We all have them and this Sunday we celebrate them. It’s the stories that go with them that make them the legends they are.
I think a dad’s two major roles are to teach us life lessons (look both ways before crossing the street, always use two hands to catch a baseball, don’t drive more than 5mph over the speed limit or you’ll get a ticket), and at least once, and usually many times, do or say something that absolutely mortifies us (wearing shorts, loafers and long socks together, or energetically singing Disney tunes off key on a Colorado ski lift). These roles transcend culture and socio economic status. It was a point clearly made at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony this year. The late Beatle, George Harrison, one of the most talented and respected musicians ever, was not exempt from making his son, Dhani, cringe. Dhani gave the induction speech for Jeff Lynne and Electric Light Orchestra (Jeff was one of George’s best friends and a fellow a Traveling Wilbury).
Dhani spoke of his first rock concert when he was seven, going with dad to ELO. He was mesmerized by the music, but was appalled when his dad left his seat and suddenly appeared on stage with a guitar. He had seen guitars around his house but had never seen his dad perform publicly. How many times have you thought, “Dad, please don’t embarrass me!” I could almost feel the anxiety in young Dhani.
As is the case most of the time, dad came through just fine and Dhani got his first taste of what his father was about. As an aside, in an interview once he told a story about how kids used to chase him after school singing ‘Yellow Submarine.’ When he finally explained his situation to his dad, George had to explain that he was a Beatle and that was one of their songs.
Do you have memories like that? My fear of heights, which I successfully passed on to both sons (being inside an airplane doesn’t count for Nick but it sure does for me) was taught on a trip to Florida when I was about Dhani Harrison’s age. Somewhere in the Smokey Mountains on a rainy night, we were crossing a bridge/dam that was just too much for my dad to handle so he just stopped, despite numerous signs telling us ‘No Stopping on the Bridge.’ (Dad, you can’t stop here! The signs said!) He even made mom get out and walk around to the driver’s side so he didn’t have to get out himself but rather just slide over. Impressive respect for heights don’t you think? A life lesson learned, thankfully with no witnesses to be embarrassed in front of. I have always wondered if he would have stopped during the day with traffic around.
He also taught his sons and my sons a love for those ‘Stupid Cubs’. Occasionally in moments of clarity (or after yet another Cardinal World Series appearance) he would apologize for making us Cub fans, saying he was going to start rooting for the Toronto Blue Jays. He truly loved baseball, and last November he was in our hearts and minds during the roller coaster ride to the Cubs World Series win. Another life lesson taught and received about being able to patiently wait in the midst of disappointment while others are celebrating. Good things FINALLY come to those who wait.
What life lessons did you dad impart and what was the most embarrassing thing he ever did/said?
Whatever the answers, he was dad and that’s what he was supposed to be doing.