Thursday, May 23, 2019

Father’s Day

The topic for this week is what crime fiction would you recommend for a Father’s Day gift?

From Jim

I grew up in a large family. I remember the fun times of playing sports in our yard with my brothers and the neighborhood kids. We played football in torrential downpours, especially enjoying sliding through the mud. The wetter the better. I suspect my mother enjoyed it less than we did, at least when we presented our muddy clothes for washing. And our games tore up the lawn. Dad urged us to stop doing that.

We also had a basketball hoop against our garage. In our teens, when we were nearly fully grown, we discovered a cool workaround that made us feel like NBA all stars.

If we drove straight at the basket—dribbling at full speed—planted a foot against the wall and pushed off skyward with all our might, we could dunk the ball on a regulation ten-foot basket. Very satisfying for five kids who would never otherwise be able to play above the rim. The footprints on the white paint were a extra bonus. Our dad loved those.

Another time, when organizing a baseball game, we realized our last ball had been left outside and was completely waterlogged—ruined and unusable. So we did the unthinkable. We took the souvenir foul ball we’d caught at a Cardinals-Cubs game in 1969 (Ferguson Jenkins pitching, Joe Torre batting), removed it from the plastic globe we’d bought to enshrine and protect it, then took it outside for a sandlot game.

The ball never stood a chance. Left outside, completely waterlogged, ruined and unusable within three days. Dad was incredulous.

Growing up in a large family—six boys and two girls—was a veritable Darwinian struggle for survival. If your older brothers weren’t beating you up, they were hogging the best seat on the couch in front of the television. With no remote control back then, we engaged in epic battles of wills on a daily basis. To leave the couch to change the channel meant losing one’s plum spot. How many episodes of Family Affair did we suffer through in our tests of endurance, all for selfishness on the part of the haves and stubborn spite from the have-nots? This in-fighting was a constant drone in our father’s ear. Maybe that’s why he worked so hard. Precious respite from eight rambunctious little heathens, for, make no mistake, we were godless howler monkeys on a permanent sugar high.

So, for all the late-night wars of Scrabble or Risk, usually ending with our dad closing down the game so he could get some sleep and go to work in the morning; for the times we did flips off the roof of the house into a snowbank, ending up damaging the shingles and tracking slush into the house; for the times the police dragged one of us home as a courtesy to our dad, instead of locking us up for drinking beer in the fields; and for the unauthorized parties we threw when our parents were out of town, especially the one that left a miniature replica of the Spinario (boy with thorn) statue decapitated;

and for so many other idiotic, annoying, and dangerous stunts we pulled— too numerous to catalogue here—for all those, our dad deserves thanks and a nice gift for Father’s Day. It doesn’t have to be a book or crime fiction or even the last popsicle in the freezer (though that was a prize none of us ever passed up, whether we wanted it or not, because we knew it wouldn’t be there later if we didn’t grab it), no. None of those things. Just give something nice to Dad on Father’s Day. He gave everything for you.


Paul D. Marks said...

Nice post about your family and to your dad, Jim. But how could you take that souvenir foul ball out and play it. Ouch.

Jim Wilsky said...

I didn't realize I grew up on the same block as you! Jumping off roofs, bicycles and out of trees onto a big cardboard box, basically just terrorizing the neighborhood. Football in the rain and mud, played across three front yards. A prison yard game was more civilized than those. I've never been pummeled and hit so hard since and also getting blind sided by that one tree while reaching for that pass. Great stuff and I related to it all. I just wish you could have worked in 'party lines' somehow. That was #1 on my dad's list of things that really set him off. I laughed the whole through, but the howler monkey comment stole the show.

James W. Ziskin said...

Thanks, Jim Wilsky. We had a tree in our yard that set the occasional pick on an over-the-middle route. Drew the plays in the dirt with our fingers. Sometimes on the palm of our hands. And for “touch football” it was pretty violent. Taught me my 7 multiplication table, though. Loved hearing your take. Thanks!

MB Paretta said...

My family had 3 girls. We played football in the rain once with a hard loaf of bread at vets field. We would get anyone on Locust Ave together and play. Thank goodness my Dad wasn't the only one who seemed to work 22 hrs a day. Wanted to chain him up to talk to him for 5 minutes. Thanks for the peek into your home.

kk said...

Wow. Who knew? I never would've guessed, knowing you now Jim. As an only child, I marvel at your tales.
Your dad deserves extra extra on Father's Day.

Susan C Shea said...

Eight kids? My father was one of seven, but that was an earlier generation. Hats off to you all - and to your dad and mom - for surviving!.By the way, my kid brother once did a flip off the roof into a snowbank that, unfortunately, had a ski pole sticking out, point up. It was imbedded in his forehead but, fortunately, not in his brain. He still has the scar.

Kathy Reel said...

Jim, who knew you were such a rascal? Eight kids puts both of your parents in line for sainthood. We were only four, but my mother didn't drive, so my father had to drive us everywhere until we got our license, and he was 52 when I was born. It was little wonder that he got each of us a vehicle when we got our license. For his chauffer duties alone, he deserved our respect. He's been gone now for 22 years, but I owe much to him for the person I became, which is more good than bad, I hope.