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Saturday, April 26, 2008

It Takes a Village to Raise an Idiot

I remember the formative years of my childhood. I learned so much from my father. I worked with him in the yard. He taught me how to paint. We washed and waxed cars together. He took me to his jobs, where first I could only watch, but later could assist. He taught me how to drive a car.

Our time together was not all spent in work, though. He taught me billiards. We played catch together. He took me golfing. On sunny afternoons we swam in the pool together. He taught me how to ride a bicycle and roller skate. And, of course, he took me to my first major league baseball game.

He constructed an electric train set for me. He built an orange crate scooter for me. He took me to Cape Canaveral, Disney World, the World's Fair, sites of American history, the zoo, and the ice cream parlor. I acquired from him an appreciation for Big Band music, old movies, and redheads. Needless to say, he clothed, fed, and sheltered me.

Some things he just didn't do. He didn't ask the neighbors to supervise me. He never expected them to pick up my toys. I wasn't left after school to the care of the television. I wasn't allowed to venture beyond the sight of my house. He never raised his voice or his hand to me. And there was never a time that he didn't know where I was.

When I grew older, he gave me advice. He bought me my first car, and later we bought an antique car together. We became golf partners. I knew that no matter where either of us were, or whatever our circumstances, he always kept one eye on me, ever alert to my well-being. And one day our roles even reversed, when I taught him how to use a computer.

Maybe the most important thing about my father was I could go to him if I needed comfort, or assistance, or rescue, or when I experienced one of childhood's inevitable cataclysmic disappointments. He would answer my questions with understanding. He would teach me with patience. Perhaps without even knowing, he was a role model for me. And I always knew where I could find him. And it was never in the neighbor's garage drinking beer.