I was born to play baseball, and even though Dad would occasionally hit fly balls to me, I don’t remember him ever driving me to, or going to watch, any of my Little League games. We lived in the country, 4-6 miles from the nearby Pennsylvania …
My dad was a pip. That’s what Archie Bunker called his wife with eye-rolling affection when she’d say something off the wall. “You’re a pip, Eedit.” Likewise, Pop was a pip.
With Father’s Day looming, it’s the memory of my dad’s perfect-timing, effortless humor that visits. Ol’ Alfred P. Blough wasn’t the greatest dad in the world by any of society or psychology standards, but he was definitely a character. Everyone who ever met Dad would say, “Ol’ Alf sure is a character.” And really, isn’t it a much better accolade to be known as a true character than a textbook, great dad? Emphatically I say, “You betcha!”
I was born to play baseball, and even though Dad would occasionally hit fly balls to me, I don’t remember him ever driving me to, or going to watch, any of my Little League games. We lived in the country, 4-6 miles from the nearby Pennsylvania towns where I pedaled my crude bicycle to play ball. I was fine with it, though, and it never crossed my mind that Dad should follow my blossoming career. Heck, he was 46 when I reared my pink, wrinkled head and eking out a meager living at Bethlehem Steel. We had different interests, Pop and I.
After the game as they walked me to the locker room, Dad interjected, “I see you made a little boo-boo out there.” Yes, I had let a routine grounder dribble between my legs, but it was obviously because of my nerves with family finally watching and super-sexy cheerleader Ruth Ann Cable near the first base line.
No, it wasn’t exactly a father/son Life Saver commercial, but Dad meant no harm. Coincidentally, he did eat a lot of Life Savers, and those pink lozenges older, eastern men ate all the time, and he freely shared them with me.
As I said in his eulogy in ’99, Dad truly was a character. My crucial point was that in spite of his countless idiosyncrasies (his Depression-era cheapness was legendary, but we never did without), he never laid a hand on or cheated on my mother, he never drank once he married Mom and never did his children feel threatened. Fair discipline wasn’t beyond his scope though, and one of my favorite memories is when he and my brothers were dynamiting stumps in the backyard and I good-naturedly tried to drag my sister Wanda into the explosive fray.
Understandably, Dad chased me into the house where I took a right turn and hid under my parent’s bed. My visiting grandmother took a break from baking bread long enough to rat me out by pointing to the bedroom.
After being rudely extricated by my protruding ankles, Dad chased me through the house while pulling his belt from his trousers. I glanced over my shoulder just as I was passing the china closet in a blur, to see Dad’s pants inching towards his knees. I don’t even recall if he ever caught and whipped me; I only remember laughing. Abusive father? I think not.
An eighth-grade dropout, Dad had his own unique vocabulary — far from eloquent, but creatively expressive beyond compare. He’d describe people in earthly phrases that made Webster’s dictionary seem irritatingly proper. Recounting someone who looked weirdly bedraggled, he’d say, “He looked like the running gears of a Katy-Did.” To this day I have no idea what that meant, but I had no doubt what he was saying.
If Dad was telling about a drunk guy, he’d say “He was ground down to about 7/8th.” I’m no mechanic, but I got it. A big guy showing up at our house looking for me would be, “Some big bohunk (or ‘hard-boiled looking character’) was here to see you.” A small visitor was, “… some little gimlet seed,” and a good-looking girl was, “She was a good lookin’ piece of gingham.”
Dad was the funniest guy I’ve ever known, and a pretty darn good dad, all things considered. If I ever do see God, I expect Him to say, “Boy, your dad sure is a character. In fact, thy father is a pip!”