For a long while, I’ve been following @shitmydadsays, the Twitter handle for writer Justin Halpern. His dad’s bon mots always slay me. You can’t imagine my excitement at finding it all in book form at BORDERS yesterday. What a treasure trove of embarrassing dad humor! I hope you buy it and it brings you the same joy that it has me.
You see, I can relate to Justin. Completely. While Justin’s dad’s comments comes from a place of street smart, world-weary sarcasm, my dad’s embarrassing comments (and trust me, I could write a book as well) come from the innocence and naivete of country folk – a man raised on a farm 80 years ago who clearly was never coached by my Grandma how to put a filter on what he says publicly. Dad was never wired for an urban setting, and that’s where he lives now.
My dad is convinced that every stranger he meets is friendly. He is puzzled when he sidles up alongside a strange woman on a park bench and she doesn’t want to tell him where she’s from. Even worse, he’s hard of hearing, so everything he says is so loud, especially the inappropriate stuff. There’s no way people can avoid hearing it.
As we sat in the filled hospital waiting room this past winter while my mom received her cochlear implant, my dad said to me, “You know how you and Dave were necking the other day in the hallway? Well, Mother doesn’t let me neck with her like that anymore.” Oh God. I dared not look about to see who had overheard. Let’s face it. Everyone did. I said nothing, hoping it would discourage further discussion. My eyes became glued to my book, “OPEN” by Andre Agassi. I proceeded to avoid all eye contact with my dad–and everyone else in the waiting room.
(I’ve noticed the only time people ask if I have rosacea is when I’m with my dad…and his pie hole is busy discussing his two favorite public unfriendly topics – his bowels and his love life. With my vampire-white, translucent skin, I can blush with the best of ’em.)
Unfortunately, if I didn’t keep him engaged in conversation, he was going to drag in other victims. An Asian man sitting across the room was next up. “So, where are you from?” Dad asked him. The man, who had no book as a convenient prop to avoid eye contact, said briskly, “Chicago.” He tried looking up at the TV, where “The View” was blaring. That didn’t deter my dad. He went in for a second helping. “What’s your wife in here for?” The man stood up and busied himself with finding a recent issue of McCall’s magazine. Smart move. This was the third time I kicked Dad under the table in 10 minutes. I then understood why his legs hurt all of the time. My mom must be kicking him incessantly.
Next, Dad proceeded to announce to me, and the rest of the room, that he needed to “go sit on the pot.” This is rural Illinois speak for “I need to hit the bathroom,” as I imagine normal dads might say. Not mine. When he returned, he shared–loudly–that he “really dropped a load in there.” I prayed to God that He would deliver me and speed up time, just this once. I didn’t even pray for that when I was in labor. I handed Dad his coat and we embarked on a lengthy trip to the gift shop. Anything to get him out of this crowded room with its transfixed captive audience before Stockholm Syndrome ensued and everyone began describing their last bowel movements.
One day not long ago, Dad came to pick me up at BFF Christina Bouvier’s home. He asked to use her bathroom, a half bath just off of the foyer. He was in there for a while. When he emerged, he declared, “You’ve got three-quarter inch oak floors.” Bouvier gave him the WTF look. “Want to know how I know that?” he asked. Before Bouvier could respond, he informed her that “while I was sitting on the pot, I lifted up your register.” It’s a good thing he has those long arms, I guess. They come in handy for moments like this one. On the bright side, they also give the warmest, most genuine hugs.