Steve Martin: The father every daughter wishes she had

I’ve been staying with my parents since returning to Washington on June 23rd. Like anything, it was alright at first. But then things started to grow tired.

Me: I brought home the “Crude” documentary about influence of oil contamination on the Ecuadorian Amazon! (You know, one of the largest South American water issues that Sting has been working with in recent years!?)

Dad: Well that sounds cheerful (sarcasm).

No, being an informed citizen of the world is not always a cheerful process. I’d like to watch the Care Bears all day while passing out pink-frosted cupcakes for a living – but that’s not going to happen. Unless I’m in Heaven, that is. Then I’m totally applying for that job. But it just occurred to me that my experience as a professor won’t really pertain. In fact, Martha Stewart will likely have dibs on that long before anyone else. And in heaven, it’s not like you can just wait around for someone to die of old age, because they’ve been granted eternal life! Crap. Maybe they’ll need someone to help spoil and walk all the dogs in heaven. Now there’s something I’ll exceed the minimum requirements for! “You raised 27 dogs during the duration of your life, crazy lady!? You’re hired!”

My parents are, in a nutshell, simpletons in every sense of the word. Dad loves the McDonald’s dollar menu like the son he never had, and mom loves to NOT cook. They relish a good trip to Wal-Mart and enjoy watching episodes of NCIS on their 13” television. When they are feeling creative, my parents might throw together a casserole consisting of meat, creamed soup, and tater tots. I have nothing against tater tots, mind you, but that’s as fancy (or healthy) as things get around here. In fact, my father was horrified to find I brought home broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage, and kale last week. And I think they are both secretly suspicious of my “high” intake of fruit (i.e., 2-3 servings a day).

So far, my experience while living with them supports my theory that aging adults slowly start to revert back to childhood. My parents are currently transitioning through “the teenager stage” in which I advise about them on things such as

1) how to create a resume

2) why they shouldn’t (and when I say “they”, I mean “Dad”) buy that really cool looking car just because it has a nice paint job

3) why they Dad should eat less junk food (e.g., “Cheez-Its and ice cream are okay sometimes, but not everyday with lunch)

4) and why they Dad should exercise more (e.g., “just try walking around the block once – you don’t have to walk around the entire neighborhood!”).

As you’re starting to see,  my parents are infinitely different than each other.

My mother is always kind, cheerful, and positive. She is ALWAYS good company, no matter what. She works very hard at anything she puts her mind to and truly is a master homemaker in the realms in cleaning, knitting, sewing, and gardening. Now that I think about it, I strive to be like my mom so many ways. She bakes the most beautiful Danish Christmas cookies and wraps every gift, for every occasion, with care and precision. In fact, she is of the European generation that used to wrap all gifts with brown paper and string – it is plain to some people, but simply charming to me.

My father, I’m afraid, is not so easily described. He becomes chooses to become upset about the smallest things. Like the other day, he became very agitated about retrieving a bowl from the cabinet. “She knows I was going to take a bowl to work – why would she put it in there!?” Um, because that’s where bowls are stored? In the cabinet. He is completely addicted to Craigslist and checks it 17 times a day. FYI – you don’t NEED anything! I don’t care about the 1956 Bel Air that is for sale. You’d look like a Viagra popping jackass driving around in it anyway.

I think I’m starting to slowly understand how exasperating parenting can be. More than ever, I deeply admire parents who are so graceful, patient, yet assertive with their moody pre-pubescent tweens. And I suspect that dealing with aging parents is a strikingly similar experience. I need a no-nonsense person to introduce balance and reasoning into my parents’ lives. Someone like Mary Poppins, who can tell my father, like young Michael, to stop looking like a trout and close his mouth. And to take his cough syrup, or his medication. And to “fuck off” sometimes.

As this frustration was starting to really take its toll, I was driving home from campus and heard the following song on the radio. I was kind of spacing out, thinking about the tasks on my “to do” list when the words slowly started to seep into my brain.

“Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright, they just seem a little weird.”
”Surrender, surrender, but don’t give yourself away, ay, aaaaaaaay.”

Cheap Trick, in all their wisdom of 1978, was right. All you can do is SURRENDER! My parents are weird, if not completely psychotic and dysfunctional. My therapist will definitely attest to that. But the point is that they’re ALRIGHT.

Just as Robin Zander’s parents were found “…rolling on the couch. Rolling numbers, rock and rolling, got my Kiss records out”, my parents have been known to throw caution to the wind and drink a couple of micro-brews. And we did have a good time the other night going to Boomer’s burgers, even when my Dad made non-stop fun of me for eating a Gardenburger.

In the end, my parents still make me NOT want to have kids. But I do love them and deeply appreciate their friendship, not to mention their guestroom. Upon reflection, I think they are even more than alright 🙂


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