Feliz Navidad

My father sends odd greeting cards...on the wrong days...with sentiments written in Spanish (which he doesn't speak).

Mainstream has never been my father's forte. He was the third child of twelve born to Irish descendants living on a small farm in Michigan - this is where I pull my right hand out and point to an area in the general vicinity of my thumb. Seven boys and five girls - they all have Irish names (Shannon, Erin, Sean, etc.) - except my dad, Tony.

He was a tall, skinny kid who was usually squirrelled away in a corner, reading a library book, until his brothers found him to drag him back to reality by beating the crap out of him or throwing him off the roof. He always wanted to be a monk, surrounded by God, books, silence and maybe an alcoholic beverage or two. Unfortunately (or fortunately, I suppose, depending on how you view me), my mom never received the memo.

Facts and quirks:

  • he wears a broken watch with no face from a motorcycle accident he was in 35 years ago
  • he had a full scholarship to Michigan State, but left after one year to hitch hike to California
  • an insomniac, he grocery shops between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m.
  • he tries to keep telemarketers on the phone by talking to them as long as possible...his record is over an hour.
  • he bought and fixed up 20 old Apple GS computers to set up a computer lab in his classroom
  • he's an audio/video equipment junkie - and still has Harold and Maude and The Vanishing Point on Beta tapes
  • he loves music, from Hank Williams to Bob Dylan to Tori Amos
  • if you touch him from behind, duck, because he will turn around swinging
  • he turned 60 this year and has no grey hair (of course, he does have my son for the summer, so that's likely to change).
I believe one of the biggest factors in shaping my father's life was his severe stuttering (also for his dad and two brothers). As a child, I remember making phone calls for him - he would often not be able to verbalize the "hello, is..." before the person at the other end hung up. Sometimes, he'd call back several times, hoping to get the words out, until the other person would assume it was a prankster on the other end. He is one of the most intelligent people I know, but spent close to fifteen years working at General Motors, dreaming of becoming a teacher.

He still pauses before words when he's anxious or stressed, but he went back to college at 42 and finally has that dream job teaching 5th graders. Apparently a late bloomer, he also got married last fall. Intelligent, philosophical, generous, honest, compassionate, caring and funny...I hope to be more like this old soul when I grow up.

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