Saturday, May 22, 2010

Things dad does best

I still maintain that my dad is the smartest person I know.

Go ahead, ask him how boats float. Or how TVs work.
He’s also a mathematician, so you can ask him any numbers question, too, but who cares about math?? Math makes me nauseous.

Today is my dad’s birthday, and I decided to remember all the things my dad does best.

He certainly is the best boat driver I know, which means I don’t fear for my life when going over waves.
Our family used to go on vacation every year to Percy Quin State Park in Mississippi and they have a very nice lake and we looked forward to boating everyday, skiing and tubing.

Last year, I was out on a boat tubing in South Carolina with a young male driver and when we drove through waves, I told him that he drives his boat just like my dad.

Um, OK,” he said.
“No, that’s a good thing,” I said. “That’s a compliment.”

My dad was a teacher at a high school in New Orleans and taught a lot of my friends, who all loved him and are interested in hearing more about what he’s up to than what I’m up to.

The most recent example of this was when I traveled home for Jazz Fest, and a friend of mine and his former student who I haven’t seen in years, asked first and foremost, “how’s your dad doing?”

Maybe they all like him because he only gave two detentions in two years, didn’t care about backless shoes or nametags. He also tells us funny jokes that make us crack up and my mother huff and puff.

A little-known fact is that he used to own a hair salon and he’s a hair color specialist. This came in handy when I decided to dye my hair “fire engine red” from a box in high school and promptly got a detention.

“You will get an additional detention for every day your hair is red!” said the scary assistant principal at the Catholic High School whose name was ironically Ms. Heller.

“But, it doesn’t say anything in the handbook about hair color!” I protested, a pink lock of hair falling in my face.
“See there?” she responded, pointing to the fine print. “It says ‘administration has discretion for all hair styles.’ I think it’s ugly.”

When I told my dad the bad news, we spent the evening at the kitchen table in New Orleans and he stripped my hair of its red color and re-dyed it blonde to a Ms. Heller-accepted color.

My dad is also a really great dancer (when he decides to leave the living room and his high-def TV) and his dancing skills landed me and him FIRST PLACE at my high school’s father-daughter dance contest.

We made it through three elimination rounds, and as a sophomore, my dad and I beat every other father-daughter pair in the whole school.
I think my mom still has the VHS of that somewhere.

My mom said that when she told my dad she was having twins, he turned blue and couldn’t eat his lunch that day.

We have an older brother, and I hear boys are much easier to raise, so twin girls was probably the worst thing ever to hear. Total bad news.

And we didn’t disappoint. By the time we went to college, my twin sister, Joy, and I had worn out the clutch in his manual transmission car (within two months of driving it) made him kill about 50 roaches (and we would not stop screaming until he did) and had to wake us up five times every morning until we groggily climbed out of bed.

He also was stuck coaching our little league girls softball team, and had to deal with a batter who started crying at the plate because she was scared.

In college, my dad helped foster my newspaper career, since he was a newspaper reporter and photographer himself, and even got me a brand new laptop computer for college graduation so I could write freelance articles for the small community newspaper that hired me. It was the nicest present I’ve ever gotten.

Like the post I wrote about my mom, my dad has helped me, my twin sister, Joy, and brother Franklin with our life choices every step of the way.

He helped me write my cover letter for jobs. He edits the text of Joy’s graphic designs at work. He drove with my brother, Franklin, from Austin, Texas to Los Angeles in a large truck with all of my brother’s belongings.

Now that we are older, my dad is brimming with advice. He works sometimes as a motivational speaker (related to the hair salon industry) and routinely tells us that anything is possible with old-fashioned hard work.

“Do what you love and the money will follow,” he would say. We’d get frustrated with such a simple approach to life, but it’s kind of true.

(He is also a very practical person and rather than letting us wail and cry about stupid ex-boyfriends, his advice was: “If you spend more than 20 minutes crying over this, you’re wasting your time. Give yourself 20 minutes and that’s it.”)

He’s also an excellent racquetball player and can hang on the court with my 30-something former co-worker when he visits me and Joy in South Carolina.
“Dad, you didn’t let Sarah win?” I asked him when he came back grinning from ear to ear.
“NO, I DIDN’T LET HER WIN!” he said.

My friend, April, has only known my dad for the past five years, but she always talks about how his advice about life and work has helped her get through tough job decisions.

(He also brought her home from a Mardi Gras parade when she got a terrible sinus infection one year and bought her medicine and made sure she was OK. April noted that her father would never have done that for her, let alone one of her friends. On a side note, my dad also thinks Coca Cola will cure most ailments.)

Other things my dad knows? He has a formula to get rid of headaches that involves sitting down and envisioning something. He can peel 20 shrimp in the time it takes me to peel five.
He knows how to navigate the waters of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and is an expert fisherman.
He does not mind baiting our fishing poles with LIVE crickets and UGH DADDY MINE FELL OFF AND NOW IT’S HOPPING AROUND THE BOAT!!!

Speaking of fishing, and boating and general fun, my dad is great with kids. When he sees them, he’ll wave or smile or make a funny face or joke. My aunt’s boyfriend has a young son who is completely taken with my dad.

Seeing my dad show him how to cook hamburgers and be polite at restaurants and tell G-rated jokes to him makes me excited to have kids one day.
It will certainly come in handy when my child asks me how boats float, or how TVs work.
“Ask your grandfather,” I’ll say. “He knows everything.”



  1. "Art of the Father," a young man's tale of the lessons instilled in him by his father. Please read it at

  2. Jenny, I'm pretty sure one doesn't drive a boat; one pilots or navigates a boat. Go ask your father.

  3. I love Frank Peterson!!! He has also given me tons of advice and yelled at me numerous times for things I may or may not have done (Innocent until proven guilty). I miss our boat rides at Percey Quinn, his free Redkin samples, his shrimp pasta, and the way he yells at everyone. Love ya Mr. P!!!


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