In this episode of Primetime Dads, John Herrman recounts the crazy antics of his own late father and stars in an episode of his own, recalling stories about free rides on horses, duck hunting, and gossip from the corner office.
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As a kid, my dad had his pickup truck parked outside his office building so that he could access it at the end of his workday. The routes of his rides would become known around the office.
After lunch, my dad would drive to the back yard to eat and drink. We’d go outside and drop frogs and birds off at his feet. This made me realize that sitting behind a desk in the corner office did not offer the opportunity to exercise and play with your young children, to be on the lookout for one’s own imaginary friends, to stare at frogs and to enjoy the fresh air. But it was not always on work.
One time, we were flying from New York to Boston for a trip and the flight was delayed until the late afternoon. Dad told me that if he didn’t start getting ready to leave soon, he might miss his ride. So he dug out the car keys, grabbed some fast food from Subway, read the morning newspaper, and then, after completing his newspaper reading, he hopped in the driver’s seat, parked the car, and drove off down the road.
For a kid, that sounds fun. If only the airlines operated those ways all the time!
When dad was on the road, I used to wonder what time of day he got to work. Was it before 10 a.m.? Did he eat and drink his lunch at a table in the office? Or did he get in his car and go out for his morning drive?
There was another time that he bought an old lawnmower and drove it across town to a neighbor’s house. Usually, we’d be down at the beach by then, so it was a bit of a dust-up with the neighbors, because my brother and I didn’t have a grass cutter to mow the lawn. When my dad got to the neighbor’s house, my brother and I had butted heads, so my dad suggested that we have it go around the corner so that we would meet him safely when he returned home. I sort of liked this idea.
Well, my dad got home safely, and the neighbors were mad, and my mom had to get involved. But, before I could go tell her about it, my brother and I were pulled off a puddle-jumper ride and told to race back into the house. We did it, after which Dad gave me my first bucking steer lesson in his mini-master-train.
From then on, things didn’t end there. My father was good at chasing small children and honed his skills on winning small prizes at a calf-roping competition at a local farm. My brother and I thought this was great fun, but my mom let it slide.
One time when I was a kid, my dad was having a party at his barn, while my brother and I were visiting him on campus. I was at the party, trying to get warm in the house. I asked for a cold drink, so I went down the long pine driveway into the cold woods to buy a drink. We waited. Then we waited some more. Then my brother, who was also a drinke, tried to go down the stairs. But my father, a stickler for things like this, kept pushing him down the stairs, every time, until finally he caved. His body took a long time to recover.
My father taught me how to look death in the face and embrace it. Sometimes, although I laughed so hard at the housewarming party, I am sure that I didn’t look death in the face or really even think about it. He always seemed to know what it felt like, to live in death.