Daddy's Coming Honey!

My Dad Drew Me a Map

Spent some time with my parents this weekend. If you don’t know my dad, he looks like Captain Kangaroo. Also, I came across a poem the other day that gave me pause, made me think of that generational bridge.

No Map
by Stephen Dobyns

How close the clouds press this October first
and the rain-a gray scarf across the sky,
In separate hospitals my father and a dear friend
lie waiting for their respective operations,
hours on a table as surgeons crack their chests.
They were so brave when I talked to them last
as they spoke of the good times we would share
in the future. To neither did I say how much
I loved them, nor express the extent of my fear.
Their bodies are delicate glass boxes
at which the world begins to fling its stones.
Is this the day their long cry will be released?
How can I live in this place without them?
But today is also my son’s birthday.
He is eight and beginning his difficult march.
To him the sky is welcoming, the road straight.
Far from my house he will open his presents-
a book, a Swiss Army knife, some music. Where
is his manual of instructions? Where is his map
showing the dark places and how to escape them?

My dad drew me a map. One day he’ll be undergoing some risky operation, my son will be turning five, and I’ll be scared to death. But my dad drew me a map. All my life being raised by this man was a journey in which he drew routes to all the good and evil places, showed me where the treasures were, where the weather was fair and where people are pleasant, where the pitfalls appear and the people are mean. His map is not entirely accurate: Is anyone’s? I have to finish drawing it myself. You know, carry the torch.

He protected me from the start. Contrary to popular belief, I was never dropped on my head as a baby. Rather, once my dad slipped on some ice in freezing weather with me in his grasp. He took the greater fall while protecting me, and I bounced safely on his chest after he hit the ground.

This is the same dad who, when listening to the sermons of Glenn Colley, would let his three-year-old sit in his lap and hide myself in his sport-coat.

My dad invented a game he called Shooey! Here’s the rules: Dad lays down and pretends to sleep. The kids take underwear and socks (the dirtier, the better) and pile them on top of him. Then he starts to sniff and sniff. Then he wakes up and yells “Shooey!”, stomping toward the running, screaming children who covered him with dirty undies. You wish you grew up playing Shooey!

Once I had a paddle ball (Yes, even children born in the eighties had paddle balls. It’s not just an old-timer thing). I was playing with it way too hard and the ball snapped off the rubber band and broke a vase. My dad spanked me with the paddle. This was when I first learned that the punishment should fit the crime. Spare the rod, spoil the child. Today I am a well-disciplined man.

When I was about seven he and I made a pact to read the Bible all the way through in a year. We had it all scheduled out. He reminded me to do it every night. Come April or so he realized that I hadn’t kept up with my daily readings, and confessed that he hadn’t either. We devoted half a day to catching up to the book of II Chronicles. I think I made it to Numbers. I’m not sure how far he made it, but I could tell he realized this task was beyond the both of us. Or maybe he realized how difficult it was for my attention span, and just pretended he couldn’t do it either. Reading the entire Bible through in a year wasn’t a necessary goal to set, not with all he wanted me to learn. I didn’t finish, and he didn’t finish, and that was okay. Since then, we’ve both managed to do it, and that’s okay too.

It was my dad who took hold of my hands and showed me the placement of fingers on the keys, who then released them and allowed me to hunt and peck on my own to type my name, to play Reader Rabbit, to use PrintMaster Pro to create a banner that read, “Hapy Berthday Mom!!!” Through some fluke of wiring in our house, the light switches both at the top and bottom of the staircase which controlled the lighting fixture over the stairs were also connected to the outlet fixture directly beneath the staircase, the same outlet which powered our entire computer station. Countless times our computer would shut off when I was playing Treasure Mountain or Coaster or Indy 500 and the machine would cut off, all because my dad was flicking off the light switch upstairs. There was not a man more a master of his domain. In a single stroll every light carelessly left on was put out like a candle in under the breath of doom, and at the end he would remove his shoes and place his wallet on the dresser, the house in order. There were times when I swore he performed these executions on purpose, in hopes that I would come terms with the lifeless screen, roll the keyboard back into the desk, get up from the chair and walk up the stairs to discover the splendor of sunlight. Later he realized how dangerous electronics were for me, and adjusted punishments accordingly. It all factored in to his economy of money, power, and time. He is a conservationist at heart. He is a master couponeer, too. And he doesn’t need anything. I learned from him the ability to ask for very little from others and feel good about it. This also explains my obsession with turning off things that aren’t being used. Except my laptop. That always stays on.

If you’ve ever gone out to eat with my dad, you know he uses the same line every time: “This is the best meal we’ve had tonight.” As a kid I would often roll my eyes at his antics with waiters, but what I will always respect is how he treats every waiter. He makes small talk with them, and always leaves a nice tip. If there’s a restaurant you go to often, do you know the names of your waiters? Do you ask them how their day is? A lot of people, even among the “Sunday Lunch” crowd, are rude to their waiters and leave sorry tippage. Through observation I saw how important this seemingly minor thing is, and I try to be better at it. Of course, as good as he is, Grandpa Cha Chi is even better. Sorry, Dad, but I think you’d agree.

I experimented with bullying once. I had been bullied a little bit myself. I had the wild idea to pick on another kid. So in fourth grade I began calling Paul Eller “Pauly Pocket” on the bus. Then one night at a soccer game I hurled a soccer ball directly at his head. Later that night my dad made me call him up and apologize. By high school me and Paul were buds; my freshman year we talked on the bus all the way home most days. I did all the talking; he was still shy. I never picked on anybody ever again, except that one time I grabbed John Soderbergh by his book bag and swung him around in a circle. He was being a loud mouth. Or that time I made fun of that kid’s speech impediment. He deserved it, too. He called my friend Conley a “fschagget.” I asked him what exactly a “fschagget” was. He didn’t like that.

My first car was an Accord. It was a stick shift. Every kid should learn how to drive stick while eating fast food. If you can do that, you can do anything. I took for granted that my dad bought the car. But it wasn’t my car, just the one he let me drive, and he reminded me of that. He bought it used, and at the time I didn’t appreciate that. Today, I am committed to never buying a brand new car. He taught me that there’s always a car out there some old man had for five years and only drove once a week. The fancier it is, the more likely it will be stolen. Take it to a mechanic you know personally. And go easy on the clutch.

My dad has taught high school Bible class for the longest time. A lot of my instruction came through these settings as well as at home. It was interesting to hear it from him as a teacher. Once when Grat Tucker acted up in class, he told him to “take five” and sit outside the class in time out. I only wished all my punishment through the years was “taking five.” And although I was not there to see it, he is famed for once asking my fourteen-year-old brother, in front of everyone else in class, “Luke, what’s a prostitute? Tell everyone what a prostitute is.”

Over the years, my dad had his fair share of angry tirades about something I’d done. But what stood out more often was his show of hurt feelings whenever I’d disappointed him. Merely dishing punishment for your children may not always get the point across. My dad wanted me to see how disobeying him hurt him as a father. “Well, this really hurts your Dad.” He would let me know how he felt, but without manipulating me about it. It wasn’t just because something was wrong, but because that something hurt people, caused pain, severed relationships. He helped me see God not as a being that hurls lightning bolts at the disobedient, but aches for them when they stray.

Junior year of college my gall bladder tried to assassinate me. The doctor cut it out. It was Thanksgiving week, so I missed the first couple days of school after that. My dad took a vacation/sick day to drive me up to FHU. That was special, even thought I didn’t tell him at the time. Long drives like that, as well as long walks, were always times where only a father and son bond over nothing more than traveling, walking the road.

My dad cried at Carrie’s graduation from FHU, but not at mine. There’s an explanation: When she graduated, he was on prednozone. At my wedding I was on prednozone. I didn’t cry. Life is so full of mysetery. While my dad didn’t cry at my graduation (the faculty were crying with joy), I caught a few tears at my wedding. One thing that struck me is that he presented me with a pocket knife. Cha Chi did too, but he makes a habit of it. It was the only knife I remember my dad giving me. The special thing about it was that he told me he had gotten it when I was born and planned to give it to me on some big important day. Sure, it was just a knife, but the fact that he was looking ahead to a day like that, having no idea what his son’s life would be like, struck me. It’s that whole legacy thing. See, now I have to get a knife for Noah. And he’ll get like twenty or so from Cha Chi, the owner and proprietor of “O So Sharp Knives and Antiques”.

Goofiness. My father does not take himself too seriously. Oh where, oh where could I have gotten that? Even though at least twenty percent of the time I was embarrassed by his fashion of entertaining others in front of me, he brought a bag of humor wherever he went, and let it out when the opportunity arose. This includes, but is not limited to, doing voices (though his French, Spanish, and Chinese impersonations sound exactly the same), pretending to be incredibly dumb (he convinced a girl at the movies once that he was mad that she gave away the Titanic sinking at the end), pretending to be incredibly incensed (see the Titanic incident), making faces (you should see his “Gus” face), or telling stories (and he has passed on the “exaggeration” gene to my brother, who made wide use of it at Freed after I left—thanks).

My dad is not afraid to look like a goober, because he doesn’t have to put up a front around others to be respectable and esteemed. He lets his principles and actions take care of that. One time when I twas in middle school I was about ready to kill him the time he wore a camouflage hunting mask to a football game because of the cold, but he was warm while all the other idiots froze.

My dad was diagnosed with diabetes when I was a kid. It seemed kind of shocking at the time (“my dad has a disease?”), but how he handled it was something I looked up to. He began to exercise more, and eat healthier. In earlier years he did not do so. A big part of the change, I know, was his sons. He wanted to be a role model for us, and to live long for us. Even today he’s not as heavy set as he was twenty years ago. I’m sure he’ll tell you he’s slipped up in his eating habits, or that he still doesn’t exercise enough, but seeing him handle that affected me. I’m not the model for healthy living I should be, but where I stand is due much in part to my own father’s self discipline. The second biggest influence is my own gall bladder attack. Well, I told you about what happened there.

“I’m proud you, son.” That and “I/We love you” are two of the most-often used phrases affirmation from my father, and they are indispensable. My dad has always let me know how proud he is of me, even when I try at something and fail. And even when I disappointed him, or we had a sharp disagreement, he has let me know he loves me. Even if he had to watch me at a piano recital or do something else that wasn’t his forte, he was proud of me.

So now I wonder what I will pass on, both intentionally and unintentionally.

For those of us who were raised by good father, there is so much raw material. No matter what, we may be “haunted” by the ways in which we may potentially turn out to be like them. Some of it’s in the genes, some of it’s behavioral, some of it’s fate and irony pulling at you.

Well, I’m off to the knife store. Gotta pass the legacy. You know, carry that torch.

Here we see the presentation of the knife.

The antics of Danny Guard have been around for years. Oh, and the rest of the family too. (link available only to facebook friends, sorry.)


Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. * Janis Taylor says:

    What a wonderful tribute to two great Christian men!

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 1 month ago
  2. * Diane tucker says:

    Tearful, touching and beautiful tribute to your dad…… the way…..Grat was very thankful that he had your dad as a “role model dad”, and so many other dads in the church that taught him to be the example he needed to be when his own dad had not taught him. Grat says today “I am appreciative that he took the time to sit down with me after the incident and talk to me about how I should behave at church. Thank you too, Danny for being a great, Christian role model to so many! We love you!

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 1 month ago

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