My dad’s been gone for over three years now, but each Father’s Day, while bittersweet, gets a little easier to take. Especially when I focus on one of my favorite Dad stories, like this one:
I was 24, newly wed and living with my husband in our little love nest, a couple miles from my parents’ home in Kansas City. One Saturday, I hopped over to the old house to pick up some personal effects I’d left behind. Seinfeld called it the “pop in.” An unannounced, quick visit. It was common practice for me, at the time.
Wandering in without ringing the bell, I started up the stairs to my old room. Suddenly, I noticed the house was eerily quiet. That’s funny, I thought to myself. Both cars are in the garage. The door wasn’t locked. Uh, oh…
Naturally, I went zero to 60, from Logical Explanation Land to Worst Case Scenario City:
“Omigod! What if bank robbers are holding my entire family at gunpoint in the basement!? What if they’re all passed out under the kitchen table, victims of a horrible case of food poisoning!? Or — eek — a gas leak?” I hurried to the kitchen, the family room, laundry room and down to the basement.
“Hel-looo? Anybody home?”
By the time I reached my parents’ bedroom, I was in Stage 4 panic mode. It didn’t help that the door was closed.
“Mom?! Dad?! You in there?”
I knocked on the door.
“It’s Cathy. Hello?”
Again, no answer. My pulse was racing. I reached for the doorknob, but it wouldn’t budge. Locked from the inside!
“MOTHER….. DADDY? Is everything OK?”
A few more moments of silence, then came a familiar female voice, soft and breathless.
“Be out… in a minute…” my mother said.
It took a beat, maybe two, while my mind processed the unprocessable. Omigod!! My parents were dancing the mattress mambo! And, at three o’clock in the afternoon! Logical Explanation Land or Worst Case Scenario City? I couldn’t decide.
“SORRY!” I cried, and ran down the hall, far, far away. Or, as far away as I could get without dashing to the driveway, hopping in my Volkswagen and hightailing it home.
I waited in the family room, the humor of the situation quickly replacing the horror.
Finally, my mother shuffled out in her robe, a guilty smile on her face.
“Sorry, Mom. I had no idea…” I said, giggling.
“That’s OK,” she said. “We didn’t realize anyone was here. But, I don’t think your father will be coming out to say hello.”
We both cracked up. Dad was old school. He felt there were certain things in life that never needed to be addressed between father and daughter. Then, I heard the old man rattling around out in the kitchen.
“Hi, Cath…” he called, in a voice so sheepish I could just picture his hangdog face. But, he never showed me that face. He never came into the room. As with all matters of a sexual nature, he let my mother handle it. Even though I was 24, married and having my own afternoon delights, thank you very much, it would be two or three visits before he could look me in the eye again.
Later, I sent my parents a letter suggesting they come up with some kind of sign — a sock on the door knob, for instance — whenever the mood struck, to avoid this uncomfortable situation again.
Dad loved that and, through the years, colorful striped golf socks would show up on doorknobs in the most unexpected places, especially on family vacations.
Today, another man lives in the old house with my mother. I don’t call him stepdad, because I’m 55 and the word doesn’t seem quite right. Instead, I call him Dave.
Since their wedding in April, Mom and Dave have been blissfully cohabitating. Heck, every other time I phone, they’re out somewhere having a great time. Or, not answering, for some reason.
I have yet to attempt my first pop in. They are newlyweds, after all, and I want to give them their privacy.
But, I’ll tell you this, if I arrive at the door some Saturday afternoon and see a sock on the knob, I’m going to run to the driveway, hop in my Toyota, and high-tail it home.