Sunday, June 19, 2016

Your Dad Did

And you're a chip off the old block
Why does it come as such a shock
That every road up which you rock
Your daddy already did
- John Hiatt "Your Dad Did"
My son came back from his freshman year in college and I listened to him talk about life in the dorm with his roommates. I told him that he now has his own college stories, so he no longer has to ask for me to repeat mine. Which was sort of disingenuous, since I still regularly repeat the stories my father told me. Some of them were about college, but since he didn't spend a lot of time in college there weren't as many stories to retell. Instead, I remember the stories he told about growing up in Kansas. Or his high school days in Boulder. Or the time he spent in the Army, driving a radio truck around Germany, keeping Europe safe from the potential Communist insurgence. Actually, to hear him tell it, there wasn't a lot of concern about communism, more worries about the fried chicken his sergeant brought along and the beer they acquired by pulling up to the beer hall in a tank and having the beermaids pass cans down the barrel. 
I probably spent way too long, as a kid, believing everything my father told me. Like when he told me that it was his time in the army, wearing a helmet for two years, that caused him to lose his hair. Or the time he and my older brother took my younger brother and I into the pitchblack passages they discovered in the ruins of Chichen Itza. "Be careful here, since there's a fifty foot drop straight down," he told us as we clung to him unnecessarily. There was no drop. There was no hole. He was lying. I wouldn't have plummeted to my death, but I did end up losing my hair. Even though I never wore an Army helmet. 
And then there were all those jokes. Hundreds of them. The ones I remember, anyway. Most of them were just straight up silly, and though the off color ones have been largely forgotten, I always loved the way he told them. They were better than the true-life stories, and they tended to flavor the ones from real life. Which made it ever more difficult to discern the verisimilitude of anything that came out of his mouth. Which wasn't really a problem, since I was sticking around for the humor. 
I tell my son the truth. I may embroider the edges from time to time, but mostly I keep things interesting by picking the stories I choose to tell. The funny ones, mostly. Every so often, I toss in one of those heartfelt man to man deals, just to keep me honest. I tell him my dad's stories, and he's heard a lot of that vast storehouse of jokes. They now get stirred into the mix with his own. Generations of funny bits handed down from father to son, with the expressed intent of getting a laugh. 
Like your dad did. 

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