10 Ways I'm Going to Screw Up my Children on Father's Day.

My brother and I took my father out to dinner tonight; tomorrow it's Father's Day, and his birthday.  He bought us both a drink, which was supposed to be our responsibility, but I think somewhere deep down, my dad still wants to be my daddy.  The night before, my sister Kayla (his first daughter) had her first child. I think he was feeling a bit of nostalgia. We talked and laughed and traveled down memory road with pops, and he basically asked, "Is there anything that we, your mother and I, did, that messed you guys up?"

They never looked this artistic in my cereal bowl.  
Well, no. Dad, you guys were great, no, prefect parents. But...but obviously, I suffer from no lack of personality issues. "Spirited," as my teachers once said.  Much of that was because of you, Dad.  And I love all my "character."  I've worked it into my parenting regime so that my kids can be just as "messed up" as I am.  Here's my 10 favorite eccentric memories of growing up.  

10. Mixing cereals. My dad hates waste and he's cheap. So when my brother and I would leave 1/2 or 1/4 of a bowl's worth of Cap'n Crunch or Wheaties rolled up in the box (never to be eaten), my father's culinary skills would kick in.  "Boys, come get your cereal."  How many times was I forced to eat cereal with a few Corn Pops, a hefty portion of Raisin Bran, and a few marshmallows and alphabet letters from the Western Family generic version of Alphabets.  This hodgepodge of breakfast varieties was the original Total cereal.  I got 100% of my daily nutrients from six different cereals.  We learned to finish off each individual box no matter what.  

9. It's level enough. My father would've made a great homesteader. He would've saved the Donner Party by building a fortress out of wagon wheels, elk bones, and discarded Book of Mormon pages (Donner Pass is near the Mormon Trails). His ingenuity and quick efficiency lead to great sheds, lean-tos, and temporary walls. This probably explains why my mother is over-anal about making things "Plumb."  Plumb literally means, "straight and true," yet you'd really think by looking at my father and my handiwork that it means "get it done today." Eh. Off-kilter craftsmanship takes years to rear its nail heads. We've often moved before that happens.  

8. It's just a flesh wound. My dad is Popeye. I mean, his arms and legs are shaped like Popeye's. And like Popeye with spinach, nothing hurt him ever. He would often walk into the house bleeding from some gash on his forehead or arm, or get tangled in briar patches and not even know. I still remember when he smashed his thumb in our old 700 lb. garage door (that's how heavy it seemed to me). He walks inside the house and his thumb is literally as thick as a CD case, twice as wide as before, bleeding everywhere, and nail-less; yet he casually looks at my mother and says, "Margaret, I think I need a band-aid."  

7. Casual Fridays. My dad was a minister. Often, churches would have him come in as a "guest speaker" as a pre-cursor to hiring him as their preacher.  One Sunday, while "trying-out" for a new church, he dressed up in his nicest sports jacket (this at a slightly redneck church). He got up in front of the podium, took one look at his audience and announced, "I didn't want to wear this anyway," and tossed his jacket onto the ground. The congregation instantly voiced their "hallelujahs." He always knew his audience.  

6. 200,000 miles is like new. "That's nothing in these Asian cars. Their engine isn't even warm until a 100K." Besides being a minister, my father also was a car salesman (I know...it is ironic), and this love of making car deals never faded. He was always coming home with a "good deal." Some were legit good deals. Most did possess good engines. It was the radiators, starters, tires, air conditioning, radio, seat cushions, and exterior that didn't age as well as those foreign motors. He did get me my ultra reliable '85 Accord (with 150K+ miles), so I really can't complain...but there were some real crappers in there as well.  My brother's first car, a 1990 Hyundai Excel, was made before Hyundai promised 100K mile warranties.  In 1990, you got a 100 mile warranty, and that's about all they were good for.  

Stupid Fruit 
5. Children's Plates. Whether I was 8, or 14, I was always just barely within the age brackets of the children's menu. How many $2.50 grilled cheese sandwiches have I had at nice restaurants? Mucho. But I was also tall enough to get onto rides (where I was clearly two inches too short for), and other "benefits" of having a convincing father, where restrictions were like the level bubble in carpentry.  As long as it was close to within the lines, it was okay.

4. Family Trips in the Car. I've never been in a commercial airplane. My father drove us everywhere. We merely put the canopy on the top of the Chevy Silverado and drove to wherever we wanted. Yellowstone, Disneyland, Yosemite, cowboy country, the Redwood Forest, the Oregon Coast, Seattle. We had tons of vacations, and I doubt any of them cost even five hundred dollars...but we never felt cheap. We slept like a sultan's harem on top of pillows, sleeping bags and cushions in the truck bed of that old Chevy.  "Wake me up when we get there."

3. Being a superhero. My dad saved me from drowning, twice. Once was on the Santiam River at a small park we stayed at to eat lunch during one of our Silverado vacations. The river had all these channels dug out of the bedrock. My brother and I could jump across the two or three foot gutters of fast moving water. "If you boys fall in, you're both getting spanked." Sure enough, my brother dared me to jump a three foot gap, I hit moss and fell in. I was jettisoned underwater down a fast moving underwater water slide. Somehow my dad made it across the river like The Flash, and pulled me out of the water by my neck. I had fallen down two mini waterfalls and hadn't taken a breath for close to a minute. I looked up at my hero and thought, oh great, now I'm getting a spanking. It was the weakest spanking we ever got. But Corey never forgave me for it. "It was a two foot gap, what's wrong with you!" Oh brother.

That's my dad, 27th to the right in the 46th row.  
2. Honesty. Dad never lied about anything. He wasn't always a minister. He--how do I say this carefully--he lived a full life in the late 60s; was a full fledged hippie. He was at the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Park, when the Hell's Angels "security team" stabbed a guy to death. I won't share his stories, they are his, but he was always open about his past. Many of his mistakes made great moral lessons, and this honesty shied me away from drugs, bad women, and business deals with friends.  Many "pks" as us pastor's kids are called, are horrible people, because of the hypocrisy of Sunday dad vs. Monday dad. No such disillusions here.

Cheesy, yes, but accurate.  
1. Unconditional love. How many guys of my generation are messed up from absentee fathers; father's who love from afar; father's who love based on performance. My dad loved me despite the fact that my sports exploits were always less than average; my grades in school, pedestrian; my talents mostly untapped; my choice of friends and girlfriends, questionable. He gave advice, then backed off. He let us find our own way, and was always there to rescue us when we failed miserably. Failure has been a constant part of my life, but his love (and that of my mothers) have always motivated me to get up, dust off, and try again.


  1. We should all be so lucky as to have a dad like yours. Or you.

    1. Thanks Jordan, your piece on Father's Day from the opposite spectrum was really informative and oddly touching. You'll be a great dad someday.

  2. Wait. Never. Been. On. A. Commercial. Aircraft. ???
    Sounds like you had a wonderful dad, though. They're pretty hard to come by...

    1. Never. Once. My grandpa flew me up in a Cessnia one time, and nearly killed me by doing barrel rolls and dives. I was 8.

      But, yes, I do have a great dad.

  3. Great list Chris. The part about being a minister and car salesman confuses me though. One works for God, the other works for...ah nevermind.

    1. It was a conundrum. He always said we could've lived a lot richer if he had the ability to screw people over like over salesman did. Although there was one time, with a Ford Bronco where the guy just paid the sticker price...the lot made $5k on one deal. He never felt right about that one.

    2. I spent 3 months one summer in Atlanta selling cars. To say I did it soullessly would be an understatement.

  4. I love this tribute to your father. Eccentric memories are the best!