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Dad Was Different

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Falling short with excellence

Dad was different.

Didn’t see him much growing up. Still, he was around enough to make some memories. I looked forward to his stories. He would have me entranced in a world beyond just by his descriptions and explanations about how things work and why things are what they are. He is the reason I didn’t read my kids stories at bedtime. I made them up and included them in the stories. They did everything and went everywhere.

Seems like a good dad.

Still, he had to split time between families. He had 6 kids with my mother. I was #5 and was the only boy. One day, when I was in 5th grade, he called me into the bathroom where he was shaving.

“You know how you always wished you had a brother?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you do. You have 2 of them.”

I guess it was time we all learned about the “other” family. Two brothers and two more sisters. The older of the 2 brothers only a few months older than me. Crazy stuff.

Dad marched to the beat of his own drum. And he probably stole the drum from someone else.

He put up with nothing from anyone. He would stare down a grizzly and could make the Devil run home crying. He feared nothing. He won battles with gangs, police, and anyone who slighted our family in the least.

And he saved me many times.

When I was a small boy, a friend of mine and I took turns sitting in some steel contraption dad had in the yard. It fit only one, so when it was my turn, I sat inside and Kirk locked the door. Then he ran home. It was dusk and I started screaming. Then the door opened and there was my dad.

Once I was in a tree and was trying to climb to the end of a branch. I fell between two large limbs that made. “Y” and my head got stuck between the limbs. I hung there with no support for my arms and legs. I could not get myself out of it. I flailed, cried, and screamed. . Then I felt someone grab my ankles and tell me to stiffen up. I did and my dad pushed me up and got me to where the “Y” was wide enough to bring me down.

Another time, I went sledding with a friend on the tall sides of the freeway being built about a half mile away. It was a bitterly cold day and we decided to go home. As we walked through the woods to get home, the snow was up to our thighs. We were struggling to stay warm and keep walking. I remember the wind biting at my cheeks and fingertips while the snow seemed to ice my legs. My friend wanted to run, but I couldn’t. He apologized and took off. I made the decision to drop my sled and hoped I wouldn’t get in trouble for that. I eventually made it home, but was in bad shape. Dad grabbed me and wrapped me up with himself and rubbed my legs. It felt like I had frozen spots under my thighs and calves. Dad got me back to feeling warm.

Once when I threw a garbage bag over my shoulder, glass from a broken sauce jar sliced into the back of my leg. I dropped the bag and the glass cut as it fell. Mom and dad took me to the hospital and dad let me hold his arm while I cried and got stitches.

I look back on some of my most frightful days, and dad seemed to have been there.
How? He was never home. He worked nights, slept days, and spent time in other people’s beds. He cheated, lied, conned, and lived a life that served himself.
How did the man who was hardly around happen to be right where I needed him so many times?

And how could this wonderful storyteller who was my savior have such a mean streak? The things I know of him, things he did to people, they do not fit the man I described. How can I be allowed to love someone who I know is responsible for…. some pretty bad shit.

I had a dream once not long after he died. Dad had invited everyone to a new house he lived in. As I drove to his new place, I passed his old place. It was also where I lived with him in high school. The old house was on fire. When I got to the new place, I was angry that he was smiling and showing off the new house while our old house burned out of control. He was fine leaving it like that.

I wanted to enjoy my father, my family, and the event, but I felt guilty loving a dad who would let things burn and walk away from it. I demanded my dad sit down at the table and talk to me. I was going to unload on him about what a horrible person he was and that I don’t see how I can be allowed to love him in light of his ways. We sat down, I looked across the table, and found myself staring at me. There was another me sitting across from me. And the other me spoke.

“He is your father. It’s ok to love him. Let the rest of the world hate him.”

I wonder if that’s true.

Happy Father’s Day, dad. Wherever you are.

Dominic Gerace

© 2022 Nick Gerace

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