the most well-seasoned librarian could understand, always happily tearing down yet another rapidly shrinking rainforest somewhere.
My mother and I simply shook our heads, baffled and somewhat bemused by his “hobby.”
One day, he caught me after school, and fearing one of his dreaded sixteen hour long lectures about taking his three-hole punch from his office, I backed myself into a corner, hoping I was wearing comfortable enough shoes to stand there for as long as he needed to hammer whatever point he was about to make.
“Rebecca,” he asked frantically. “Where do you get your nails done? I broke one of these fucking nails and I need it repaired immediately.”
My mouth dropped open.
I looked down at my hands which had been painted a soothing shade of “fuck you in the eyeballs pink” and said, “um, Dad? I do them myself.”
“I’ve GOT to get the name of Jim’s nail guy,” he said as he hurried frantically off. Jim, I knew, was the eccentric man who gave my father classical guitar lessons many times each week.
But getting his NAILS done? This was going a bit far.
Hours he’d spend each day carefully tuning and retuning his guitars, making sure that he had not only the top of the line guitars, but the top of the line gear. I played concert cello for many years and never even dreamed of some of the equipment he’d happily purchased to feed his obsession. He’d play a fragment of a song over and fucking over, trying to get it JUST right.
Music, it turned out, was HIS passion, too.
Until one day, just as frantically as his hobby had begun, he simply… stopped.
No more Kinkos trips. No more meticulously filed nails. No more lessons. No more “same three chords” coming from his office at all hours of the day and night.
He was, as it turned out, done. I never did quite learn why he’d stopped; why his love affair with his guitar was over – if, as I’d always joked the guitar was my father’s mistress, they’d had a falling out or something. I can’t even tell you if he knows.
He was just done. Quietly and softly, he was done.
In February of this year, I found a job in the most unlikely of places, a place I call, “Not Chicago,” for reasons that should be obvious**. The job as EVERY LINT PICKER-OFFER should know, was a serious one, and I didn’t know that I’d be able to continue to use my words in a manner in which I felt comfortable. With all the “write about this, not about that” bullshit flying around, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to use my words any longer.
I was tired of inadvertently hurting those around me; weary of the games people play. I’d begun to use my words as a hobby – to connect with people I’d never normally meet, to use my words and tell my story in my way. I have.
But I’d begun to feel like a dinosaur – I’m a PR intern’s worst nightmare – I have a mouth that rivals any sailor, I’m purposefully inappropriate, I’m snarky, and I don’t give a fuck. I never wanted to be a “brand,” I just wanted a space to fill with words.
In July, the sky fell and the darkness took over. I continued to blog, although my heart wasn’t in it.
I began to wonder if I was, as everyone always claims, truly my father’s daughter. That I’d take a hobby once loved more than butter and simply… stop. I wasn’t certain.
The turning point came, I think, when a group of people attempted to find my new employer to attempt, one can only ascertain, to fuck with my job as a LINT PICKER-OFFER TEAM LEAD. I am a public person, but I do have a private life that I am allowed to have, and if it was a matter of keeping my job or keeping my blog, I knew which one had to go.
So, much like my father, I simply stopped, assuming I had, in fact, used up all my words.
I was, as it turns out, happily wrong. Turns out life? Not an either/or equation. It’s time to go back to basics – tell my stories in my way on my time in the hope that I can make friends and connections I wouldn’t otherwise have the pleasure of knowing.
I may have had to rebuild my life, but I’m not doing so without my words.
While I will always be my father’s daughter, I have something he never did: I have my words.
And, perhaps most importantly of all, I have a Band of Merry Pranksters, without whom, I can’t say for certain I’d have survived Skyfall.
And those? Those I won’t leave behind.
*As far as I can tell, my father never rocked, nor did he roll, unless it was completely by chance.
**It’s Not Chicago.