Growing up, aside from stubbornness and a clinical inability to back down, my dad and I didn't have too much in common. We've always had a great relationship. Legally speaking he's my step-father, but I never think of him that way. He's just my dad. Still, like many children and their parents, we routinely butt heads. Our very different personalities were party to blame, but it also had to do with understanding one another's priorities. But, nowadays, there are times I sound just like my dad... to the point that it's downright eerie and scary and maybe it wouldn't be the worst idea if someone sent help in the form of a very large glass of wine.
I've joked that becoming a parent turned me into my mother and buying a house turned me into my father. I don't think it's that I didn't understand where he was coming from on most issues before now, mind you. It's just that all his years of detail-oriented neuroses and peccadilloes have steadily seeped into my brain over the years. Without my realizing it, I'd been indoctrinated into his ways, from obsessively monitoring month-to-month energy usage to raving about making sure the lawn is being properly maintained. I've been Frank-ified, you guys.
The evidence is all there, especially via the following phrases and situations:
Like many households, ours was one where "turn the light off behind you" was a common refrain. Nothing unusual or unreasonable about that, even for a kid.
My dad, however, took this to a level I have not seen before or since. It wasn't enough to have lights on only in the rooms where you were in (again, reasonable). You had to have the least amount of light possible. For example, if you turned on the main light switch in the living room, he'd chide you to use the small lamp on the end table instead even if you couldn't see what you were doing by lamplight. Even if you had a room full of guests. If you had on both the lamp and the overhead light? May God have mercy on your soul. Because what was he? Made of money?
I wish I could tell you that I'm not like that and let my children be. I wish I could tell you that, but adulthood is no fairy-tale world... and damnit what do you need both living room lamps on for? One is plenty!
A quick shout-out to all my fellow "off-brand childhood" peeps, who know the knock-offs, for reasons of varying importance, are never as good. Of course now I look back on it with a kind of fondness. I mean, it hardly ruined my (very happy) childhood to have Abelbumby&Fetch jeans or Calvin Stein shirts.
So these days I assure my children, "Just because the cartoon bee isn't on the box doesn't mean these Honey Nut O's aren't just as good. They're exactly the same. I'm not paying three more dollars when you can't taste the difference anyway."
In those moments, I'm basically being possessed by my father, who is speaking through me.
This was one of my dad's biggest pet peeves when I was a kid, which I absolutely didn't understand at the time. "It's just water," I'd think. "I'll just clean it up with a towel. What's the big deal?"
But now I get it. For starters, "I'll just clean it up" and "what's the big deal?" is really just kid-speak for: "I'm going to do a half-assed job and you're going to clean up after me." Plus, it's just annoying! Who wants to slosh around on a wet bathroom floor? Jeez!
Because I really do and I seriously can't. When you whine and winge at the dinner table that you don't want the food that I took the time to prepare after a full day of work and dealing with your sh*t... I'm done. I can't even and now you're going to hear about it. I feel you, dad.
My dad is an upbeat, well-liked, friendly guy. Nevertheless, there are some people that just irk him. Some are actually terrible humans who deserve his ire. Other times he'll hate someone in the same way that Homer Simpson hates Ned Flanders: inexplicably and unreasonably. Regardless as to why those people have made his shit list, they are invariably described as "miserable S.O.B.s." And it's not just that they're obnoxious, either. It's somehow personal (even when it's obviously not).
Over the years, maybe because I've grown surlier, or maybe because my eyes have been opened to the incompetence and thoughtlessness of some of my fellow humans, I have developed an unduly grumpy attitude to those whom I perceive to be my enemies, too.
They're idiots specifically to bother me. I know it.
It's such a ridiculous term, which I hated as a kid, but nowadays it's a really funny way to tell kids to get a move on or stop what they're doing.
My father's need to give directions is pathological. I feel like a lot of dads are "short-cut" experts, but it's not enough for my dad to just have this knowledge. Oh no, he has to share it. Here's an example conversation:
Person: "I'm going to be going to Niagara Falls in six months."
My Dad: "It's beautiful up there, you'll love it. Let me tell you the best way to go."
Person: "I'll just put it in my phone."
My Dad: "No, they're going to have you go [main thoroughfare]. Let me tell you a back way. It'll technically be longer but it'll save you time."
Person: "My app takes that into account..."
My Dad: "So what you're going to do is..."
Person: "This isn't for six months, so there's no way I will remember these directions between now and then."
My Dad: "Let me just tell you. It's very simple..."
He will not rest until he has shared his knowledge with you. It's sort of adorable.
I have not, admittedly, gotten quite this bad, but I am pretty obsessed with back roads and short cuts these days.
Because all y'all seem to have some pretty grand ideas about how to spend all this money you're not making. Maybe you'd like everything that goes along with being a fiscally responsible adult as well. Please: be my guest, children. We just got an oil delivery yesterday and I'd be happy to hand that invoice off to you.
In recent years, the idea of craftsmanship has become very important to me. (It's why I decided I wanted to buy a well-maintained home built before the 1970s, because dads in the know have assured me for years that "that's when people really took pride in their work" and I have no reason to doubt them.) So, like my father before me, I pay attention to how objects are put together. For example, will these jeans rip the first couple times you wear them? Is that table made of actual wood or particle board? Does this cookware come with a lifetime guarantee?
In addition to putting a premium on craftsmanship, are you, my child, doing your part by taking care of these items so that they last?
It's kind of like being Ron Swanson, minus the disdain for fruits and vegetables.
My dad and I are both so in love with Aldi (a cheaper-than-the-regional-average grocery store), that a solid 33 percent of our text messages are about the things we've bought there. When one of us can get something on sale at the mall, we brag about it to one another for days. When it comes to discussing bargains, we are like two ancient hunters swapping stories of taking down a great mammoth.
I wasn't always like this. I mean, I've never been prodigal with money (again, my dad's influence) but the older I get, the more I get that crazed glimmer in my eye that makes me look just like my dad when I talk about finding kids' t-shirts for $3.99.
Most dad jokes are bad puns. My dad's jokes are just... bad. They don't even always make sense. He's not big on word play, but he is big on being loudly embarrassing.
I've come to learn that this is yet another important tradition from my old man that I have begun to carry on, in spite of myself... and I do use puns. After all: a good pun is its own re-word.
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