It’s a typical summer afternoon and my dad is up to his usual. The smell of hot fresh popcorn fills the kitchen as my dad sits in the adjoining family room on his favorite Lay-Z-Boy recliner watching the latest Los Angeles Dodgers game. Since my dad can’t be at Dodger Stadium, he’s recreated the scenario with popcorn, peanuts, pretzels, and a lime margarita. If I sit down to join him, he’ll pause the game he’s watching on Direct TV and explain the strategy. If there’s a home run or a RBI, he’ll rewind the game and tell me to watch the moment. And, if I miss the game and the final winning moment, he’ll show me the next day on the TV recording and from an online video, explaining his excitement. Although he has a lot to say about baseball, this sport isn’t the only thing he talks about. In fact, my dad says a lot of things I haven’t forgotten. Here are a few phrases he says that perfectly describe him:
“Nostrovia!” My dad usually reserves this for one of my sister’s friends from high school in celebration of her visit. Croatian for “Cheers!” this is a word my dad has in high regards for his Croatian heritage. He’s even taken on my grandfather’s old-fashioned meat grinder to make kielbasa, a traditional sausage. It’s all a sign of the importance he sees in cultural heritage and carrying on tradition.
“Slicker than snot on a doorknob.” Yes, my dad is always a jokester and loves using lines like these to entertain his audience. Even when picking me up from school one day, he attempted to humor me by playing “Bad to the Bone” loudly in the car and mimicked farting with his armpit. Although this only embarrassed me, it didn’t stop him from telling jokes to college students in his American history classes. While picking up sand for our backyard sandbox, a former student recognized my dad: “Lots of notes? Lots of jokes?” My dad couldn’t deny it was him, so she gave him the sand for free.
“I never throw anything away.” Although my mom supports sustainable practices, my dad thinks of the environment just as much. When a yard tool wasn’t sharp enough to trim trees anymore, he took it apart and salvaged pieces to use just in case. He’s definitely the epitome of No Waste Maven from Eco-Cult’s “The 10 Types of Sustainability: Which One Are You?” And, his pride and joy these days (besides a Dodger victory) is our backyard garden he carefully plants, waters and manages throughout the summer.
“Like MacArthur, I shall return.” He uses this phrase for every exit, treating every errand as a personal mission. As a retired baseball historian and American history professor, he understands the importance of history and the past. This particular reference to General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines during World War II is not only his favorite, but homage to his love of the past.
“I think it’s the perfect time for a double hug.” Whenever my sister and I are both around, my dad finds every opportunity to get a hug from both of us at the same time. This is usually met with reluctance from my sister and me, but it usually is all my dad needs from us. He’s always finding a way to get a hug and his most recent favorite, a fist pump. All he wants is a high five to celebrate the moment (and also remind me that high fives were started by the Dodgers).
“Toro! Toro!” Speaking of the Dodgers, this chant may sound like my dad is in a bull fighting ring, but he’s actually telling the story of Fernando Valenzuela, the renowned Dodger pitcher who won a Cy Young Award and Rookie of the Year Award in the same year. Whenever my sister and I ask for a nighttime story to help us sleep in an unfamiliar hotel room while on vacation, this is what he would re-tell. He says more than this to the Dodgers, however. We’re using hearing, “Bear down, dammit” or “GO BALL! GO BALL! GO!!!” My mom, sister, and I always hope he’s cheering on a victory.
Although I have no idea what the Dodgers will have in store for Father’s Day, I hope there will be plenty of good words and cheering from my dad. If the team listens to my dad as I have, they’ll know to learn from the past, understand the importance of their legacy and heritage, and celebrate their victories with plenty of double hugs and high fives. If there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that I can always expect my dad to tell me the stats of the game while he enjoys assorted snacks. But what’s even more important is that I can always count on my dad to know the past, and be there for me in the future.