The man who raised me is a complex individual. He didn’t give a rat’s ass for safety if it impeded his performance or his fun. He is the reason I don’t feel comfortable with anyone coming into my home to repair anything. He fixed everything, from delicate necklaces to furnaces and cars. He taught us to ride bikes before helmets were even considered for non-motorized two-wheelers. He drove fast before cars had seatbelts or airbags. We rode in the back of a pickup flying down country roads to go swimming in the lake. He was the Fun parent.
As a teenager, I found him awesome and only slightly embarrassing, but always hilarious. My friends loved him. He told the best dad joke groaners. He was cool with all my friends – black, Indian*, gay, and my weird, little, white girl friend, who just happened to be my best friend in high school. I joined her youth group, though I was rapidly becoming atheist via Paganism. She celebrated birthdays with us. She laughed along with us when my mom pranked my dad on his 40th birthday with a stuffed dog with the name Sheriff BowWow etched onto his gold Sheriff’s star.
From that birthday on, my dad carried that toy everywhere.
He sat a place at the dinner table for him. Then at restaurants. Dad started dining alone. When going anywhere with him, the dog took priority, with dad seat-belting him into the front seat, while he continued to drive without using his, though the law had caught up to safety.
“Put on your seatbelts, girls!”
I could only shake my head at my weird, little friend that she better not say a word. She complied.
But she could only hold it so long, until we pulled up in front of the theater, “Sir, why is the toy dog in the front seat?”
“His name is Sheriff BowWow and he’s my friend.”
I didn’t mean to slam the door.
Dad had that dog for years. He may have it still. I doubt it’s ever been washed. We grew used to it, and ended up ignoring it. You can’t out-dad-joke a dad.
*I don’t use these terms indiscriminately. They are the words my friends used to describe themselves, and I respect their choices.