My Dad has been on my mind a lot this week.
Maybe it was the penny I found during Lady Gaga’s halftime performance during the Super Bowl Sunday. Maybe it was the cornbread and beans my man cooked for dinner Saturday night.
Most likely it’s that my Dad’s birthday is Sunday, the same as Abraham Lincoln’s.
Dad would have been 86 years old Sunday, and for those wondering Abe would have been 208. I looked it up.
Dad had already been on my mind since the weekend cornbread and beans extravaganza – one of his favorite foods – and stayed there, with many memories making me smile.
I’ve not written much about my dad since he died in 2008, publicly anyway. A complicated man whom I loved deeply, Daddy’s lessons were never learned in the moment for me, but almost always years later. Like Yoda speaking from the grave, I think of something random dad said at just the right time and it either makes me smile, or helps me understand something I couldn’t possibly have understood at the time.
One time when we had storm doors installed at our house, my sister, Kay and I were going in and out at a rate that became alarming to our Dad. He gave us a lecture on the interplanetary nature of this new-fangled storm door, ending the tirade with “thus creating a vacuum between hot and cold air.”
Best I can remember, Kay and I looked at each other and telepathically related that we would never let that sentence die – it was much too epic. We have held to that.
There are several go-to ‘Bobisms’ in our family, from “Lord God!” to “NO THANK YOU!” and everything in between that isn’t fit for print.
But to this day, when things get tense and the moment is right, one of us will end the ridiculousness with “thus creating a vacuum between hot and cold air.”
This is the same man who was hit by a train – an actual locomotive – as a child; was severely burned while taking pictures for his reporter job in Dumas; and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in photojournalism, and he is fondly remembered by his children for a complicated description of a door.
Which brings me to the penny and Lady Gaga.
Since Dad and Abe share a big day, when I find a penny face up I take it as a shout-out from my Dad and keep it. I have dozens of these pennies from heaven – don’t judge me.
So when I found the penny on the floor during Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl performance, I said to the unoccupied space around me, “I figured you’d show up for this.”
Most people might be surprised to know my Dad would get jazzed by an artist such as Lady Gaga. Dad himself might even be surprised since I don’t think he had even heard of her when he died almost nine years ago.
However, in a surprise move more than 30 years ago, he surprised me. There are surprises for everyone, it seems.
When I was in high school, I came home early from a date on a Saturday night to find Dad sitting in his Archie Bunker-esque chair while watching a Madonna concert on HBO. I walked in during the part that she was wearing a gold traffic-cone style bra. I think she was singing “Vogue” and my father was transfixed.
I sat down next to him and watched the remainder of her concert, in awe.
At some point, I was staring at him wondering what the fresh hell happened to the Dad I left three hours ago – the man who loved barbershop quartets, opera, musicals and the magic of a good storm door.
My own father had skipped from Oklahoma! to Madonna’s World Tour 1981 inside of one Saturday evening. Sensing my judgement, he looked at me sideways and said, “She’s a really good dancer.”
Then the penny shows up Sunday, and I smiled because it truly reminded me of that Saturday night in the early 1980’s when I began seeing my Dad as a real person that was somewhat relatable, even though the cone bra was a little awkward.
Happy birthday, Dad.
Thanks for the pennies from heaven. Thank you for a giving me a line to end a sentence with that makes no sense to anyone but me and those in our family.
And, as Lewis Grizzard would say, “Shoot low, boys, they’re riding Shetland ponies.” I know you’ll be at the golf course on your birthday, a perfect day at Inn of the Mountain Gods in Ruidoso, shooting under 70, and whistling “Born This Way.”