Here’s my tribute to my dad:
He featured in the very first blog post that I ever posted, “Where’s Alfred E. When You Need Him?” It opened with a commentary on the New Yorker cover with the Obamas in full Afro mode. It provoked a firestorm of outrage. I thought it was the sort of thing that Mad magazine would feature. As I noted in the post, Daddy introduced me to the magazine when I was about eight or nine. It shaped – some would say warped — my sense of humor, which now includes “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me,” the radio show whose humor veers from juvenile to sophisticated.
Daddy was also indirectly responsible for the recently posted ‘Memoir Title Roulette” because of his rabid interest in the Mafia and the blog entry “What’s in a Name?” The finale was putting his name into the Mob nickname generator. He’s George “the Jury Tamperer” Petry.
One thing that I’ve only come to appreciate recently is how much knowledge of plants I absorbed tagging behind him in the garden, picking up worms and garter snakes and later helping him drop Japanese beetles into cans of kerosene. I never asked him about it, but I suspect that whatever knowledge he learned down on the bayou from his own father was pretty much useless in Old Saybrook with its frigid winters and sandy soil. He kept two huge books, one was Vegetable Gardening by Charles H. Nissley. The other (I think) had the name the Gardening Encyclopedia.
Plus he learned a great deal from the old Yankees across the street. These two men, brothers-in-law, had lived in the area all their lives and were both descended not from the Mayflower people but the wave that arrived shortly afterward. In other words, New England bedrock had been part of their family trees for generations.
The only time I saw Daddy with gun, he borrowed a rifle (?) from one of the old Yankees to shoot a skunk that he caught in a Have-a-Heart trap. Got the critter with one shot.
Things he succeeded in teaching me: kitchen prep the restaurant way from his days as a manager of his brother-in-law’s place in NYC; a number of great recipes including jambalaya and hoppin’ john; electrical wiring up to the point of knowing when to call in someone with a license; basic plumbing (unless it requires actually lifting a toilet); an appreciation of the New York Yankees.
Things I didn’t learn: math, physics, football.
Daddy, I’m sure you didn’t think I appreciated you enough when you were alive. I do now. Happy Father’s Day. With love.