When I was four , my big brother and I were bickering a lot and competing for attention, so my parents decided to take turns spending time with just me, and with just Steven, alone. One Saturday,
my dad would take me someplace without my brother, and the next week I’d go with my mom.
My dad would almost always take me to the dinosaur park (I’m not sure what the park’s name was, but that’s what we called it). But before that, we’d stop for breakfast at Bob’s Big Boy.
We weren’t very close. We didn’t have important father-son talks. Most of his time at home was spent sleeping on the couch after a long day teaching troubled high school kids, many of whom were in gangs. I don’t remember him holding my hand when I was little. He told me nothing about his life until I was a grown man. I think my older brother remembers him before he was so distant. I don’t.
But on those Saturdays, we’d walk into the crowded Bob’s Big Boy, and my dad would sit me on his lap while we waited to be seated. He’d be wearing some colorful button down shirt with a butterfly collar (this was 1979). Sometimes with a vest. And always shoes that had to be shined. I don’t remember ever seeing him in a casual shirt, until his later years when he fell in love with a Raiders jersey.
When we were led to a table, and he and I were seated, he’d ask me how I was doing. And then he’d always have something funny to say about my answer. He’d quietly point out people around us. Couples in love, young families, old men or women dining all alone, police officers, and others. And he’d lean over to me and whisper their inner thoughts. When they’d speak, he’d do voiceovers just for me, and it was always something hilarious.
His voiceovers for one old, dour-looking couple in particular, caused a laughing fit that lasted me until the dinosaur park, and that came back and woke me up later that night. It wasn’t so much what my father said, as the fact that he did a perfect Edith Bunker impersonation for the woman, and a perfect Ralph Cramden in response for the man.
Forty-five years later, I’m a professional cartoonist. I often sit in a cafe and sketch the people I see. And when I do, I try to listen for my father’s voice. When he finally leans over to me in my head and whispers their thoughts and their conversations to me, I write them down. And I try not to laugh like a four-year-old.
Such a good story. Thank you
What a wonderful backstory for your wonderful work. 🙏🏽