Have I ever told you about my dad’s tiny little man legs?
He once had to stand on a 2-inch platform for family pictures because he was shorter than my 15-year-old brother. (Dad loves when I tell that story.)
Anyway, his legs are short, but let me tell you, when that man wants something, there is no way he’s going to let something as trivial as having stubby legs slow him down or hold him back. Those suckers are fast. And I don’t just mean fast. I’m talking, like, Road Runner-legs-in-a-circle-shaped-blur fast.
And there’s nothing my dad will go faster for than free stuff.
What kind of stuff, you ask? Oh, it doesn’t matter. My dad likes any free shit, no matter how stupid. Once, when I was about 20 years old and visiting home, he came bursting through the front door, breathless. “Oh, Shay, thank God! I thought you’d already gone back to college. I didn’t want you to leave without seeing what I won!”
I looked up from my bowl of Ramen noodles to come face-to-face with a coffee mug that said #1 Mom.
“What the fck do you need that for?” I asked, stupefied.
My dad got all huffy. “Well, it doesn’t matter if I’m not a mom. I won it fair and square!”
I realized that the reason he was all pissy with me was that he thought I was going to call whatever godforsaken place had bestowed the gift upon him and tell, prompting them to re-evaluate their criteria for winning and take it away from him. I just shook my head.
“Besides,” my dad continued, indignant, still practicing his lines in case the manager really did call, “they don’t know. Maybe I want to give it to my wife.”
“You and Mom have been divorced for 6 years,” I reminded him.
“Um, duh. But they don’t know that.”
I looked up at him, pretending to take the whole thing seriously. “Dad, Mom cheated on you with like 22 different people. I mean, she’s a pretty good mom besides all of that, but I just don’t see the point in you rewarding her behavior by giving her a #1 Mom mug. Shouldn’t you still be the bitter ex?” I paused, acting like I was mulling it over very seriously. “Do you want me to give it to her instead so that it at least looks legit?”
“Shut up, Shay. You know I’m not really giving it to her. You’re just jealous that I won and you didn’t.”
“You’re right, Dad. You’re exactly right. Because what I really need more than anything in the world is a #1 Mom mug to drink my coffee out of in the presence of my one-night stands the next morning. Shit, old man, I hardly get callbacks as it is right now. Let’s not give them any more excuses to accidentally lose my number.”
My dad’s jaw dropped. “Sweet Jesus, Shay…”
But then we both started laughing. I took pity on him and softened, taking the mug and placing it front and center on the baker’s rack that was in our kitchen for so many years. “Here,” I said, buffing it a little bit with my napkin. “How’s that?”
The proud tears shining in my dad’s eyes were all the thanks I needed.
The point is, old man loves his free shit. Oh, and the other point—his legs are short. Now you’re all set to hear the rest.
A few weeks ago, my dad treated my brothers, husband, and brothers-in-law to a baseball game. Of course, he’d picked that particular game knowing that the first 25,000 people who entered the stadium received a free bobblehead.
I got the story second-hand from my husband:
“We left early, but not as early as your dad would’ve liked. He stopped speaking to us as soon as we parked, except to shout over his shoulder, ‘You a-holes are slowing me down!’ as he took off speed-walking. He was convinced that all the bobbleheads would be gone, but we all figured, judging from smallish size of the crowd that had gathered, that we had plenty of time. So we just watched him go.”
My husband said that one of my brothers-in-law looked over at him and let out an amazed breath, pointing in my dad’s direction and saying, “That man has the squattiest legs I have ever seen, but damn, he can really go!”
I tried to tell them, my peeps. I tried.
Alas, Dad didn’t get a bobblehead. He was something like the 25,003rd person to run breathless through the gates. I suppose lightning-quick, stubby legs can only do so much.
There was a time that he had a different outcome, though. It was at a different ballgame several years prior to this one. And everyone, no matter what order they came through the gates, got a shirt.
The only caveat? You had to be 13 or younger.
My younger brother was the unfortunate one who had gone to the game with Dad that day. Dad hadn’t told him the details; he was going to save that for after they’d already walked through the gates. As they got closer to the woman who was handing out the shirts, my dad roughly nudged my brother.
“Stoop down!” he whispered.
My brother looked at him, confused. “What?”
“You can’t be older than 13 to get the damned shirts. Stoop down!” he said, louder and faster and out of the corner of his mouth, as they were rapidly approaching the shirt box.
“Holy shit, Dad,” my brother said, rolling his eyes. “I’m 21 years old. It’s obvious that I’m not 13!”
“I said STOOP DOWN!” Dad shoved my brother down a couple of feet and held his hands on his shoulders so my brother was stuck in a squat when they got to the shirts. Dad kicked my brother’s hand so he was forced to stretch it out for a shirt.
The lady manning the box peered at my brother over her glasses. “You’re 13?” she asked.
My brother shrugged helplessly. Dad let go of his shoulders, trusting that my brother wouldn’t blow it for him by standing up. He stepped up to the woman and verbally jostled with her a little bit. My brother caught the words “unfortunate growth disorder” but could tell the woman wasn’t buying it. But what the hell could she do?
She finally, reluctantly, handed over the shirt to my brother, who had to duck-walk away with it because my dad wouldn’t let him stand up until they were out of the lady’s line of sight.
Finally, when my dad would allow it, my brother stood to full height and gave Dad a little shoulder shove back. “What the fck is wrong with you, old man? Stoop down?!”
My dad, sensing an usher nearby, let an indignant look pass over his face as he gave my brother a quick flicky-wrist slap to the back of the head. “Can you believe that?” he said to no one in particular, but loud enough for everyone to hear. “Thirteen years old and he talks to his father that way?”
The shirt was tiny. My brother is skinny, and even on him, it fit like a belly shirt. But just to be a smartass, he wore it for the rest of the game as he swilled beer, hoping my dad would get hauled off to Child Protective Services for letting his 13-year-old drink.
And that shirt?
Although not one of my dad’s 5 kids had kids of their own back then, he pulled it out five years later, when the first nephew of the family was born.
And it’s now that little guy’s favorite shirt.
Well played, old man. Well played.