A Day For All Fathers. Even Dead Ones

The Next Family

By: Laurenne Sala

People with dead dads don’t usually love Fathers’ Day. It sort of says loudly, ‘Hey! Look at how everyone has a dad except you!’ However, since ads for toolboxes and necktie sales are blowing up, we might as well take the day to remember our dads and acknowledge them even if they’re not around.

I especially would like to pay homage to my pops, the weirdest and coolest dad I ever had. Here ya go, Daddy-O:

As a three-year-old, I thought you were a giant. I could sit in your size fifteen slippers. And when you came to pick me up at pre-school, I would wait for the top of your head to bob around the glass above the lockers. You were the tallest dad, and of that I was proud.

You had the driest sense of humor. I barely understood you back then, but now I think we’d crack each other up. Now I’d get your jokes. I wish you were here to discuss the state of Saturday Night Live. And politics. I bet we’d have drinks until late and laugh, laugh, laugh.

You always loved a nice scotch. And after a few, there was no doubt I’d find you sleeping in a chaise at any given family party. You had a snore like nobody I’ve ever known. Silent yet never unnoticed.

I bet if you were alive, I would call you up and ask you to read the newspaper in an accent. You should have made a living out of your impersonations. You could imitate any stereotypical twang, from ‘ghetto black dude’ to ‘Harvard scholar’ to ‘Indian 7-ll owner.’ I can’t believe you didn’t harness that. Or maybe if you had, someone would have shot you.

I think by now I would have persuaded you to go on Jeopardy. You were considered a genius by Mensa standards, and I’m sure you could have won us millions of quarters from Alex Trebek. By now I would have appreciated your intelligence. Back then I just thought you talked too much. But seriously, Dad. I asked you if unicorns existed and you spent two hours talking about all the different horse species and where the myth of the unicorn came from. Thanks, though.

You know what else you were good at? Wrapping presents. I used to think divorce was the way to go because of the silent competition between you and my mom on who would give better gifts. Yours always looked like they were wrapped by fairies. Ha. HA!
That just came out on accident. I wasn’t purposely calling you a fairy.
But let’s get that out in the open.

You were gay.

How cool is that? I love that you were gay. I love the fact that you had the courage to say it and live it. I’m so proud that you didn’t stifle yourself, even if it meant divorce.

Unlike many at the time, I thought nothing less of you. You were my dad. That’s it. My big and tall gay dad. I know you knew I supported you. I know you knew I stood proudly in the audience watching you sing in the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. I really was proud. I wish I had made that more clear.

But I was thirteen. I didn’t really know how to talk about my feelings so much. Now I’m much better. I bet now we would have long conversations about how it felt to finally be your real self or your first experiences frolicking with men. I would love to know.

But thirteen was bad timing for me. I was insecure, ugly, and trying my hardest with padded bras to be popular. ‘Faggot’ was the most common insult in junior high. So I told you to tone it down when you came to the suburbs to watch me lead cheers.

This has been one of my only regrets. You built up so much courage to let your real self out after so many years, and here I was asking you to put it back in once in a while for the sake of my popularity.

I sometimes close my eyes and wish that had never happened. But time never lets me change it. If it did, I’d have completely erased the whole Hammer pants trend (You, by the way, were the first to tell me that those were out of style and that I should stop doing my bangs. You were right! Sorry I didn’t listen. You were gay; I should have known.).

Now that I see this whole life thing from a different point of you, I would have treated the entire situation differently. I would have told you every day how proud I was of you for finally shedding the weight of your lifelong secret. I would have talked to you about everything. I would have asked more questions and given more hugs. I would have screamed to all the cheerleaders that I had the hippest, coolest, gayest dad around. I would have made shirts that said MY DAD IS A FAGGOT AND I LOVE HIM. I would have gotten NBC news to do a story on us and how cool we were together. I would have bought us matching earrings. I would have made all my clothes out of rainbow flags and worn them every day.

But I didn’t. So I’m doing it now.

I’m saying it here: Dad, I’m grateful that you ever existed. And that you were a bizarre quirky soul. You were silly and neurotic and cynical and hilarious. And I learned from each and every little piece of you. And I keep learning from the short time I got to experience life with you. Because you are half of me, and I happen to really like that half. I wish you were here so I could hug you harder than ever and tell you that you mean a lot to me. And tell you that I accept you just as you are. And wear your shoes.

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