Tag Archives: Dad

Finding My Dad’s Waterfalls and Keep On Cluckin’

30 Jan

Apparently my silver linings playbook was misplaced. The weight of the monster migraine shadowing me all day assisted in this temporary loss.

Plans for celebrating an unfinished life were left in the blueprint stages, as the day wasn’t fully cooperating with me. The morning and early afternoon had plans of their own, plans that involved multiple trips to the store because birthday cake ingredients were missing in the middle of sifting flour, plans of having lunch at one of his favorite restaurants were cancelled on account of life’s time table being different from my own, plans for telling stories over lunch ended up being one-sided conversations at the cemetery with cold steak sandwiches and a conga line of ants that wouldn’t leave me alone, plans for a great day of memories and storytelling ended up with migraines, mucus, coughing, and very little peace.

A heavy heart is a tough thing to shake off when you miss your dad on his birthday. He would have been 68.

Thinking the easiest of things would fall into place was my mistake this morning. Dad’s birthdays are always tough when he’s not around because you realized all the good things he’s missed, like my daughter’s sense of humor, her enjoyment of baking, the way she laughs when she’s being chased in a game of hide-and-seek, how she she loves the Pacific Ocean, or sleeping in every morning. Or my son … how he’s grown up so much since he last played soccer or put-put golf with him, how he really enjoys the Foosball table he gave him, how tight his hugs are or how big his smile can be when he sees you, and how creatively adventurous he can be with Legos and daydreams. And it makes me even sadder when I know what he’s going to keep missing,  what I’m going to keep missing. My friend.

Today was a reminder that if things can go wrong they usually do and then it happened …

The new neighbor that had moved into the complex next door a couple of months ago was having problems with his Honda. Now I don’t really talk to this neighbor, just see him walking his dogs in the morning, so when I saw him pushing his car and trying to jump start it, I thought … man my dad would totally help this dude out, and so I asked.

Do you need a jump? Is it your battery?

Um … yeah … but—

Oh I got cables and this whole battery thing the car.

He seemed surprised that someone carrying buttermilk and Crisco would have such a thing, and know the difference between the red cable and the black one. I set up the system told him to turn his car and bam … no AAA service needed.

He smiled and thanked me for saving his day.

And that small act of kindness changed the rest of the afternoon and evening. Because I had searched for the cables and battery charging station I found something I thought my mother had “donated”. I had forgotten I had rescued it during the Christmas purging season, but there it was hanging out in the back of my dad’s ginormous Toyota Tacoma truck, hiding in the safety of the SnugTop.

It reminded me of my Trapper Keeper, the one I had in the seventh grade. It was 3D light painting of waterfalls among a Hawaiian-type landscape. The kind of thing that people hang up in their offices, but my Dad never got a chance to hang it up in his, although as I remember it he wanted to hang it up in my old room, sort of set up a relax-Zen-type zone. I don’t know why he would buy such random things, but it made an impression on him, something about that piece said something, so now that something is staying with me.

Trapper

TrapperKeeper

I rediscovered its existence and was happy that I had one more piece of my dad with me, something I could hold onto today.

And then in the evening I got a text message from my sister. We talked about missing him today, and I had explained what a rough day today had been and then she sent me a couple of pictures that just made my day.

DadSign2

This was funny, considering my Dad wasn’t too enthusiastic with the campaign that the “Powers That Be” required, but as always he was a good sport.

 

Keep on cluckin’  …

It was like he was listening all along.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

.

 

I Make The Pies Now

25 Nov

Tomorrow’s the day … the day I’m reminded that I live in that combined existence… between the Barone Family and The Griswalds, only it’s playing on Univision and we’re missing our chief turkey carver. We’re missing our Ray Barone, we’re missing our Clark Griswald.

This will be the fifth year that my Dad will be hanging out with The Man upstairs during this holiday season, but no matter how many holidays pass by there’s always a moment of pause when turkey day comes around. Christmas was big in our family, but Thanksgiving seemed to be larger. Probably because ever since Ferris Bueller had his day off, I found myself counting and moving hundreds of free range turkeys and freezing my ass off in the Rocky Balboa-sized refrigerator for the family business. I found myself wishing Ferris was my friend, hoping he’d invent a plan for my day off.

Thanksgiving has always kicked my ass. Always. But when it was all done, there was always a reward.

I mean coming home aching from all those turkeys, 3×5 customer order cards, and cold air hitting my joints and back for several days, and then finally being able to sleep in that morning until after the sunrise, that was a reward in and of itself, but picking up pumpkin pies from Dupar’s Bakery with my Dad, the pies I’d devour with a big glob of whipped cream … dude … that was it. Driving home in his dark gray Nissan pickup truck, listening to jazz with the white cardboard boxes on my lap, smelling the nutmeg and all spice,, and joking around all the way home. That was my reward for a week’s worth of muscle.

And those were my moments …

26

But I had none of those this week.

No 3×5 cards, no inventory sheets, no late nights, no arguing over whether he said 14-16 pounds or 12-14 pounds, no white butcher coats or aprons, no sweatshirt, no thermals, no bleach-scrubbing floors, no sassy customers, no counting and recounting turkeys or boxes, no laughing because we were so tired, and no Dupar’s pie.

I make the pies now.

He still probably would have liked them.

I miss him during the non-craziness of my Thanksgiving Week. I miss him during the quiet of the night that’s not supposed to be so quiet. Sometimes I even miss the craziness of the 3×5 order cards and the insanity of inventory. But just sometimes.

The family is still in a state 0f Barone-Griswald existence, always has been, but it’s weird not having the Ray or Clark of the family around. But I am thankful that I remember these things. I am thankful that I can still feel the aches in my muscles, the paper cuts from the 3×5 cards, the Neutrogena Intensive Hand Repair cream on my chapped hands. I’m thankful I can still picture him at that dining table the nights before Thanksgiving, taking out the inventory sheets, 3×5 cards, black Bic pens, and hear his voice…

“Canela, are you ready?”

Yeah … I make the pies now.

.

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Just Thinking …

15 Jul

46 (2).

Sometimes it would be nice if I had just one more conversation, one more adventure, one more laugh … one more piece of cake.

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My Dad and His Hats

30 Jan

73.

He’s got 73 hats hanging in the closet.

Golf tournaments, production companies, Rose Bowl Championships, Super Bowl Championships, SC Trojans, L.A. Kings, Dodgers, and the numerous places we traveled on vacation or places my sister visited. These were some of his memories.

They sit there on hooks, just as he left them. My mom swears she’s gonna donate them to the cousins in Guatemala. I tell her it’s gonna be a battle to the death. I’ll steal them away before she does that. She asks me if I really need all those hats. Yeah I need all 73.

Even the ones that say Boar’s Head. Yeah, my Dad was a butcher. A poultry man. Yeah. I need all of them.

It’s not like I’m a hoarder or anything. But it’s really one of the very few things I have left of him. They’ve been hanging in the same spot the last four years. I borrow a few on a weekly basis, but I always put them back. He wore a hat almost everyday, except when we went out to fancy places with me. No baseball cap, maybe a fancy golfers hat if it was chilly.

He wore all of those hats at least once, I remember giving him some of those.  The ones from SC and CAL he got from me. The one that said Greatest Dad, he got on Father’s Day. Even with 73, he would have appreciated the 74th one just as much.

 

My Dad

My Dad

 

Today I took his Dodgers hat and his black windbreaker. I felt the need to wear the hat he was wearing the most, right before he passed away. Felt the need to connect to him more today. He would have turned 67 years old.

 

On hid birthday

On hid birthday

Wearing the hats makes me feel more connected to him. I think about all the other hats he would have bought as souvenirs. I think about all the vacations we would have had and the hats I would have bought him in the future. I think about how they just sit there in the closet and how he’s never gonna use them again. It makes me sad. So I pick a hat and think … yeah this would be a good one.

It still breaks my heart to know that this is it. There will be no more adding to the collection. His stories are done. I look at all the hats and try to remember the instances where he wore each one, but they’re becoming fuzzy. I hate that. But I do remember the important ones, and it hurts less.

So today I picked up his Dodger hat … the one he wore on the last game we went together. We sat in the field level. He made an effort to enjoy the game, even though he was sick. I took the ticket stub out of my wallet today and smiled.

I miss my friend.

So I thought I’d throw him a party.

I made one of his favorite meals, steak and potatoes. I baked him a chocolate cake, but not just any chocolate cake. Juliet Child’s Almond Chocolate Cake.

 

IMG_7500

I had three pieces

 

The kids got balloons. I told stories in hopes I would bring him to life for my kids. We sang happy birthday and blew out the candles.

I was trying to be happy and celebrate his life, but I broke down when I went to go visit him. No one really knows how much I miss my friend and wish he would have been there to enjoy the sunset with me. He probably would have been wearing a hat.

 

IMG_7510

Wishing he was here

 

 

This was what I listened to today …

 

 

My Dad and The Last Pickle

19 Sep

It had been at least twenty-five years since we’d been there, maybe more.

I was driving back from a meeting near the heart of the city and knew it was close by. I didn’t have to go that way. I could have taken the shortcut and made my way back to the freeway, avoiding traffic.

But I made a left turn instead.

And there it was … the yellow letters against a green backdrop. Not block letters, but smooth cursive writing.

 

Langer's Delicatessen.

Langer’s Delicatessen.

 

Every other week.

We’d sit in the third booth on the left.

Sun was always shining. Didn’t seem to be cloudy whenever we were there, always bright, always busy.

An older waitress with dark rimmed glasses and red lipstick would greet my Dad and call him honey before taking our order. She’d call everybody honey. We’d start off with a lemonade for myself, cup of coffee for Dad. Black, two sugars.

We’d browse through the menu, but already knew what we wanted. I’d get the chicken noodle soup and club sandwich. Dad would get the pastrami with cold slaw and the pickle. He liked pickles, it was the highlight of his lunch combination, to enjoy a pickle with pastrami. Pickles were an awesome part of lunch. We’d sit and talk about life. Elementary and early middle school life seemed complicated and dramatic back then. A Days of Our Lives kind of saga.

I thought life was difficult.

Dad would do the Dad thing.

He listened.

He saw me. He heard me. And what I had to say was important back then, even when it wasn’t.

This was before the teen years of course when ridiculous battles over tone of voice began.

We’d sit in our booth and talk. Sometimes laugh, sometimes people watch, sometimes just enjoy each other’s company in silence or between pickle crunches.

I missed having lunches. Didn’t realize how important they’d be to me.

I sat there at the stop light thinking.

I miss my friend. I miss someone eating pastrami across the way from me and listening.

I miss someone offering their last pickle just to see me smile.

I was tempted to park the car and go inside, just to get a feel for things. Maybe sit in the third booth, on the left. Order a chicken noodle soup and club sandwich. But I knew it wouldn’t be the same. I couldn’t manage to go in, a heavy sadness hit me at the stop light and I wished so much that my Dad was still here so that we could talk.

I made a right turn and headed to the freeway. Perhaps I’d return with my son and daughter and we could have lunch. I’d order the pastrami this time and probably give them my last pickle.

 

My Dad, The Mental Diet, and The Lieutenant Dan Phase

14 Jul

Today is the day I usually slip into my Lieutenant Dan phase …

You know, the angry one where he’s on the shrimping boat with Forrest Gump battling a monster storm and yelling at The Man upstairs.

 

img_forrest_gump_010

Lt. Dan Taylor

 

Yeah today’s the day.

Every year the weekend is an emotional Goliath with my kids’ birthdays being celebrated on one day, and taking a trip to the cemetery to visit my dad on the anniversary of his death on the next. My mind filled with thoughts … Thinking of pop-up tents, umbrellas, sand toys, sunscreen, goody buckets, Star Wars and princess kites, parachute guys, cheese sticks, sandwiches, potato salad, and shark fin cupcakes for a beach birthday party for a dozen kindergarteners and preschoolers to thinking about my Dad’s white collared shirts, baseball caps, Black Samsonite briefcase, Jovan Musk cologne aftershave, and smile.

 

Kite flying

Kite flying

 

Hanging out with a few buddies right before cupcake time.

Hanging out with a few buddies right before cupcake time.

 

Chocolate and vanilla birthday cupcakes with butter cream frosting ... something tasty that would have gone good with my Dad's cup of coffee.

Chocolate and vanilla birthday cupcakes with butter cream frosting … something tasty that would have gone good with my Dad’s cup of coffee.

 

Feeling happy that my kids are happy and then feeling incredibly bad and broken-hearted that he was missing all the laughter and smiles.

Tough weekend.

Lt. Dan-in-a-storm-kind-of weekend.

But I’m still here. Sitting in the hallway closet surrounded by his shirts trying to breathe in whatever cologne lingers between the cotton fibers that was not washed away by Tide with Bleach. I try not to get upset with The Man upstairs about how things turned out, but in truth sometimes the anger of him dying despite my faith hurts and so I struggle.

And I know all the speeches of being in a better place and all that but I find no comfort in that because he’s not here and in truth the better place would have been here with me and his grand kids. But most of all I get upset at the things he missed out on that he would have truly enjoyed … like the birthday beach party for the kids, and that’s when my Lt. Dan phase slips out.

I’m trying to be better about it … You know trying to remember how he lived instead of the painful way he died, that in and of itself takes a lot out of me because I hate that cliche too. But I’m trying this new mental diet that’s suppose to help me trim the negative and unproductive states of mind … However I’ve never been too good with diets … I’m a chocoholic.

But the “mental diet” did raise some good points about trying to focus on what you could do now, instead of reliving a bad moment you could never change. So I changed my focus to remembering things that would make me feel closer to him and I thought of TV nights … those times where we vegged out on the couch after dinner, watched TV, and “talked about life”. Simple stuff like that brought us closer together.

 

Vegging out with his grandsons.

Vegging out with his grandsons.

 

So with the help of the mental diet I remember the positives with my Dad and hope to relive that this week with my own vegging out marathon of his favorite shows.

His top ten…

The Sopranos

The Wire

The Shield

Deadwood

24

Breaking Bad

LOST

Prison Break

World Cup Soccer

Boxing on any network.

Happy TV watching.

 

 

 

 

Black with Two Sugars, and Guatemalan Water Slides

1 Nov

Thinking about coffee and water slides all day today. Not so much because I drank some Starbucks and went slipping and sliding down a watery adventure. More so because of Dia de los Muertos  … Day of the Dead. A day where you remember family or friends that passed away.

Every Latino family celebrates differently. They build altars, with marigolds and sugar skulls. Skeleton decorations and massive amounts of food. Me? Thinking about my dad. Thinking about coffee and water slides.

My dad was a big fan of coffee. Coffee in the morning. Coffee in the afternoon. Coffee at night. Black with two sugars. No lattes or frappuccinos. Although he tried cappuccinos every now and then, when he tried to get fancy. But most days it was simple and classic: black with two sugars.

My Dad’s cup.

Most people can’t drink coffee before bedtime. They stay up all night. My dad stayed up too. Not so much because of the coffee. It was HBO, FX and my presence. The coffee was just a savory, cozy after dinner drink. My dad had no problem falling asleep when I wasn’t hanging around. Two cups and then off to bed. No problem. Probably dreaming of more coffee. But when I was there hanging out watching The Shield, The Sopranos, or Deadwood, there was his blue Deadwood coffee cup filled to the brim with the freshly grounded coffee. From? Guatemala of course.

I never drank coffee. I’m probably one of the few people on Earth that doesn’t, but I’d often kid around with him when one of us was ever feeling down.

“Hey, Dad … you finish your coffee already.”

“Yeah.”

“That’s too bad. I was going to invite you to go out … have a cup of coffee … talk about life.”

“Life. Hmph. That takes two cups.”

We’d both crack up. Our little ritual.

But coffee wasn’t the only thing on my mind today. Slides. Water slides. I’d seen my dad laugh before, plenty of times. But there were few where he laughed so much that he cried. These were pretty amazing. One of those instances happened to be on a water slide. And no it wasn’t a fancy Raging Waters slide down here in California. It was in Guatemala. Of all places, right?

We were in a water park by one of the black sandy beaches and it was on one of those large family inter tube slides. We didn’t know what to expect as we walked up all those flights of wooden stairs. We knew it would be fun, but didn’t realize how much.

As soon as we swooshed down the slide, I saw that smile creep up and then as we picked up speed, twirled around through the twists and turns… the laughter. Not the hearty ha-ha-ha-ha either. It was the I-can’t-breathe-this-is-so-funny laughter. And it was contagious. It was the excitement of the slide. The excitement of having fun. The excitement of my dad’s laughter. The excitement of family joining us. The excitement of a happiness moment with my dad I wish I could’ve bottled and stored. Something that could be opened up any time. But I didn’t have it. So I had to settle for the memories in my head.

All day today coffee and water slides.

Color Cash and Dad, Jalopy Junction and Son

29 Apr

It produces both laughter and screaming: The Kamikaze, The Sand Blaster, The Mega Wheel, The Spinning Cups, and The Water Gun Game.

Church Carnival

Every year the Catholic folk down at my church organize a big spring carnival with kiddy rides, adult rides, and games. Popcorn, cotton candy, live entertainment, food booths, alcoholic beverages, and throwing ping-pong balls into bowls of water. This is what we looked forward to every year.

It was tradition in our family to attend the festival. My parents, uncles and cousins always attended the little fair. We enjoyed the atmosphere and the family gathering.

But since my dad’s passing and the kids getting older, the family crowd has gotten smaller and smaller.  Party of four today. It got me thinking about my dad and the entire family celebrating. I remember my dad coming home, cash in his pocket and ready for us to hang out. But it wasn’t so much the carnival rides. He wasn’t big on rickety pieces of metal spinning you in circles at high speeds. His favorite part was the games.

Roll-A-Ball Game

There’s nothing like the rush of a water pistol in your hand ready to squirt the clown face in hopes that your cartoon character makes it to the top first, or the small ball in your hand during the Roll-A-Ball game where your train or horse tries to get to the finish line first every time you roll the ball.

You want to hear the DINGGGGGGG! You want to look up and see your number light up. That’s what made him smile.

Color Cash

But his favorite game happen to be Color Cash. As I walked passed it, I remembered my dad laughing in excitement as he tried to will the spinning soccer ball to land on the color he bet to win. The whole family tried to will the ball. It unleashed excitement. He would spend most of the night on this game of chance. Losing forty, maybe fifty bucks. Winning fifteen or twenty. He said it evened out in the end. He helped the church and had a good time in the process. The whole family did.

Color Cash drew out all kinds to the betting table: fathers, teachers, single moms, rocker chicks, grandmothers, biker dudes, nuns, and baseball-cap- wearing-sports enthusiasts. They would eventually high-five each other during wins. Complete strangers bonded by a soccer ball and colors. It was good to see my dad smile.

So in between the popcorn smell and barbecue aroma of the food booths, I got a little sad thinking about my dad. I wished he was there, playing Color Cash and betting five dollars on green, or red, or white, or yellow.

Jalopy Junction

Then I looked at my son.

Nothing like the Jalopy Junction, merry-go-rounds, and a squirt gun race to make your day, and your son’s.

Party of Two: My Dad, The Oscars, Nachos and Me.

26 Feb

Different moments, different occasions remind me of my Dad. Random times. When most people are checking out what the stars are wearing down the Red Carpet and wondering why so many breasts are making appearances, I would always check the clock, because I knew my Dad was on his way home, ready for our Oscar Party.

Most people who I know don’t really make a big deal of Oscar Night. I mean they may or may not watch it. It’s not a DVR kind of event for them. But for me and my Dad…we had “the Dreamer’s Disease.” Well I had it and my Dad got it by association. I would tell him … “the day I become an awesome writer and get nominated for award like the Oscars or Emmys you will be date, Dad.” And when most people would laugh or just say get your head out of the clouds, his response was … “well I guess I’ll have to rent a tuxedo.”

The Oscars

The Oscars

It was a night where we hoped our favorite picks got selected. We also looked for the person with the most genuine enthusiasm as they received the golden statue, as well as the best speech. So far my Dad’s top pick was Cuba Gooding Jr. for Jerry Maguire. He smiled to see someone so happy. That’s probably what I would look like if I won. No he said…that’s probably what we would look like if you won.

Aside from looking for the most genuine, we’d also have a pool and side bets. My Dad would always choose Clint Eastwood, even when he wasn’t nominated he’d say Clint Eastwood would have won that one. Sometimes he’d go with Jack Nicholson. Sometimes he’d get it right, other times well …

But he’d get over it with food. Even though our Oscar party wasn’t ice sculptures and caviar, it had good eats, ambiance, and Guat humor. Carne asada, rice, beans, enchiladas, and nachos. I know it sounds like Super Bowl food, but for a writer and a dreamer the Oscars is the Super Bowl. With all the savory tasties you would think we had like ten people there, but no. It was just me and Dad. My mom would hang out for a little bit, but then go upstairs and crash, or watch something else. Premios Nuestros or Cristina, something like that. So for the most part it was just me and Dad, sometimes my cousin…the moocher.

But the best part was hanging out. Sitting on our worn-out couch stuffed with food, we’d sip our after-you-pig-out drinks: ginger-ale for me, coffee for my Dad. We hung out like buddies surrounded by decorations from the 99-cent store or Pic-and-Save, which I used to make it look more festive.

So today as I poured the cheese on my Tostitos, and covered them with chicken, pinto beans, tomatoes, avocados, cilantro, jalapenos, and sour cream I thought about my Dad, and how he’d probably enjoy the fact that Billy Crystal was hosting it again. I looked at this towering dish of awesomeness oozing with monster calories, and I missed my Dad, wished he hadn’t passed away.

I shook my head … too bad Clint Eastwood wasn’t up for it this year, Dad would’ve liked that.

My Dad, the Super Bowl and a Dirty Kitchen

5 Feb
 

There isn’t a day when I don’t think about my Dad, but some days I think about him all day. Super Bowl happens to be one of those days. Not so much because of the game or awesome commercials, but because of the presence of family in the kitchen. His ability to rise to the cooking challenge and destroy the kitchen in the process was a ritual often saved for Thanksgiving, however the Super Bowl also required a batch of fresh-smelling Fabulouso and Clorox Wipes.

One Super Bowl, I remember telling him how much I wanted Kentucky Fried Chicken or El Pollo Loco. I told him it would be so much easier to just to pick up some treats and eat up.

Kentucky Fried Chicken/KFC Original Recipe chi...

Image via Wikipedia

“I don’t buy chicken. I sell chicken. Thousands of them. Why would you want chicken anyway. We should have carne asada. But if you want chicken I can make that for you. We don’t have to buy it. It’s easy.”

“No Dad, you can’t. Let’s just buy it.”

And there it was … I went and did it.

You see, my Dad is also like me. He lives by the Lero Lero Factor. There’s not direct translation from the Spanish language but the best I could do is the “in your face…in your face!” expression. It’s the ability to feel vindicated and accomplish something after someone tells you that you couldn’t do it. It warms your heart and makes you smile. It’s a powerful feeling of satisfaction.  It’s the Lero Lero Factor.

And as soon as I said it…as soon as the words ‘you can’t’ left my mouth I knew it was over. He was up for the challenge. Watch out Food Network Chito was in the house. No need for an apron.

My dad brought out the frying pans and the old-school skillets that we probably had since 1985. He raided the fridge and pantry for the ingredients and lit the fire.

Two hours later the stove was covered in Mazola Oil, a hundred dishes in the sink, cilantro all over the counter, tomato on the walls, flour in his hair, on the floor, and on the ceiling. He would bring out the platter and of course it looked nothing like the chicken in the commercials. He’d smile and nod.

English: We grilled chicken thighs, corn on th...

Image via Wikipedia

“Well?”

“That looks nothing like The Colonel’s KFC special recipe or El Pollo Loco’s flame grilled Mexican Chicken.”

“Hey, hey, hey. We’re Guatemalan. Besides, I didn’t say it would look like it. I said it would taste like it.”

So I’d grab a drumstick from each pile and took a bite. I looked up and smiled. We’d watch the game and finish most of the chicken.

Just as this happened my mom would walk in see the catastrophic mess in the kitchen and fly off the handle, letting the Spanish profanity roll off her tongue. She had just cleaned the kitchen.

My dad would turn and look at me.

“It was your daughter. I’ll have her clean it up.”

Looking at my parents clean kitchen this Super Bowl Sunday I remembered my Dad. I missed the flour on the ceiling and tomato on the walls.