Sunday, June 19, 2005

Happy Father's Day

My dad's motto is "Everyone loves the smell of his own farts."

He has hotboxed his children in a moving vehicle more times than I can count. The worst offences take place in cars with automatic window locks. He locks the windows to make sure we can't roll them down to dissipate the smelly fart. He doesn't lock the windows to humor us; he honestly does it to make sure he can smell his own fart before we try to save ourselves from the fumes. He is serious about his farts. Not one shall go unsmelt if he can help it.

My father praises my three month old daughter, Clara, for being a "man-farter." The first time he heard her fart, he wasn't even in the room. Clara's fart was so loud and resonant that he could hear it while he was brushing his teeth. "Alright, Clara!" he shouted from the bathroom, his speech garbled by toothpaste. He came to the doorway of the bedroom where Clara and I were rocking, looked me in the eye and announced, in a hushed, proud tone: "Clara is a man-farter!" Now every time my daughter farts, I think of my dad. It's sweet, really. I call him to tell him this. He laughs and repeats proudly: "Clara is a man-farter!" I'm sure that after my dad's gone, a fart will make me sentimental for him. It will have the power to move me to tears -- and not because of the smell.

Used to be, when I called my dad, his greeting was "Why are you calling me? Are you drunk?" Truth was, most of the time when I called him at that point in my life, I was drunk. It was the only way I could stand to talk to him. Our conversations would inevitably deteriorate during a discussion about money, where I would shame him by reminding him how he welched on his promise to help me pay for college, and he would retort by yelling, "Go FUCK yourself!" Then he'd hang up on me. He always wanted to be the one to hang up first.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that he was my only father, and that I had a choice to accept him or to keep hoping he would change. I realized that he wasn't gonna change (surprise!), and I decided that I was lucky to have such a warped character as my dad. I grew to see him as Falstaff, that larger than life Shakespeare character. Seeing him this way helped me accept his fallibility, helped me understand that he just wanted love and adulation, like we all do.

Now I call him in the morning, when I'm sure he's home, when he's just waking up. Sometimes he's already out of the house when I call. Last time I called him, he was at a garden show at the mission San Juan Capistrano. I said, "I just called to say hi, Dad. Tell you I love you."

"That's good," he said. "Do you have anything else to say to me, because I want to stop talking now so I can get my free habanero plant."

"No dad," I said. "That's it."

"Okay," he says. "Call me on Father's Day."

So I did.

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