Sunday, July 13, 2008


I think I was five years old the last time my dad and I had an argument. My dad is, for the most part, a serious looking man with a good pokerface. However, being half Italian and half German, when his temper flares he suddenly becomes an animated caricature of his usual sober self. His stance widens, knees slightly bent so he can bounce a bit to the rhythm of his yelling and carrying on, his arms wildly gesturing as his voice rises with his temperature. The sudden change in demeanor would crack me up as a kid and I ended up laughing hysterically even as he was trying to scold me. He eventually gave up yelling at me, finally realizing his attempts at punishing a giggling five year old were futile. We've gotten along ever since.

My dad is an old Air Force guy. He used to take us shooting in the woods where he would set up beer cans for us to fire at. I remember one time we had paused so that he could set up more cans, I was holding the pistol with the barrel pointing up as he had instructed. Unfortunately, I had failed to keep my finger off the sensitive trigger and the gun accidently fired straight up in the air. My dad, who may have actually shat himself when the gun went off, hotfooted it back to me all the while trying unsuccessfully to form a comprehensible sentence.

"Give me what yer...don't hold the...gimme that!"

To his credit, he didn't get angry he just took the gun from my stunned little hand all the while rolling his eyes at me.

My dad liked to mess with my friends all through my teen years. He was a gun enthusiast and had a room in the basement where he would work on restoring and cleaning his collection. He would emerge from the basement, knowing that my friends and I were upstairs playing video games, and stand quietly in the doorway of the family room lovingly stroking a pistol with a grease stained white cloth until one of my friends would turn around and notice him there. My friends often decided they had to go home shortly thereafter.

When I was twelve we moved to a suburban neighborhood where most of the men went off to work everyday in a collared shirt and tie, and spent the weekends around the house in khaki shorts and a polo. My dad worked for the Air Force National Guard and went to work in fatigues and on the weekend could be seen mowing the lawn in ripped up cutoffs, combat boots, and a faded black shirt/jacket thing that was held closed with three ties down the front that he most likely picked up overseas somewhere when he was still in the Air Force.

My dad retired from the National Guard five years ago. His plan was to find a part time job that would give him something to do and yet require him to have only the most minimal responsibilities. It took a few tries since it's in his nature to take on responsibilities (his opinion is that people are idiots and if you want it done right, do it yourself) but he finally found something he enjoyed that only took up a few hours at a time. My dad is now a hot air balloon wrangler. His job, along with a couple of other guys, is to get the balloon and basket set up and then hop in his truck and follow the balloon across the southern end of the county until the pilot finds an open farm field to land in. Then they wrangle in the balloon, deflate it and pack it up. Think of it as a tamer version of tornado chasing. He's quite fond of the job and it allows my mom and him to go on their camping trips whenever they want. It also allows him to enjoy his other favorite past time, military reenactments. Because what else is a retired military man supposed to do with his time?

What else can I say, the man's a legend.

(*yes, that's my dad's name. It shouldn't come as a surprise that most of my friends were perfectly happy calling him Mr. Dunkle)

No comments: