Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Definitely (Not) Laughing at Dad

At an early age, I realized my dad liked to laugh. He tells jokes. He prefers comedies. He's never shied away from telling an embarrassing story when humor is involved. From farting in the hardware store to angrily giving another driver a thumbs up instead of the finger, Dad has always willingly sacrificed himself.

I think his influence is what led me to become a storyteller. And like my dad, I prefer comedies.

Father's Day brought out a lot of sentimental Dad stories. "What's your favorite memory of your dad?" was asked via several media outlets. And though I missed the special day and it's difficult to pick a favorite, I've decided on a strong contender.

Dad and Jo in a Canoe

When the grandkids were small, my parents planned a group vacation for the whole extended family. We rented a pair of duplex cabin-type units at the Flying W Ranch in Tionesta, PA. My husband popped in during the day, opting to head home rather than stay overnight without air conditioning. So my sister's family occupied one unit while my parents, daughter and I stayed in the other.

That summer we all had this terrible cough. My side of the duplex sounded like a tuberculosis ward. We rose, hot and groggy, to meet the day.

My dad (pappy) with Julia and me at Kennywood.
Of course, I can't find the pictures of us in the actual canoe.

My dad had rehabbed this canoe. Or maybe it was a rowboat. I'm still not sure how to tell the difference. We took the boat to a little pond-ish area to give the kids a little ride.

I was selected as the second adult (possibly the first mate) that would take care of the kids during the short water excursion. This is owing to the fact that I can 1.) swim and 2.) don't melt if my hair gets wet. Also, I have excellent water shoes.

Dad shoved us out into the pond where we quickly realized that our weight distribution was totally off.

"I need to be in the front, I think," he says while rowing inefficiently with the nose of the craft high in the air.
"What do you want to do? Should we go to the shore?"
"Duck down."

I obeyed his command which was lucky because he was already preparing to straddle me. I jammed my head between my legs and held still as my dad awkwardly crab-walked over me. The sound of my sister laughing could be heard even with my head stuffed down in the boat.

Long moments passed as he continued his scrabble over my back. The boat rocked.

"Are you there yet?" I yelled.

He wasn't.

By the time he achieved the front of the boat, my sides hurt and tears were streaming down my face. I straightened up to see my sister with her camera poised. She later expressed disappointment that she couldn't really capture the scene.

We paddled a lap around the small watering hole. The kids were unimpressed. To my knowledge, that rowboat/canoe wasn't ever used again. As a rule, I now try to avoid playing leapfrog in boats with my dad, but the memory of the one time we did it can never be erased. I've tried.