My Dad Would Be 60 Today

My dad would have been sixty today.

The sentence doesn't seem right, the emotion removed, the figure separate from the person I know, knew. My dad looked just like me the day he died, except for his perm. That anniversary was a few days ago.

My dad would be sixty today, and I can’t imagine what he’d say, what I’d say, if I had him across the table, two cups of coffee and the rims steaming like mortars. I cried the other day for the first time in years. People clapped for a man’s life and my eyes pooled, for a moment. Twenty-three years is a long time to miss someone, so I’m going to try not to forget.

He was a hairy man.

He made people laugh at their pain to help them finish the task. He laughed from a deep place.

He told me to go back from the car and tell the girl goodbye, because she’d done me a kindness, been brave, and I was a little jerk. He told me he’d whoop my ass if he saw me act that way again.

He would have whooped my ass a lot.

He didn’t need to hit me because he had a look that cemented you in your tracks.

He sang in the car, passing the time in between Missouri towns, and I learned the songs without ever knowing their names.

He shot a basketball from over his head, like Bill Laimbeer, and he would fight a man for a rebound.

He would eat the last slice of pizza and not think twice.

He was writing a novel, I believe, about time-traveling Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.

He once held me down in the middle of the living room and poured jalapeño juice down my throat for complaining about Michael Dukakis’ debate performance.

He hung duct tape from the living room ceiling. It got shorter so I had to jump a little bit higher.

He put on pots of coffee at ten o’clock at night to grade papers and occasionally played hooky in the morning.

He once bumped chests with the father of a girls’ basketball player, who he benched for showing up to practice in a flannel shirt. Grandpa nearly jumped in because he didn't like the way the man pointed his finger at his son.

He used Brut deodorant spray and the first time I tried it my armpits burned.

He once made me finish a little league baseball game with a broken index finger on my throwing hand. An umpire threw him out of a game that season. He was not a coach on this particular team.

He liked the saying, oh for Pete’s sake, which I thought was unusual for a man with a brother named Peter.

He once spent an entire night rewinding the VCR to show a replay of him getting a technical foul for waving his hand at the referee. He was deeply offended by the zebra’s eyesight—the man thought he’d given him the finger.

He played the role of Curly in Oklahoma. He decided to keep the perm.

He cursed me to become a Detroit Lions fan, waking me up at night to watch Barry Sanders highlights. He would have liked the phrase Detroit vs. Everybody.

He once bartered with a Foot Locker employee to get a videocassette copy of the Seinfeld episode, The Bet.

He took in any kid that needed a father figure and made them, if only for a day, my brothers.

On the last day of his life he dropped me off at school across the street. The crossing guard, a tall man with a big smile, said, sheesh, he must not love you making you walk all the way across the street. I watched the car drive away and I smiled. I told him, no, he does, and I walked the stairs to class.

Commenters are welcome to share stories about their own loved ones.

Josh Koehn is the managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Josh_Koehn.

8 Comments

  1. A touching and fun tribute to a good father from a good son. Great relief to know Josh has a soft side too! :-) Tam.

  2. Josh,
    I had to go back and read some of your recent articles just to make sure your father was correct.
    He was, your still a little jerk, God bless him for trying to point that out to you.

  3. It was nice to read something different from you. But jalapeño juice down your thought? Is your creative writing going right over my head? Was he a teacher ? How did he die? I’m sorry you couldn’t spend more time with him.

  4. I can hear you telling these stories- what a lovely tribute to your father. He’d be proud of the person you’ve become.

  5. Josh, Having lost your father is an unfortunate club of which I am also a member. My dad is a huge reason I am who I am today. I miss him every day, but often quote his sage advice and wonder what he would do when I’m in a jam. I was lucky my dad lived to be 80. But the last four years were very rough. There’s no bond like the one between a father and son, but I’m learning with my daughter that is a wonderful relationship in a different way. Thanks for sharing your story as it reminds us all of our fathers and how much they mean. Tell Empty Gun it’s you’re not your.

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