Monday, June 20, 2011

The man in the van

Dad painting in North Carolina--
probably in the 80s

Yesterday I woke up early and decided to get dressed and get the kids ready for church and then I remembered it was Father’s Day. I hate dragging the kids to church on Father’s Day where they will be forced to sit in a room with other children and make crafts and hand-drawn cards for their dads. Those used to be fun things to do—we would pack up the hand-drawn pictures and crafts and send them to my ex in Iraq or save them on the kitchen counter until he got home from where ever he was.

Now it’s just a blah day that I try to ignore unless I have the great pleasure of being near my own dad. For those of you who know my dad, you know that he is freaking hilarious and most the time he isn’t even trying. But for those of you who haven’t met my dad, allow me to introduce you to the man who raised me (did I mention that he's not even my biological father?)

Dad is an artist—meaning he paints pictures for a living (I use the term “living” loosely). I don’t remember him ever wearing clothes that didn’t have paint drips all over them. Mom always cut his hair and apparently he told her he wanted the “I just walked out of the cave after 100 years” look. His facial hair paled only slightly to Abe Lincoln’s and his boisterous laughter paled only to the explosion of a fireworks warehouse.

The white rapist van revealed...

Due to the nature of his work, he drove a white rapist van that sported a wood floor—it’s easier to transport paintings to the gallery that way. Probably not the best way to transport your 4 children, but we enjoyed the way we could slide on our bottoms from the back of the van to the front when he had to slam on the brakes.

The only time I ever fully appreciated that van was when we went to the local drive-in movie theater. I could hear the gasp of the jealous crowd when we backed into our spot and opened the large double doors and everyone could see us kids already laid out on our futon—homemade popcorn in paper grocery sacks in hand.

The shagging wagon minus the hand-painted curtains

My pride in the van began to wane about the time I started getting boobs. It’s hard to look cool when you have to jump out of the side of a rapist van in front of the school. I can’t tell you how happy I was to know that Dad was finally getting rid of that big white van. But my excitement turned to horror the day he drove up in a bright orange Volkswagen camper.

My younger brothers squealed and jumped in joy as the small bus pulled into our gravel driveway. I can still remember my Dad’s first words after he set the parking brake and jumped out of the front seat, “Who wants to help me paint the curtains for this shagging wagon?”

By this point in my life, I was too much of a bitchy teen to appreciate the fun the “shagging wagon” had to offer. I can’t imagine a vehicle that fit my Dad’s personality more than that orange nightmare.

He loved the bus so much that he bought a white camper just like it—except it didn’t run as well (which was hard to believe that was possible). Poor Dad decided to drive my brothers down to Big Bend National Park to camp in the white camper for Spring Break. Somehow the van made it down there, but coming home was a whole different story.

Dad and I in Taos, NM. We almost moved there in the early 90s
until Dad decided there was too much stucco there...

Not only did the van run like total shit on a good day, but the latches that hold the camper top down to the van had broken during their trip. Dad had to drive about 45 miles per hour with his left arm out the window in hopes of holding down the camper top all the way home—his usual 8 hour trip out of the South Texas desert took about 20 hours.
I have never seen an arm more sunburned in my life. Dad was defeated and he ended up selling both vans soon after that failed trip.
As much as I hated those vans, one thing is for sure--no good stories ever come out of a good car. Some of the best stories my sister and I have revolve around that white rapist van without the seats.

Dad and I when I was about 4 years old in Dublin, TX.

And it’s safe to say that no one has great stories to tell about a boring dad who followed all the rules and drove a simple car. Maybe some of the memories from my childhood are less than perfect, but they make great stories. I can’t help but laugh when I think about my Dad and the way he raised us.

So thank you Dad for giving me a life worth talking about. I owe you big time—you have no idea how popular I am at dinner parties.

1 comment:

  1. And don't forget the Ford station wagon with the "wood" panelling. That car gave us the nickname the Grizwades!