I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately, and then Father’s Day just popped up and I find myself thinking about you even more.
I’m trying to do renovation work on my house, and my consistent guidepost is: How would Dad tackle this problem? That fence that you built behind my property here got knocked down in a storm several years back – trees from the neighbor’s yard fell and smashed it to bits – and the boards that I put up as replacements have already rotted through. It’s as humid here as ever, even with the drought that we had last year. I’ve started replacing the fence a section or two at a time, and am putting in a retaining wall behind it, so the wood doesn’t rot as quickly the next time. That seems to be a solution of which you would have approved.
I remember when you were building that fence, we used to watch the woman who lived on the corner walk her dog up the alley and let it take a dump right behind my house. She’d just stand there watching it, smoking a cigarette. You eventually got talking with her, and she coincidentally stopped using my backyard as her dog’s potty. Well, she died last year, after battling on and off again with cancer. We had become friendly. She used to ask about you all the time.
You would really like the new garage I had built about three years ago. It was built on the same plot that the old one was on, but I added an office as a second level. Mom gave me a red rolling tool cabinet like the one you had, as a Christmas present year before last. I am slowly filling it with tools as I find a use for them and buy them (from Sears, of course!). You would find plenty of stuff to keep you occupied out in my garage. Your toolshed and garage behind our house on Laurel Road and your house in Vista were your favorite places to hang out, think things over, and “fart around,” as we used to say. I find that I spend at least as much time in my garage here, and its office, as I do in the main house. Guess I picked that habit up from you.
Closed the store at the end of last year. People just weren’t buying Buck Owens and Merle Haggard CDs like they used to. And all of the old Johnny Rodriguez albums have gone out of print. There are a hell of a lot of records being released every week, but the ratio of really worthwhile ones to really bad ones has essentially inverted since I was a kid, or even since I had gotten into music, as business, nearly 20 years ago. I find I’m mainly listening to artists from my childhood, high school and college days now. As I get older I find that I agree with what you used to say, that the old stuff is always the best. For a multitude of reasons, and in a multitude of situations.
I was digging through my spare bedroom this afternoon, looking for a box to mail a DVD package in. I came across four boxes containing old photographs, mainly pictures from Massachusetts, when I was using my camera a lot. In the last box, I found several envelopes of photo negatives, labelled with the year and the family photo album that the pictures were in (like “Book #2”). I had completely forgotten that I had these – Mom had given them to me years ago with a light box, and I was going to organize them and reprint as many as I could. In keeping with my usual pattern of action, the project never got off the ground.
Among the envelopes in this box, I found this photograph of you:
What a badass! You were 17 years old there. Mom hadn’t even met you yet. I’m looking at the shadows, but there isn’t one of the person who is taking the picture. Was it Uncle Ernie? I am going to see him next month – I’ll make him a copy of this picture and ask him to tell me what he remembers about that cholo who forgot to button his jeans.
While I’m thinking about it, I wanted to ask you about a tiny picture that I found at your house the week after you passed away. When was it taken? Looks like you were even younger in this picture than in the one above. Maybe you were in grade school. The actual photograph is about the size of my thumbnail. I keep it in my wallet, so it goes with me everywhere.
Anyway, I was sitting in the spare bedroom looking at all of these negatives. What a treasure of memories! I was thinking about how ridiculously expensive it would be to get them all printed. Then, I remembered…I remembered that my new scanner can scan negatives! I took an envelope of them up to the garage (2nd floor) and found out that the scanner is only equipped to scan negatives that are in a strip. These that I just unearthed are square, and about twice as wide. I discovered that with a little manipulation I could scan a rectangular section of these negatives, so I tried some.
This one was taken in our backyard on Laguna Street. There are four generations of our family in this picture! And look at Tricia, what a wonderful smile. Or maybe that’s just a mischievous grin on her face as she plans her next project, like taunting me with an ice cream cone.
Yes, like that. I know where she learned that trick. From you! The same guy that I learned my smart-aleck moves from. Like chatting up the waitress or the girl behind the register in the grocery store check-out lane. Whenever I find myself doing that or terrorizing someone with a friendly taunt, I think of you, my father, who taught me how to be a wise-ass. And how to do it confidently.
Every time I see an Australian Shepherd. Every time I see a picture of Martha Stewart or hear her name (MARFA!). Every time I go out to the garage and see that red tool cabinet on wheels. Every time I have to re-measure and re-cut a piece of wood (“Measure twice, cut once!”). Whenever I pick up a razor to shave my face. Every time I tell someone the story about the last one into the pool not getting the five dollars. Every time I see a can of Coors beer. Or a Ford. Or whenever I eat Mexican food with a scoop ripped from a flour tortilla. You’re still hanging around at all of these times, and practically every day of the year.
But today gets your name.
Thanks, Dad. I miss you.