Growing up, I thought my dad was one of the T-Birds.
This was probably due, in part, to my obsession with the movie Grease. That movie was the most to say the least, and every year when it was on TV we would pile up in the living room to watch it. My dad would get the good spot in front of the TV and us younger ones would curl around him like he was the sun.
At Rydell High, the social structure was very clear – you were either a nerd, a jock or a greaser. My dad wasn’t like other dads I knew. He wasn’t a farmer. He didn’t work in an office. He didn’t watch football on Sundays. He wore leather jackets and boots and worked in a motorcycle shop that smelled like oil, gas, and tires. He most definitely was a greaser.
And having a greaser for a dad was very cool. It meant he lived a full life and had the stories to prove it. And, lord, does that man have stories.
He has Army stories, hunting stories and stories from when he raced motorcycles. He has stories about playing pinball with Brenda Lee and pumping gas for Jerry Lee Lewis. And he has a story about taking on The Beach Boys. Well, one of The Beach Boys.
“To make a long story short…” as my dad would say, he went one of their shows back in the day and the band showed up looking like “greasy turdballs.” They played a crappy set and then decided to stick around after the show and be crappy in general. My dad was mad he paid good money to stand around and watch those jerks, so when one of them got close enough he shoved him. He was pretty sure it was one of the Wilsons, but it was hard to get a good look since he was shoving him and all.
All this rubbing elbows with celebrities (and elbowing celebrities) made it hard not to feel like we were living with a minor celebrity ourselves.
No wonder we couldn’t wait for him to come home every night. In the summer, we would sit outside and pick clover while we waited to see him coming down the street. If the weather was nice and he was on his motorcyle, he would give each of us a turn on the back of his bike. That was possibly the coolest thing to ever happen to a little girl who never felt very cool herself.
My dad turns 72 today, and he’s still pretty damn cool. After years of tearing up the streets and shoving around celebrity “turdballs” he decided to give back to his community. He ran for mayor of my tiny hometown when he was in his 60s and is serving his third term as I write this. Not too shabby for a greaser.
One time when I was little, I got sick at the babysitter’s house and he had to come pick me up. When we got in the car, he asked me how I was feeling and then asked me for a kiss on the cheek. I told him that I couldn’t, I didn’t want to get him sick.
He said, “That’s okay, baby doll. Dads don’t get sick.”
And I believed that for a long time. I thought parents couldn’t get sick. They were immune. I wish I still believed that. Unfortunately, they do.
My dad has spent the last couple of weeks battling pneumonia. He’s on the mend, but the medication has been hard on him. From what I hear, it hasn’t been fun. It’s a crappy way to spend a birthday.
So, Dad, I’m sending you a kiss. Because you’re one tough T-Bird. And still one of the coolest guys I know.
Happy birthday! I love you!