Lessons from Dad: Beyond Baseball and Grilling

commentary editorial opinion

Nick Reiher

Father’s Day is coming up. I sense a general scurrying among the family – inside the house and away – of what they can do to treat ol’ Pops for a day.
We will be going, as we did last year, to the Machine Shed in Davenport. We learned last year that the spot we would stop at fairly regularly on our trips to Minnesota years ago has a wonderful Father’s Day brunch. And it is easily accessible to us here, as well as our daughter in Iowa City.
Besides that, the day is wide open. I do not expect any slippers since the ones I got for Christmas are still in great shape. Even if I still did wear ties, I have a wonderful collection of Marvel superhero and Beatle ties, as well as a Gumby, dammit. I love them all.
My Dad was pretty easy to buy for. Usually cologne, until I was old enough to buy scotch. He didn’t really like going out to dinner on Father’s Day, preferring to grill – he had one of the first grills in the region back in the day – maybe steaks, or a capon on the rotisserie, basted with butter and sage.
My job was to keep him supplied with beer during the grilling process. I would run up and down our stairs to grab a Budweiser and run down. After having a sip or two. Suffice it to say, I was burned out on Bud – and later Bud Lite – by the time I was 15.
Before the food – and we – were “done,” we might go out in the alley and play catch. We had started doing that when I was 3 or 4, first with a Wiffle ball and bat; then with gloves and the “league” ball.
These were special times. Dad worked a lot. We didn’t go on vacations, even short ones on weekends. We would hit Kiddieland or Adventureland now and then if it wasn’t too tired after work.
But usually, he came home, we ate and then he and Mom would watch TV. Later on, I would be out after dinner to squeeze the last bit of daylight for more baseball with friends.
I know this is an issue these day, but I still have yet to meet anyone who’s parents taught them about sex, including me. At least directly.
Mom – a treasure herself – would make sublime comments about the issue from time to time, most of which I didn’t understand until much later. Sometimes because they were in Italian.
Dad would do the same, maybe a little more discreetly. But he made up for that by “hiding” his Playboys under a seat cushion in the living room on a chair with a cover. It would have been the perfect hiding spot were it not for the covered cushion sitting up about five inches higher than the other one.
Even with all this instructional material around, it took me a few years to figure out how things worked. By the time he passed in 2005, I fully understood the last dirty joke he told me.
Dad did teach me baseball and that I needed to be a Cub fan, like his grampa was. My brother Gordon and I wished he could have been around in 2016.
He taught me to love and respect my wife. He taught me how to grill. You know, we had him over a few years before he died, and he grabbed the clompers out of my hand because he didn’t think I was moving the cut-up chicken just right.
He was probably right.
Dad was not perfect, by any means. He foundered in many ways after my Mom passed at a very early age. My brother and I and our families did the best to support him. But he liked to do things his own way.
He also liked to eat, which is good when you marry an Italian woman. Dad liked a lot of foods, but he was absolutely amazing when it came to corned beef and ribs.
So, I will think of him when lining up at the Machine Shed buffet on Father’s Day. Both for all he taught me and how he could have cleared that table like a hurdler.

 

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