October 31st was Halloween, that time of year when children dress up in costumes and cover them up with warm coats and hats and embark out in to the dark and cold October night when every person who opens a door to throw some candy into their plastic Safeway bags has to ask, “What are you?” It is also my dad’s birthday and this year he turned 66 years old, and now bears the mark of the devil. Someone best get to church!
My dad and I have always been great buddies, much to the chagrin of my mother who never was able to break into our conversations about the Seahawks (and that jackass quarterback with the too small hands making it impossible for him to hold onto a football, Dave Krieg), my soccer games, how to make breakfast foods, and what a spark plug is for. We spent a lot of time together as I grew up and in coming out to my family, he was the only one I ever really worried about. He’s Catholic, and though he isn’t a church-goer any longer, his beliefs are firm and I needlessly worried that they might include the idea that I am a horrible person. Lucky for me, it didn’t and in all of the horrors of coming out to my parents, something he said to me when I expressed trepidation because of his religious beliefs has left me with the hope that, one day, people would understand this about religion: “I think religion is like a bag of jelly beans. I don’t like every jelly bean. I just pick out the ones I like, and the other ones someone else can eat.” This showed me a new side of my father, a reasonable person with values and an understanding that we don’t have to take what we’re taught and have all or nothing. I think, after this talk, I loved him more than ever.
My dad and I have much in common, most of which is funny in that way something has to be funny otherwise it would be sad and horrifying. We watch television the same way, standing with one hand cocked on our hips just so, or with our arms folded and sucking air through our teeth. Our lips move when we are listening to someone with great attention. We both pull our sagging pants up while standing on the balls of our feet, like we are lifting ourselves into the air. We are compulsive cleaners and do-ers: there is never enough time to just sit when there are dishes or laundry or some kind of work somewhere that could be done instead. We both love us some donuts.
A few years ago, almost suddenly, he lost feeling in his legs and had to have emergency back surgery. This only weeks after he suffered through his painful, debilitating and fourth overall shoulder surgery. As a consolation, I brought a half-dozen Krispy Kreme donuts to his hospital room the night before he went under the knife to remove a piece of bone pressing against his spinal cord. He ate a few of them and saved the rest for later. When they wheeled him back into the room the next day, groggy and sore from having his lower back sliced into, the nurse asked him the usual questions – who are you, what year is it, who is president, we accidentally removed your balls, how do you feel about that? My dad answered all dutifully and then added, “And I know I have some donuts over there in the cupboard.” Can you see the resemblance?