My dad has hair halfway down his back, and it’s been that long since I can remember. It seems to get whiter everytime I see him, but 20 years ago it was dark brown.
His hair used to embarrass me when my friends at school would inevitably quiz me on it.
“Is that your dad?” they’d ask, wide-eyed.
“Yes,” I’d admit, blushing.
“You think he’ll ever cut his hair?” they’d ask.
“No,” I’d admit, blushing.
He turned 60 last September.
My mother used to describe him as a creature of habit, but I think even actual creatures of habit would think my father was strange with the rigidity to which he sticks to a schedule.
He’s like a baseball player in the middle of a hot streak. Superstitious, bordering on manic.
I find him very hard to describe to those who have not met him, so I usually start with this: every night at 8 p.m. he heads out to the two-car garage attached to the white New England cape in which I was raised, up north in Vermont. The house was built in 1838, the garage added probably 100 years later, but we don’t really know.
He stands in the garage, in a space he refers to as The Clubhouse. It’s full of strange posters, knick-knacks, and tools. A lawnmower. Music posters from bygone eras, shows that happened 5, 10, 20 years ago. He reads, and listens to the Cleveland Indians on a shoddy AM radio feed that only comes in after dark during the summer, or he listens to music.
One year we tried to buy him an XM radio so the Indians games would come in crystal clear, but he said he “preferred the AM radio.” I have multiple times tried to sell him on the service provided by MLB to listen to live radio streams of games via the internet, and he balks at that too.
He has an incredibly deep collection of CDs, one that he still adds to when he visits the few surviving music stores in the area every couple of months. It’s one of the few things he buys for himself, CDs.
My dad’s taste in music is unrivaled by anyone I’ve ever met. Really. And he’s up to date, too, constantly cycling in new, hip bands. I can’t tell you how many times he’s told me about a band and they exploded in the months following (North Carolinians will appreciate that he absolutely adored Ryan Adams, and his initial project, Whiskeytown, before most anyone outside of the Land of the Pines had heard of him, or them). This stems from a first career in radio that began at age 16, and continued in at least a part time capacity for over three decades more.
For nearly my entire life, though, he’s been an English teacher, and his students love him. I know, I probably sound biased at this point and to be sure, I am. But his students would go out of their way to meet me when we were at a local function in later years, to tell me that he was the first person who got them to love reading. Often – and truly, almost always – they would call him their favorite teacher.
That’s quite the statement!
It might surprise you to find out that one of the things my father reads in The Clubhouse is this newspaper, the Mebane Enterprise. His subscription has now continued for a year after I stopped regularly writing for it. Sometimes I forget that, and then he’ll email me – “hey, Adam did a nice job on that article regarding fallen soldiers in Vietnam,” or “Bailey Pennington’s articles on the lockdowns and teachers rally were really good.”
He’s never met Adam nor Bailey, but sometimes it feels like he has.
He’s only set foot in Mebane once. He rode out there with me to pick up a couch from Habitat for Humanity’s Restore when he visited once. He was eager to get to Mebane, asking me multiple times as we drove up Buckhorn Road, “is this Mebane yet?”
I would bet he’s more up on Mebane city politics than over half the town, thanks to his dedication to the newspaper to which he just renewed his subscription for a third straight year.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to get him for Father’s Day. He’s given my brother and me so much, and he insists he wants nothing in return. Us existing is a gift enough, he says.
So I figured I’d give him this – his own spotlight in a paper he reads every week. To say Happy Father’s Day, that I couldn’t imagine a better father, and I hope he comes back to Mebane soon.
I think he’ll like it more than an XM radio, and I know he won’t try and return it.