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Why I Don’t Want to Know What You’re Thinking

April 16, 2013

My dad turns 60 today. Aside from calling to rib him about his advancing years and possibly mailing him a package containing denture solvent, I will be unable to fully participate in the big day, since he’s in Wyoming, and I’m in Colorado.

So in lieu of planning a big birthday bash, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on some of the smaller but still vital life lessons he’s given me over the years, besides the notion that marriage isn’t necessary to a good partnership. I had a particularly long time to reflect on the matter as I drove over icy, slushy back roads in order to get back to my condo and my Deep Space Nine DVDs after returning my instructor’s uniform yesterday, a feat of which my dad would doubtlessly approve–it was after years of watching him drive in the mountains, sometimes through clenched fists and in spite of numerous utterances of the phrase, “Oh God, I can’t watch,” that I absorbed the notion that it is much better to brave a white-out blizzard to get home than be stuck in a small town with only one motel and one restaurant that closed two hours before you stopped there.

My dad has also been a fine purveyor of relationship advice. One time when I came home on a break from grad school, he and I got to talking about my now-ex-boyfriend, the man I was still very much in love with at the time. There were a few perfunctory questions about how the boyfriend was doing in school and whether he was going to visit any time soon.

Then, “Is the sex good?”

“Daaaaaad…” I squirmed in my chair, suddenly feeling like a high schooler all over again (even though I was damned if I could think of any high school students I knew who’d been asked this question).

“Because good sex,” he said, nodding into the distance as if it really didn’t matter whether I was having any or not,  “can sometimes save a bad relationship.”

I was too busy suddenly realizing how long my flight had been and how, even though I’d really enjoyed the discussion, I was so tired all of a sudden to properly dissect that statement. I still have no idea how he figured that relationship-success formula out, nor do I have any desire to–as far as I’m concerned, my parents were just very good friends who got a special visit from the stork 27 years ago, END OF STORY. But the “bad relationship” angle makes me wonder if he saw something years before the passion died (and with it, interestingly enough, the relationship) that I was too close to the situation to see for myself.

And if I ever do decide to get back on the horse (although I’m no Catherine the Great, so I’d much prefer a mammal from my own species) and brave romance again, I have in my armory the most useful lesson on guys that any father could possibly give, even if my own father taught it indirectly.

Shortly after I graduated college, I was on one of those car trips with my dad that proved his point about pressing on no matter how bad the weather was. We were looking at the beetle pine kill-pocked landscape and remarking how, even with these decidedly wintry conditions, it didn’t seem likely enough to get cold enough for long enough to destroy the bugs. There’s only so much non-experts in the field of entomology or botany can say about the subject, however, so the conversation petered out after a few minutes, and I went back to staring at what little I could see of the landscape through the storm for what must have been at least ten miles.

“What’s the eighth state that starts with ‘M’?” my dad suddenly blurted into my reverie.

I was pretty used to my dad’s non sequiturs, so I didn’t bat an eye before saying, “Well…there’s Massachusetts…Maine…Maryland…”

“Maryland! That’s it!”

It didn’t even occur to me contemplate how he got from beetle-kill to elementary school geography, but the omitted state made me give him a sidelong glance. Maryland was the state in which I’d been living and attending college for the past three years. He remembered Montana and Minnesota, but not the state whose name had graced the address on tuition checks?

But I let it slide. After all, I had to remember the other M states, and then we moved on to the eight N states, then the four As, the three Cs, and so on until we had all fifty. We’d gotten thirty of the state capitals before we reached our destination, much to my dad’s irritation at that distraction.

Thanks to this unintentional teaching moment, however, I can not only rattle off the names of all fifty states with confidence (even if I’m still no great shakes at math–when I related this anecdote to my cousin, we shared a laugh, paused, frowned thoughtfully, then proceeded to run through the list ourselves. We kept coming up with only 48 or 49. Finally, I pulled out a pen and paper and wrote them down, tallying each one obviously and carefully. When we counted fifty names that had all been previously stated, we concluded that we successfully passed fifth grade geography but might need a refresher in kindergarten finger-counting), but I also know this: don’t ask what a guy is thinking or how he came up with that one. If it’s really important to him, he’ll blurt it out in the middle of a car ride or dinner or even a business meeting, even if it has no discernible relation to whatever the previous subject was.

And since what’s really important to him might be refreshing his memory as to what all the ‘M’ states are, you probably don’t want to know what isn’t important. The same goes the other way for the opposite sex: guys who are in a car with me are just as likely to hear that I’m trying to figure out whether too much snow has collected in the wheel wells for me to use the brakes properly as they are to hear me muse on whether or not there are gay Vulcans, Trek’s overall denial of homosexuality notwithstanding. Either way, we’re all better off keeping some thoughts to ourselves.

So here’s to you, Dad! I hope you and your fiancee are sharing some very nice time as very close friends, and here’s a list of the fifty state capitals. Happy birthday.

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8 Comments
  1. I like to subject my 9 year old daughter to my random musings too. Funny thing was that last night over dinner we argued for 5 minutes about the capital of Georgia being Atlanta. I swore it was Savannah! “Well dad, I don’t know what else to tell you, but you’re wrong. I’ll ask my teacher about it tomorrow” she finally said. Well, I didn’t want the teacher judging me in case I was wrong, so I finally got up and Googled it. It IS Atlanta! That seems too obvious…

    Ha, I subjected you to my random musings too!!

    • I shall subject my father to your random musings now to see how he likes it! Now I don’t remember if we got to the capital of Georgia…I doubt we did, because I suspect I would have dismissed Atlanta as too obvious myself. Granted, having lived in Colorado most of my life, my grasp of eastern U.S. geography gets fuzzy at times.

      More random musings in return!

  2. crispyindeed permalink

    Your dad sounds like a cool guy to talk with! Well, besides sex.. I can only imagine how awkward that can be. I went to the movies with my dad and his gf about a couple years ago, and during one short sex scene, I was so uncomfortable, just thinking about it now makes me squirm. It was short and not full nudity, but nonetheless, AHHH!

    • He’s pretty awesome. And as much as I wanted to evaporate or be magically teleported away from that room when that conversation was taking place, it’s still good to know that he accepts that people, including his daughter, have sex. Although any PG-13 or higher movie is one I’ve learned not to watch with my parents.

  3. Hahah! Your dad sure is a riot (^__^). Betcha being random is how he keeps himself young, my aunt used to say that Getting older is optional, growing up is mandatory. Tell ur dad Happy belated birthday =)

    • I will tell him! I still haven’t quite figured out how to break the news of his new online presence to him yet, however. :p

      Your aunt is awesome. I still have the sense of humor and level of maturity more appropriate to my eight-to-ten year-old male ski students. Keeps me fresh!

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