There is a strange dichotomy going on in my dad’s personality: he has the most natural, most innate talent to make you laugh. He is truly a clown; while at the very same time he can be the worst downer you’ll ever meet.
I am pretty sure I am never as funny as he is. But I am positive that I don’t get my optimism, seldom as it comes, from him. Ever since I can remember, he’s always been sort of a “Chicken Little” to me. He’s always afraid the government is out to get us, the Russians, the Chinese, he always believes he’s going to die from something or other when he cuts his finger peeling potatoes (because of all that DDT, you know), or just has the sniffles; he always believes this life is a one of pain and suffering, and we have to go through it humbly, to wash off all our sins.
He is worst on his birthdays, and around the beginning of a new year. A new year to him, is just a sign that all your trials and tribulations are only starting over, yet again, like Sisyphus’s journey back up the mountain, only now it’s worse, because you’re older, and more tired, and with less strength. What is there to look forward to?! He will talk himself, with you as the audience, through these sad diatribes of “why is life worth living, after all?!”.
Somehow, the rest of our family has gotten used to dad’s “fatalism” and we just think it’s amusing anymore. But don’t tell him that! To him, this is serious business. I call it “the Cancerian drama” – since he’s a Cancer, and they do tend to get stuck in the rut of “oh, pity me!” quite often (Sorry, C.! It’s true!!).
So, today, when I called him to wish him a happy birthday, I was not looking for a chipper voice at the other end of the line. And to my shock and amazement, a happy, jovial, calm, serene and patient dad greeted me instead. For a minute or two, I didn’t know whether I should count my blessings, or make sure I hit the right residence. He had just come back from a birthday party, of his best friend’s, and he was, for starters, just picking on the heat which was so bad that he had given up on criticizing it, and just made fun of it all.
He was making fun of much of everything, actually: the puny appetizers at the party, the lack of alcohol, the sweltering heat (as you remember, Romania gets pretty hot in July), the fact that mom was so hot, she was delirious, asking him to buy her a rooster, for some odd reason (mom usually hates creatures. All of them.).
He was in his rare form, today, where he would make you laugh at every single word he utters. There is an anecdote going around about my dad: at parties, he makes people laugh so hard, they sit across the table having dinner, and they spit food at each other laughing at his jokes. That’s the kind of mood he was in today. And not just happy, but optimistic, too! He was actually looking forward to things.
He told me about his planning his own birthday party for next week – since this week his buddy decided to have his birthday party on dad’s birthday, dad had to move his till next week. He talked excitedly about the 26+ (yes: twenty six!) appetizers he is going to make, and the fish and the grilled meat, and the frappe coffees, and the cake…The man loves to entertain, for a grumpy bloke!
Grilling with dad, back home, on his birthday, in 2007
Then, we started talking about his new venture, which is trying to buy a home. He found the home of his dreams, but the current owner is in this legal mess about an inheritance on the house, so dad can’t buy the house, legally, till the owner sorts out his papers. I even thought he would be gloomy about that. But he was not. He was patient to describe to me all the implications of the legal matters, and then, he explained to me in layman’s terms how an inheritance works, at least in
I was shocked! This was not my dad! Of course, I tried to stay away from two sore subjects (for him): his age, and the fact that he is a happy grandpa – so, probably, that helped keep his mind off sad thoughts of growing old! But whatever it was, I enjoyed my good-mood daddy, if only for about 30 minutes out of this whole year!
Maybe he’s just realizing in older age that life is worth living and beautiful after all. Maybe he is looking back and realizing all the good things he has to be happy and grateful for, or maybe he’s just tired of just pointing out the ugly and difficult ones. Maybe this is just a passing mood for him ( I definitely get my moods from him!) , and tomorrow he’ll be back to grumpy ol’ dad. Maybe he is just tired that no one takes him seriously about his complaints, anymore … Whatever it is ( I was afraid to ask!), I love it, and I hope he keeps it coming!
There is something better than talking to dad, once in a while: talking to a happy dad – especially on his birthday! He doesn’t know it, but he probably gave himself the best present today, by allowing himself to be light, happy and make me and mom, and I am sure others, too, smile. He surely is never short of one thing, and that is surprising you. And this kind of surprising, I take any day of the year!
Happy birthday, daddy, and get the grill ready for next week’s party! In your spirit of today, I am not sad I won’t be there: I am just happy that so many people will get to enjoy your charm and food for one day! I love and miss you!