He can have a rather stern persona when he's not at home (okay, sometimes at home, too), and I think over the years most of the kids at church have been intimidated at one time or another by his glaring looks or curt words if they're caught running in the halls (or worse, the chapel) or drawing on the chalkboards or goofing off during Sunday School.
Growing up, I definitely remember some things being off limits (jumping on the couch, for example, or leaping over the back of it or even wedging our feet between the cushions). My mom was much more likely to let us take mattresses and go sledding down the stairs than my dad.
But personally, I think labeling him as the fun killer is much too harsh. Because for all his stern looks and disapproving glances, my dad definitely knows how to have fun. In fact, most of my memories growing up are of him participating in the fun with us instead of squashing it.
So today I'm going to set the record straight and give you just a few glimpses, out of hundreds and hundreds, of all the fun I've had over the years with my dad.
When I was still quite young, we read one of Mercer Mayer's Little Critter books called Just Me and My Dad. It inspired my dad to do one-on-one camping trips with all of us . . . in the backyard. For years, every summer I got my own turn going camping with my dad. We'd set up the tent, take out a giant stack of games or books, and enjoy each other's company by lantern light. In the morning, we would get up as quietly as we could, slowly unzip the tent, and sneak away in the chill morning air for breakfast at the local diner (the sneaking away part was very important). We christened these times "Just Me and My Dad Camp Outs."
My dad loves his garden. Every year he methodically plans it out and and then reaps a bounteous harvest during the summer months. My brothers probably have even more fond memories than I do of helping my dad in the garden. I think some good heart-to-hearts went on as they weeded side by side. But I have wonderful memories, too. My dad always let us help him plant, and I don't remember him ever getting impatient with us, even if we placed too many peas in one spot or soaked them too heavily. When I was a teenager, he mapped out this elaborate competition where we divided the garden into territories and got weekly points based on how well it was weeded. My brothers and I took this game very seriously, to the point of washing the rocks surrounding our plots so that they would look their best when my dad came around to judge.
I well remember The Monster Game. Probably most dads do some variation of it. It would usually begin when my dad was legitimately trying to take a little rest. We would sneak up on him and, without warning, his arm would shoot out and grab us by the leg. He'd reel us in with the menacing words, "Now you'll never get away from me! You'd better call for your mommy!" Somehow, by one magic word or another, we'd soothe him back to sleep. He would begin to snore convincingly, his grasp would loosen, and we'd begin to inch away. Just when we thought we were in the clear, his arm would shoot out again, and the game would begin again.
My dad loves music. He plays the piano and guitar, as well as several brass instruments. He wanted all of his kids to play some kind of portable instrument so that we could do some non-traditional Christmas caroling every year in December. He taught me how to play the trombone, and besides the Christmas carols, we also spent many evenings playing duets together. Our favorite to play was "The Yellow Rose of Texas."
Does this sound like a dad who would be known as the fun killer? I think not. At the end of Danny the Champion of the World, Danny perfectly summed up the way I feel about my dad.
"Because what I am trying to tell you . . . What I have been trying so hard to tell you all along is simply that my father, without the slightest doubt, was the most marvelous and exciting father any [girl] ever had."I love you, my most marvelous and exciting father. Happy Father's Day.