If you haven’t looked at a calendar lately, it may be up to me to remind you that Father’s Day has, once again, snuck up on us all. Now, I’m no expert at gift giving, but I’m pretty dang sure your dad doesn’t want/need another novelty screwdriver with a compass in the handle and a hidden reusable toothpick you still haven’t been able to find yet. And is there anything that says, “I didn’t try even a little bit” like getting your dad a freaking tie, or a cologne and aftershave gift set. You know, that will leave him smelling like that creepy old guy at church who likes to sidle up way too close to you after services and tell you what a pretty young woman you’ve grown up to be?
I mean, sure, your mom “brought you into this world and she can take you out of it,” (as she so often reminds you,) but your Dad at least contributed some of his genetic material - and that’s gotta count for something, right? So, with that in mind, let me give you some advice. Your dad wants one thing and one thing only, and that’s for you to shut up and listen to him reminisce about the good old days for ten, uninterrupted hours.
Now, aside from the emotional and mental damages and the possible therapy you may need to seek afterward, this gift is virtually completely free! All it requires is a very, very long day as your father’s captive audience and maybe some caffeine or other ingestible stimulant - for both of you. Oh, and don’t forget to bring along your full supply of “Suspension of Disbelief’ for some of the fantastical stories your dad is going to insist are 100% true. Trust me, you’ll need it.
In the case of my father, a road trip from my birthplace of Oklahoma City back to Paducah was the perfect opportunity. We would be in the car for a whole ten hours, and he insisted on driving the entire time, because despite the fact that I am 34 years old and have yet to die in a car crash, my parents think I’m still 15 with my barely-acquired Learner’s Permit. But I digress.
We got in the car around 9am and my dad slugged back a 5 Hour Energy. His eyes glazed over. His pulse quickened. He set the cruise control to 78 MPH, tuned in to Deep Tracks on Sirius XM, and dialed back his memory drive to sometime in the late 60s. And then, he started talking.
And. He. Didn’t. Stop.
It started innocently enough. Tales of seeing the Byrds live, the old, reliable chestnut about he and a friend stealing his friend’s father’s ‘Vette and taking it to California, and lamentations over the long-ago razed bars, drive-ins, and restaurants of Oklahoma City came burbling out of his mouth. I had, of course, heard all of these before, but, being the dutiful daughter that I am, knew better than to say so. Besides, we still had hours and hours to go. The material was only going to get richer and more entertaining. Right?
Oh how horrifyingly correct I was. You know…there are definitely things you probably never, ever want to find out about your father, and I am pretty sure I found out all of those things on our road trip. I won’t go into sordid details, but it was a fairly unbelievable amount of sex, a pretty measurable amount of drugs, and a smattering of rock n’ roll. When I finally was able to get a word in edgewise, it was only to ask, “So…are there like a lot of half brothers and sisters running around out there that I need to know about?” (P.S.—If you think you might be related to me, call me. We’ll exchange Christmas cards!)
I grew up with a dad who went to work every day with his briefcase in hand and a perfectly knotted tie lying flat on his freshly-pressed button down shirt. Sure, I’d see a wild streak every now and then - if some good Scotch or bourbon and a campfire was handy. But otherwise, he has spent the past 34 years of my life being an unbelievably hard worker providing for my mom, my brother, and I. There was something almost inspiring about the fact that my dear old dad even survived to become my dad, much less the dad he became. There was however, nothing at all inspiring about his ‘Tales from the Disco Era’. Hang up your crushed velvet jumpsuit and let it die, Dad. Let it die.
And you know what? Letting your old man have free reign to get all misty-eyed over things he should probably be in jail for isn’t a one-way street. It’s kind of a gift to yourself, really. Learning all this dirt on my father is a gift that keeps on giving! It’s the adult version of “But Daddy said I could.” Next time a parental unit questions one of my life decisions, I need only look my father in the eye and say, “Acapulco. Discotheque. 1975.”
So if you’re up to the task, of sound mind and body, and have a good psychotherapist on retainer, give your dad the only gift he’s ever really wanted: For you to sit down, shut up, and listen in apoplectic horror as he tells you about that one time he __________. Just don’t tell your mother…