Sunday, August 15, 2010

...Today is Bittersweet...

Today would have been my Dad’s 65th birthday!!

If you like this blog, you have him to thank for it. My dad was the one that impressed upon me the importance of learning something from every experience, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant. He gave me my love of music, wild animals, and the night sky. And most favorably, my curiosity about how all things work.

Dad was smart. Not just NY Times crossword puzzle, Jeopardy smart, but extra smart. I remember he wrote and illustrated a manual for me on how to always solve the Rubik’s cube. It worked, too. I still kick myself for losing that thing, and the cube remains a jumbled mess.

He had a fascination with numbers and an ability for finding their patterns that would impress John Nash. And he was funny, no matter what I could always count on Dad to make me smile.

But he could be mean, too.

His “be realistic” mantra killed my ballerina and opera singer dreams. Almost everyone in the family (including some very large uncles) has a story about a time my Dad made them cry. We still laugh about the time one of our cousins got so scared of him, she threw up on herself. And even when I preferred otherwise, he sometimes treated me like his son. It made me tough, sure, but there comes a time when a girl starts to like boys and needs to be a bit more soft around the edges. I never learned that. And teenage boys scare easily. Some grown men, too. I’m still the manliest chick I know, haha.

But I miss him. Things come up that I wish I could call him about, but his answer to almost everything was “Think, Angel, think.”

I’m thinking I’m glad I had him for a father, and that he taught me so much, and that the best thing he ever taught me was to never stop learning.

The only rap group my father ever liked was the Pharcyde. This one was his favorites



If you have a little more time, here's an old college essay I wrote about my Dad:

Kid Arthur's Court Disaster

Looking back on I had to be less than 6 feet off the ground, but at the time, peering through those flimsy ropes, it seemed like about 60 feet. At least.

I was 8 years old enjoying our family's yearly trip to Cedar Point, the Amazement Park in Sandusky, Ohio tackling most of the rides with my father acting as the accompanying adult.

The alternative was to visit kiddie land: home of the state's most hideous rides. They were slow, the music was nerve wracking, and most of them didn't even get off the ground. Whenever my mother took my hand and walked me over there, I felt like I was being punished. I even cried one year on the merry-go-round. My mother's suspicions were wrong: I wasn't afraid of the ride, I was just damn mad I wasn't being allowed on the corkscrew with my dad. I felt deserted and betrayed. I prayed the Amusement Park Gods would here my plea and furnish a down pour, complete with hurricane winds and hail stones the size of the sitting stones in Berestein Bear Country. They failed me.

The trade-off was Kid Arthur's Court. It was hidden deep on the far side of the grounds, beyond the train ride, the Ferris wheel, the big steamboat and the water slide.

"No one above 48" is permitted beyond this point without an accompanying child."

The majestic spray-painted rusty gold path that led to the front doors of the Kid Arthur's Court made me forget all about the stupid corkscrew. I was Queen here! I jumped on the trampoline, I swam through the pool of balls, I scribbled on and threw paint against "mom's living room walls." Who could ask for anything more?

The total party included my Mom and Dad, my sister Cassie (6 years my senior,) my father's lifelong best friend, Reggie, his wife Betty, and their daughter, Reann, and Queen Me. The seven of us were leaving the castle when my father spotted the grand challenge. Kid Arthur's Bridge. It was actually a cargo net that extended for, oh I don't know, around 800 miles (Hey, that's how I remember it.) around the castle. Maybe it wasn't 800 miles, but it did take you all the way back to the front of the palace.

I can do this.

My family stood at the bottom and cheered me on. I was the only kid with her own cheering section. And I was doing all right until some kid zipped by me and her sandal fell through one of the openings in the rope.

Dear God!

I panicked. I realized the opening was the size of a whale's mouth... in my eight year old mind. I was stuck, paralyzed with fear. I remember the sounds around me fading away. There was just me and silence stuck on this isolated mountain.

"Are you okay?" the blond in the blue shorts with red trim and matching shirt asked me. I was apparently so close to the ground, she walked right up to me and was able to look me in the face. I didn't speak, because of course speaking would make me falloff and plummet to my death. But crying wouldn't. No, crying was safe. So I howled like a newborn. And a few more kids just scrambled on by me.

My parents yelled at me from the bottom of the ride. "Hey, that's okay. C'mon on down. You did a good job." Everyone clapped. I turned half way around slowly, and screamed some more. I heard my mother tell my sister to go up after me and pull me off. I heard my sister laugh and say, "Are you kidding? Those holes are huge!" I heard my sister squeal when my mother pinched her.

Reann, who was only about 12, and just over the size limit, was sent in for the rescue.

"Let's go!"

What are you so cheery about?

"C'mon Angel, let's get down." (Boogie oogie oogie?)

"Noooooooo!"

By this time, kids and parents and Cedar Point employees were beginning to gather. The girl in charge of the Bridge called security.

"Okay, okay. Don't cry. Let's go up, then. Let's go up!" Reann tried to take my arm and I screamed some more. She crawled ahead of me and tried to pull me. "Don't try to move, I'll just pull you okay?"

"Mamaaaaaa!" My mother walked around to the underside of the net and stuck her hands through one of the openings to grab mine. "Don't cry. Look how close you are to the ground. You could jump and I could catch you." She smiled that irritated Mom smile. I thought about it and decided that her suggestion required too much movement. Too risky.

"No."

"Angel..."

"No, Mama, I'm scared."

"There's nothing to worry about. I'm right here. You won't get hurt."

"Nooooooooooo."

The employees were getting angry and it was slowly getting dark. Security arrived and tried desperately to pull me off with physical force. "She's got grip,” they laughed. Strange kids tried to drag me along, but I wouldn't budge.

"Is she sleep? Wait 'til she falls asleep and then just grab her." I heard Betty laugh and light up one of her cigarettes. Reggie crawled up behind me. "Annngeeelllll" His friendly southern accent was comforting, but not enough to make me move. He crawled ahead of me. "C'mon Anngeeelll. You can do it. Just move a little bit." I was too embarrassed, tired and afraid to move. Reann had returned from the other side having completed the trek, and crawled up a second time. "It was easy."

Oh yeah, what took you so long?

Finally, the only man who could ever reach me (wasn't the son of a preacher man, but went to church a lot when he was little,) my father, crawled onto the rope. "Awww, what's wrong, 'Suga'? You were waitin' on Dad, weren't you?" I sniffed and nodded. "I don't know why I didn't think of that before... just waitin' on Dad." He inched forward. And I inched forward. He moved again, and I was right behind him. My family clapped and cheered. Bystanders gave a sigh of relief. Security got on their walkie-talkies and reported the good news. My father and I made it to the first flat section of the net and crawled on all fours to the next incline.

Little by little, Dad and I made our way through the maze. We're going to make it.

We were almost there when my father's poor health got the better of him. He had problems with his blood circulation, and he was tired. He huffed and puffed between laughs. "This is hard!" I felt guilty for being such a baby. "Okay, Okay, let's just roll. We'll roll the rest of the way." And that's what we did. We rolled all the way through to the end; it still makes me laugh to think about it.

I know this seems a little fabled, with a cute little moral and all, but it's all true. Someday when I am brave, I'm going to go back to Cedar Point and share this story with the new girl at Kid Arthur's Bridge. I'm hoping she'll be sympathetic and a believer of "fairy tales."

Even though I'm much too big for the ride now, it's sort of a dream of mine to go back and cross the Bridge on my own. For my father, and of course for Queen Me.

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