Fun for Free

I think my dad felt like he was a failure for much of his life.  He was also one who HAD to have money in his wallet; even if it meant that his bills would go unpaid.  He often had eviction notices taped to his door, or went without electricity or phone service, because he wouldn’t have had cash on hand otherwise.  He might have worried about where he was going to live, but by gum he had money in his wallet.

My brother and I were recently talking about this, and about how sad we thought it was that Dad thought so much of money, and so little of what else he offered us.  Nearly every best memory I have of my father involved things that cost nothing at all.

For instance, my dad was a great lover of aviation.  Sure we went to air shows from time to time (and had a blast), but he would also take us along the frontage road at the end of an airport’s runway, and we’d sit in the parked car and watch the planes take off and land.  I love that sound to this day, and thank my dad for instilling that love in me.

Dad had also gotten close enough with the personnel at the local airport, that he was able to take my brother and I up into the flight tower from time to time.  We were even allowed to ride on the luggage conveyor belt one night, after the airport was closing.  It was so much fun to lay on the belt and travel around like baggage, and I can’t pass by one nowadays without thinking of that memory, and wanting to jump on for another ride.

I’ve mentioned before the fun my brother and I had hanging out of the back windows of Dad’s car while he purposely turned the car into donuts on the snow.  He’d wait until the parking lot was empty, and let her rip!  We sometimes got a little dizzy from all the turning around, but there was more giggling than dizziness going on.

And whenever we’d go to the drive-in, he’d make up a huge paper bag of popcorn, a couple jugs of iced tea, and we’d drive out in the family’s station wagon, and my brother and I would lay down in the back.  I remember with much fondness the time he took my brother and I to see History of the World, Part I at the drive-in when I was ten . . . and the belching contest that I won that night.

Dad was also a great one for showing me how to work on a car, and I have several memories of sitting in the engine, working on his yellow Suburban.  He taught me to change my own oil, air filter, and lots of other parts.  I also have my father’s sense of assuredness when driving.  He made sure I knew how to turn the car into a spin, so I could learn how to safely get out of one.

Along with Mom, Dad instilled in me a love for music from the 50s and 60s.  I always remember Mom loving Elvis or the Beach Boys, but Dad liked the more obscure songs as well.  Maybe my mom did, too, but for some reason, I associate that music with him more than her (sorry, Mom).

I know there were other fun memories that he had to spend money on–trips to Cedar Point or BobLo Island come to mind–but I honestly have more memories of the free stuff that we did.  They say it’s the little things that make up a life, and I can attest that they certainly make up a child’s memory.

My dad’s been dead now for 18 years, and his birthday would’ve been this week, had he lived.  Our relationship wasn’t the best when he was alive, so I probably didn’t tell him enough how much I enjoyed all the fun stuff we did.  I hope that–wherever he is now–he can see into my heart and memories enough to know that I’m grateful for SO much of what he showed me throughout my childhood, and that the money he had, or didn’t have, didn’t mean anything to me.

But more than that, I hope he can finally look back on his life and see that he wasn’t a failure.  That he helped raise two highly-intelligent kids, who both have a love of aviation and old-time rock and roll music . . . largely because of him.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kaye george
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 05:30:09

    I was touched by this post, Alyx. I didn’t have a great relationship with my dad, either, but he was a remarkable man and, when we were growing up, a great dad.


  2. Dolly Chamberlin
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 08:09:55

    No apologies necessary! :} There are at least two very good reasons your Dad & I connected (you & your brother). I’m glad you are able to see beyond his personal challenges, & appreciate his deeper persona. LOVES Mom


  3. Craig
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 10:40:25

    Awww. you two are so CUTE!


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