I think about my Dad a ton. Way more than when he was alive. We take living for granted.
My Dad passed away on November 1, 2010. He was 58. I was 32. There will be lots of “Dad Story” entries, so for now, I’m just going to tell one of my favorites.
Dad was a quiet man. He had an extremely dry sense of humor and an affinity for servers (waiters and waitresses in his day). Dad liked to give servers a hard time, in jest. And, my father was an EXCELLENT tipper. He told me when I was old enough to understand that tipping karma, although I doubt he used the word ‘karma’, was a thing. Basically, what goes around, comes around and if you treat them well, you will always have a better experience. He was right.
We went out to restaurants a lot. Very nice places, white table cloths and all to hole in the wall dives with just a flat grill and one employee. Even one place whose trademark was putting a plastic fly on your plate of food. A fly. Food was fantastic. The jukebox had only country music and I could pick any song I wanted, even when I could not read. I remember reaching up to press the really hard, long, rectangular button to make it light up, which meant some song was going to play…while we ate good food. It was heaven. Plastic-fly-on-your-plate heaven!
So, we go to a buffet one random night, just he and my eleven or twelve year old self. We eat. I love it. Food is such an important factor to my happiness; and back then it was tantamount to happiness for sure. He’d joked off and on with the server that filled our drinks and would clear our used plates. She enjoyed his banter, and laughed and joked back-I am sure, now, in hindsight, making her shift a little brighter. I smile as I eat my ice cream with sprinkles and hot fudge.
We get up to leave and it is one of those restaurants that you pay a cashier on your way out. I am eyeballing the candy they have for sale by the register and Dad grabs a toothpick from one of those old, metal dispensers. Do they even have those anywhere now? Anyway, it is our turn to pay and my Dad looks at me, dead serious, and says, ‘Did you bring money for this?’ as he taps at his pockets like he’s got nothing on him. I shake my head, ‘no Dad, quit messing around, you know I don’t have any money.’ But, of course, I’m me, so I still get a little nervous already. He continues, ‘well, I don’t know what we are gonna do…Can you wash dishes?’ My stomach drops. I look at the lady working the cash register with pure despair and confusion. My Dad then asks her, ‘ do y’all have any work we can do around here?’, still checking pockets. As my eyes become saucer-sized, I just keep looking from Dad to cashier. Cashier to Dad. Cashier to Dad.
Just as I am about to have a full fledged come a part and ask the cashier to call my Mom, Dad pulls out his wallet and pats me on the back. He says, ‘ I guess I will pay this time.’ and gives the cashier a wink and a tip, then sends me with some cash to leave at our table for the server. I come back to the front to leave with Dad and he says to the cashier, ‘Want an extra tip?…Don’t bet on the Saints!’.