My dad is the reason I’m a
sociopath writer. At least, he’s
partially the reason.
When I was young (I’m talking REALLY young—like 3 or 4), he started teaching me how to read and write. I later learned that this was in some part because he’d not known how to read when he started kindergarten and felt like a real ass because of it. Your average Joe (or Jon, if you’re my dad) wouldn’t have been too bent out of shape by not being literate at the age of 5, but my dad has never been average (or Joe, for that matter).
So anyway, he got me this index-card holder and a pencil and taught me a new word or two every day. I would write the word and store it in the box. Sort of the way you earn a quarter and put it in your piggy bank (or spend it immediately, if you’re me). Some of these cards still exist and it seems clear from the evidence that I would one day grow up to be a
When we were small, my dad would read to Ouisie and me from his favorite books—The Hobbit, Wind in the Willows, Treasure Island. He pushed us to read and as a result I was sucking down C.S. Lewis by first grade and Jane Austen and Charles Dickens by sixth. I’m not bragging. We can all read now, so who cares? Also, this was probably the last time I was considered “advanced” at anything. But I started out doing it to impress my dad and ended up doing it because I couldn’t not do it. My parents are both great readers and they passed it on to us as less than a choice and more of a necessity, like eating vegetables and doing your homework. I’m eternally grateful because despite my lack of a reasonable social life, I’m rarely ever bored. I’m always reading something, even if it’s Y.A.
When I was ten-years-old, I began my first novel (and last, as it happens). It was about a tomboy and her best friend, Sport. It was loosely based on my relationship with my imaginary friend, Skip. I brought the first five chapters (don’t get impressed—each chapter was handwritten and came in at around 3 pages) to my dad and he was supportive. But he pointed out that when you write dialogue, you have to start a new paragraph each time a different person speaks. Being who I was (and am), I decided to cry about it (it was handwritten for chrissakes! It's not like I can jump into my Word document and make corrections!) and give up. Excellent.
My dad has always encouraged me, through word and deed, to be creative and to attempt to educate myself. He stressed the importance of words, the importance of reading, and the importance of asking questions. He played classical music all the time because he actually likes it. He said that I had to be nice to people and was nice to people himself (one time, he chased down this kid who spit on my friend, Rachel, and made him come back and apologize. I was mortified). He read books about science because he actually likes it. He made me work hard at my school assignments and my extracurricular activities (even if he wasn’t always keen on the activities I chose—ahem, soccer, and later theatre). He made me wear a helmet and pads to roller blade and a t-shirt to the pool so I wouldn't get burned (you can imagine how popular this made me). Sometimes, when I needed help with math, he would drive me bat-shit crazy. He’d insist on fresh paper, sharp pencils and a brief lesson on the history of math beginning with Pythagoras sitting in his backyard pondering the cosmos or the triangles (or whatever Pythagoras liked to do). I'd be wondering (aloud) if I'd ever get a chance to go to bed that night, but he was determined to teach me math, not just do it for me. That was a real pain in the ass.
But I guess the point is that he always gave a crap, and he always pushed me to better myself at whatever it was I was trying to do. He read all those crappy stories I wrote, he went to all of those god-awful soccer games, he was in the audience for every play (even if I was playing the Third Dead Body from the Right or Soldier Number Four), and he was prepared to teach me Calculus if it killed us both (it nearly did).
So I owe a lot of my intelligence (such as it is) and my interests and perseverance (such as they are) to my truly thoughtful, present dad. It’s his fault that I’m not a (complete) moron and that I insist on writing down everything that happens to me. He’s the reason that I still look up words in the dictionary and try to use proper grammar. He’s responsible for how I expect to be treated by men (well) and the fact that I can’t fall asleep at night unless I’ve read for a good half-hour or more. (He's probably also the reason that I have the pale skin of a vampire, a phobia of technology, and panic attacks on a regular basis, but that's probably the basis of a story for another time.)
I’m lucky because I have an amazing father. And this entry is cheesy, but true.
Happy Fathers’ Day, DB. I love you.
|Ouisie, Dad and me, circa 1987.|
*One of my dad's favorite sayings. Sigh. This is another reason I am the way that I am.