Old Man With Candy:
My dad was a professional artist, and a highly talented one. And being raised by artists is pretty much the same thing as being raised by wolves, which likely shows in my writing. In any case, despite being the artsy type, he was not at all flighty, but was a deep and serious thinker. Our house was filled with books on all subjects, and we kids were not restricted in any way from reading what we liked, no matter the content. I’ve noted before that he started me on my R. Crumb fanboyism when I was about 12 by plopping down a copy of Zap Comix and noting, “This is great art.” Not exactly a traditional dad in the 1960s.
He spent much time teaching me how to think rather than what to think. He encouraged me to say stupid shit which he would then casually dissect, and that was certainly a life lesson. But where he really drove things home was how he would think things through in a very logical “if-then” way, not unlike how scientists look at hypotheses and derive experiments to demonstrate (or refute) their consequences.
Here’s my favorite Dad story that illustrates the way he thought and what he imparted to me.
It was 1970 and I had just finished tenth grade. I will admit that as a student, I was not exactly a public school teacher’s dream, and I knew they badly wanted to get rid of me. And finally, with some new rules put in place as part of the spirit of Nixon’s then-new War On Drugs, they saw their chance. The principal instructed me to have my father come to the school with me the next day.
We came to the school, then sat in the principal’s office while he shuffled some papers. After a minute of this, he looked up and said to Dad, “I’m sorry to tell you that we are forced to expel your son.”
Dad asked, “For what reason?”
“We have reason to believe that your son is dealing drugs,” the principal gravely responded.
Dad looked very thoughtful for several seconds, then said, “Huh. He seems to be doing a fine job of covering up the money.”
That way of thinking has stayed with me for a lifetime. Dad died suddenly when I was in my 20s, and now, almost 40 years later, not a day goes by without me thinking about him. A lot. I’ll admit to a few tears flowing as I write this. Must be the onions SP is chopping.
I grew up in a comfortable upper middle class home – not the type my Dad had growing up. He came from if-not-quite-poverty, something close to it. I was fairly oblivious to this as a youngster. However, one day I was telling my Dad how they had started teaching us how to use .22 rifles at camp (this was the early 1970s in the Midwest). He was pleased, as he had wanted me to start learning (busy doctors don’t often find time – He had pulled himself up by his bootstraps, and was running the lab of a middle sized hospital, and also teaching medicine at the local branch of the state university). He asked if we had used short rounds or super short rounds. I asked what a super short round was – and he explained they were just strong enough that you could shoot a bird off a roof, or a beam inside a barn, and not do any real damage if you missed. I asked why you would shoot birds like that and his face hardened a bit and he simply said “to eat”. That sank in … not sport hunting, not choosing delicious game – but shooting pigeons to be able to eat some nights. I have often thought about how hard he worked (he is retired now) and how much he provided … not just material things, but an example of work and self improvement and giving opportunity to your family.