When I was a young boy, my father was always giving well timed and meaningful advice. When I was first learning to ride my bike, he turned to me and said “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”, and I knew that he meant if I wanted to be a mermaid when I grew up it would be okay with him. On another occasion, as I was dealing with a bully, he leaned down and whispered in my ear “Do you think you could take your old man in a drinking contest?” and I knew that he meant I should follow a path of non-violent resistance. He was so very right, and even though that bully violated me every day with unending swirlies and purple-nurples, I knew that I was learning a valuable lesson. When I told him about the emotional journey I was on, and the progress I had made with my bully, he wasted no time on congratulations. Instead of looking at me with a look of pride, eyes welling up with tears, he shouted “A man is not a camel!” and shook his empty beer stein at me. How we lauged together as I filled it full to the brim with gin for him!
My favourite memory of my father’s wisdom came when the first dewy droplets of puberty had formed on the petals of my boy-blossom. I think he could sense the changes that were tossing inside my soul like the ceaseless north-atlantic waves. Even before I truly knew what was happening to me, he would pull me aside and say “Hey, hey, HEY! Hey, you were adopted. Fight club!” and pin me down, laughing and laughing as he slapped me with a phone book while still somehow shouting at the television about letting “Koreans run wild on whatever damn TV news program they choose”. His life experience and uncanny knowledge of my man-essence was sometimes even eerie, if he weren’t so full of love.
One night, as the dusky hues of a midsummer sunset were hueing onto the glorious backdrop of the heavens, my father found me sitting on the front porch. I had sought out solitude here, with only the sounds of the younger children of the neighbourhood playing kick-the-can to keep me company. My father knew then, as I know now only in the wizened mirror of adultship, that I had not truly wished for solitude, but rather I had yearned to be discovered. I was nursing a broken heart for the first time in my life, because Samantha Patterson, the object of my innocent but sincere affections had ended our friendship to be with Graeme Smythe.
Somehow, without words, my father knew exactly what I was going through. He settled heavily beside me on the porch, breath laboured from what I presume was his tearful empathy for me. We looked out into the gloaming with gloamyness. His scent, a scent which had come to represent my faith , trust, and love for him, wafted over to me. Old spice , rum, motor oil, and some other different kind of rum.
He sat with me, in silence, drinking in my suffering and distilling it, distillery style, into some nectar of perfect knowledge, which I awaited eagerly. Finally, after minutes, maybe even hours, the last of the light having slipped from the sky, he turned to me and said “You think you’re pretty hot shit? Let’s wrestle, peckerhead!”. He made a quick grab for me, but he collapsed, I think just as he intended, onto the sidewalk, and slept the night at my feet, protecting me like a loyal dog.