Let sleeping dads lie

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‘Remembering my Dad, who took napping to a whole new level — mainly horizontal’

Last Friday would have been my parents’ 66th wedding anniversary. I say ‘would have been’ not because they didn’t stay married. No, it’s because my dad, alas, is no longer with us. Dad made it to 80, which made him pretty happy. But just barely, which made the rest of us pretty sad.

The last photo my Dad ever took. That’s Older Younger Brother Scott — and Me — at Dad’s 80th Birthday Party. Taken with my camera, by Dad

Anyway. This past January 13 got me thinking about my Dad. And if you too knew him, whether as ‘Dad’, ‘Uncle Dale’, ‘DJ’ or ‘Deej’, ‘Henry Dale’ (which is how his mail was often addressed and how our friend Regina insisted on addressing him), or even as ‘Scotty’ (he apparently had a tartan plaid fixation as a child), you know that you can’t think about him without also thinking about some of his, well, ‘quirks’.

Yes, quirks. Dad was full of them. For example, he couldn’t stand the sound of crunching. Raw vegetables being consumed in his presence made his head spin around. (Ice? OMG.) He hated crunching so much that when he went on a trip to drum up business for the civil engineering firm he helped found, the still-going-strong Henry, Meisenheimer and Gende, we Stay-at-Home Henrys would take advantage of his absence to go crazy chomping down on every raw carrot or celery stick and/or pretzel or cracker we could get our teeth into.

On these trips, he no doubt warmed up his audience with a few jokes — he was a very charming raconteur — jokes he no doubt told in his inimitable way, a technique we kids dubbed the ‘Whoa Back’. The ‘Whoa Back’ was a maneuver in which Dad would lean in closer and closer to you as he delivered his joke, till he was almost right in your face. Then, as he wound up to the punch line, he’d ‘whoa back’ on his heels and laugh — leaving you decidedly off balance in more ways than one.

Dad getting ready to demonstrate the ‘Whoa Back’ at some gathering of the clan requiring the wearing of suits. That’s Jimmy-with-all-the-toys’ Dad Uncle Cal on the left and Uncle Don on the right

I could go on and on, since Dad was, in fact, a delightfully quirky guy full of delightful quirks. Like he could balance a spoon on his nose, a quirk (or is it a trick?) I’ve shared with you before, but can’t help sharing again. Not just because it’s so very cool, but also because, no matter how hard I try, I still can’t accomplish it.

I know, I know. I’ve shown you this pic before. (Which was taken of Dad and Only Sister Laura by Older Younger Brother Scott.) But how can I resist?

The quirk I’d like to focus on today is the Napping Thing. Suffice it to say that my Dad never met a horizontal surface he didn’t like. Naturally, he’d nap on couches and in hammocks. Some belonging to us, but many others not. The couch occupied by Dad in the picture at the top of this post belonged to an HMG client who loaned us his Snowmass ski condo one very memorable cheek-by-jowl vacation week. We’d awaken every morning to Dad tuning in the 5:30 AM ski report on a very crackly transistor radio. It’s a wonder we all didn’t nap. Though it would have been tricky squeezing all seven of us onto that couch.

Dad also napped on sand, on grass, under trees, and sometimes, quite frighteningly, while driving. I can remember quite clearly being the only person awake (besides Dad, sort of) on those marathon drives to Gramma’s House, staring at the back of his nodding head, willing him to stay awake behind the wheel while the Meister brau Hour played on the car radio.

And Dad was not only a napper, he was a napper-denier. Which meant that, if confronted with the fact that he had been napping, he would always deny it. ‘Me? Asleep? I was just resting my eyes!’ This happened a lot when the TV was tuned to something like golf. There he’d be, snoring away on the couch, and if you tried to change the channel to something more fun like, say, The Three Stooges (absolutely forbidden by our Mother because my brothers would run around nyuck nyuck nyucking each other) he’d growl ‘What are you doing? I was watching that.’

Now I’ve never been much of a napper myself, though I did inherit Dad’s aversion to crunching. (See ‘In Outer Space, No One Can Hear You Scrinch’.) Sleeping during the daytime reminds me too much of being sick, specifically of having chicken pox when I was seven and sharing Mom and Dad’s bed with equally-sick-and-itchy Scott, both of us smeared with calamine lotion and eating green jello studded with fruit cocktail while watching bad daytime TV. (Actually, at this point in my life that sounds rather pleasant.)

I do have a tendency to do what The Child calls ‘sleep watching’ and/or ‘sleep reading’. (My Mother does this too; maybe it’s a Swede Thing.) This means you nod off while reading a book or watching a movie. But I don’t think it counts as napping because neither you — nor, with any luck, your glass of wine — ends up in a horizontal position.

Well, it’s been almost eight years now since Dad moved on to the Great Davenport in the Sky. I sure hope they appreciate a good ‘Whoa Back’ up there — and that the angels have limited access to raw carrots.

Mom and Dad at their wedding in (gasp) 1951. Looks like he’s thinking about balancing a spoon on his nose, doesn’t he?

Amagansett, New York. January 2017

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Panamaman Memories

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‘Don’t sit under the Tourist Tree with anyone else but me’

Apologies for my tardiness in getting this post out, O Faithful Fans. But The Dude and I just flew in from Panama, and boy are our arms tired. (Not to mention our bottoms, after six hours of getting to the airport while bouncing in a van on quaintly winding Panamanian roads.)

Speaking of flying, we saw gazillions of new bird species. (Well, around 250, give or take a specie.) Plus lots of other animals like monkeys, and sloths (the non-human kind), and adorable just-hatched baby turtles. Here is The Dude bonding with one of the babies (turtles, not sloths — though we did see some baby sloths too):

Don’t worry Little Guy; Wayne likes turtles. And I don’t mean in soup

And here they are, hightailing it down to the water. The Child saw one bobbing next to her surfboard soon after its release. Maybe it wanted a ride. Continue reading

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Walking on air

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‘Spending New Year’s Eve in a jungle. (No, not the one in Times Square.)’

When I was a kid I used to watch the Ball drop in Times Square on TV, and dream of being there on New Year’s Eve to see it in person. But now that I actually live in New York, somehow the idea of standing cheek by jowl with a bunch of inebriated strangers in the freezing cold doesn’t sound nearly so enticing.

I think that’s the case with a lot of things that you dream about being old enough to do: driving, wearing pajamas all day, eating dessert first. I’m sure you can think of your own examples.

But even if I’m not out there partying in Times Square (or partying anywhere, for that matter) I still insist on staying up till midnight to See The New Year In. Even if no one stays up with me, which happens more and more frequently with each passing Eve. Continue reading

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Many happy returns

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‘Observing Boxing Day, the American Way’

Yes, yes, I know. ‘Many happy returns’ is something you say on someone’s birthday, not Christmas. But yesterday was ‘Boxing Day’ (and, incidentally, Monday, which is when I start pondering what the heck I’m going to write about on Tuesday).

I sort of knew that December 26 was a British Holiday that originally had to do with boxing up Christmas goodies for the servants. Who had to work (duh) on Christmas Day (see Holiday episodes of ‘Downton Abbey’ for colorful detail) so they did their celebrating the day after, with the help of said donated largesse from The Master.

But — voila! — when I looked up ‘Boxing Day’ on good ole Wikipedia, there was this secondary explanation:

In modern times, it has taken on the meaning of boxing up unwanted Christmas gifts and returning them to the shop.

Yesterday I also happened upon an article in the Wall Street Journal about stores gearing up for our kind of Boxing Day. Apparently, about 10% of all gifts bought in stores are returned, and 30% of gifts bought online are. But guess how most are returned? In stores. So the smarty-pants stores stock up on stuff that you might really like in exchange for That Thing Uncle Joe Got You. Continue reading

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The Breakfast of Champions

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‘Some random thoughts on The Think Drink’

So. I’m walking into my apartment lobby and run into a couple of neighbors. Well, I didn’t literally run into them, which is a good thing because I was clutching an extremely large container of coffee. A venti quad skim latte, to be exact. Which is four shots of espresso and some frothy skim milk. It’s really big, and really good, if you like that sort of thing. And I do.

Well, after making some remark about coming by later to ‘scrape me off the walls’, my neighbors waltzed off to buy Christmas cards or wrapping paper or evergreen fronds. Or something. While I came upstairs to write this piece. (And sip my coffee.)

I love coffee. If some doctor told me I couldn’t drink it, I would have some pretty serious issues. I think it’s delicious, and I also think it gets your brain firing on all cylinders. I’m not the only one. Years ago there was an ad campaign for coffee with the tagline ‘The Think Drink’. And, to this day, Young Attractive Persons use coffee as a study aid. (See photo at the top of this post as proof; Attractive Person pictured is the son of one of my friends, preparing for a final exam.)

Proof that coffee fuels creativity as well as study. Note mug on table as well as spoons on noses

I grew up with Attractive Persons who were always drinking coffee. ‘Would you like coffee?’, ‘Coffee’s in the kitchen’ or even a simple ‘Coffee’s on’ was how one was greeted at the door. In fact, while digging out pictures for this post, I realized that it was a rare family photo that did not feature a Henry or Peterson adult clutching a mug. Continue reading

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The gift that keeps on giving

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‘It really is the thought that counts’

First, I must extend my heartfelt apologies to The Child for using that photo up top from a Christmas-morning-in-her-early-teens-when-she’d-dyed-her-hair-an-unfortunate-hue. But it’s the only picture I could find of her actually presenting us with Christmas Coupons. So I simply could not resist.

As for the Christmas Coupons themselves, here’s one I had the foresight to save. Too bad it has, alas, expired.

I don't have a photo of The Child presenting me with this, but she was not a teen, and had normal-tinted hair at the time. I'm thinking maybe 8 or 9

I don’t have a photo of The Child presenting me with this. But I’m betting she was 8 or 9 at the time, with untinted hair and pretty impressive cursive

The Child came up with the idea of Christmas Coupons when she was barely able to scrawl with a Number Two pencil on lined paper. Instead of going to the Ben Franklin store to buy her Mommy a teensy vial of Evening in Paris (like I did for my mom, and which she probably still has), The Child would inscribe small bits of paper with promissory notes, usually for personal services. (Her foot rubs were in great demand, by her Dad anyway; I’ve never been able to let anyone anywhere near my feet.)  Continue reading

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The Daydream Believer and the Homecoming Queen

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‘A song sends me rocketing down Memory Lane, and reaching for my tiara’

The other morning I was in Starbucks, practicing my New Post-Election Niceness (‘After you’. No, ‘after you’. No no I insist! ‘After you‘) when I realized that the Monkees were playing on the sound system.

Yup, it was ‘Daydream Believer’, sung by the Actual Monkees, not some cover band. And not only were the Young Moms Wrestling with Strollers on the Way to School Drop-off and the Scrubs-Clad New York Hospital Med Students and Orderlies bopping to the beat, but so were the Starbucks baristas. One of them, a young man with a most impressive set of dreads tucked up under his requisite foodservice cap, was actually singing along. He knew the words to ‘Daydream Believer’, a song that was popular about a zillion years ago when I was in high school.

Speaking of popular, speaking of high school. Scroll down a bit for a photo of me from Way Back When. As you can see, looks-wise, I wouldn’t exactly scare the horses, but my kind of long-haired lankiness wasn’t exactly in fashion back then. At least not where I grew up. The really popular girls — the ones who went steady with the Guys on the Basketball Team (we had no football team) or the Guys in Bands (and I don’t mean bands with trombones in them) — were ‘cute’ and ‘perky’, and with, um, more 3-dimensional figures than mine. They were usually also cheerleaders. Continue reading

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