Sunday, June 21, 2009

Discovery Bay

When I was about 9 years old, my dad came home from work and was greeted by his three children eager to show him their new shoes. It must have been spring or summer, because we had all just been outfitted with new “sneakers.”

“Wow, I bet you can run fast in those,” he said.

We immediately went out back to show him, racing back and forth our suburban lawn.

Dad always loved playing around with us. For every situation he had a joke, a comment, an observation that was intended to be funny or evoke a reaction.

We lived a worry-free childhood, thanks to Dad’s hard work and jovial demeanor. Even when he worked two jobs—for a while he was driving a taxicab at night after his office job, and sometimes he took seasonal work driving Mosquito Control trucks in the early evening hours—we had no idea how tight a budget the family was on.

One day, we packed up the car to spend the weekend on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. But we did not go straight to the beach. We first had to stop at a community development called “Discovery Bay.” Dad spent several hours talking to the salesmen there while Mom did her best to keep us three kids from making a scene. We drove around the fledgling development looking at prospective lots until finally, happily, Dad concluded his business and we headed for the beach.

“Are we going to move?” we all asked.

“No, no, no,” Dad informed us. “We just had to go see what they were selling so that we could get a free night at the hotel.” I think they gave him money for gas, too.

It was a fun weekend, and while there were other times when we went to the beach or spent a night at a hotel paid for in the conventional way, I remember our trip to Discovery Bay in particular. I only vaguely understood it at the time but it became clear to me as the years went by: my Dad is a resourceful, clever man, always on the lookout for a deal and always eager to have a good time.

He is no different today.

When my own Precious Daughter spends time with her grandparents, she always comes home with stories of the crazy things her Grandpa said or did. Often I already know. I already know that he will walk up to any pay phone and pretend to find money, and then laugh as you check other pay phones but find nothing. I already know that he will play jokes on Grandma and then claim it wasn’t him, blaming one of the children instead. I already know that if you show him your new shoes, he will say, “Wow, I bet you can run fast in those.”

I never knew either of my grandfathers, so it is truly a treat to experience my own dad as a grandfather via my girl. It doesn’t matter if the jokes or old, or silly, or sometimes not all that funny. It only matters that every time he tells a joke or pulls a prank, he does it out of love.

And he sure does love us a lot.

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