I had always thought that someone had done the decent thing when my dad died.
I thought we’d all agreed on cremation.
But apparently not, or at least not entirely.
Because one night recently, and without my knowledge, somebody apparently cut off my old man’s head and transplanted it onto my shoulders.
How else to explain the fact that when I looked in the mirror, I was now wearing my father’s face?
Hold on, it wasn’t quite my father’s face.
I recognized those two specific wrinkles.
Between my eyes there are two vertical lines. The one on the right is way deeper and longer than the other.
When I am appalled/disgusted/weirdedout/bemused I have this facial tic. My left eyebrow goes up and the right one goes down.
I have been doing this for a long time and it has permanently altered the geography of my face.
My daughter calls it “the daddy wrinkle.”
My son calls it “Dad’s WTF Face.”
Either way, it’s the legacy of having children.
When you walk into a room and you discover an older child using a wooden spoon to smear peanut butter all over the torso of the younger child because she thinks it would be funny to see what happens when she sends her little brother into the living room where the dog is …
That brings out “the daddy wrinkle.”
When you are handed a report card by a child who has been officially identified as “intellectually gifted” by a major metropolitan educational bureaucracy, and you discover that somehow this child has managed to earn a grade of less than 50 per cent in a bird course like Foods & Fashions, that brings out “Dad’s WTF Face.”
I once came home to discover a gigantic scorch mark on the concrete patio out back.
A closer examination indicated that the concrete had actually begun to melt.
This disturbed me.
Off the top of my head, I could not think of a single reason why part of my concrete patio had STARTED TO FREAKING MELT!
This is not a normal thing to have happen.
I immediately sought out my son.
At first, wide-eyed consternation.
We have a patio?
Look! A squirrel!
After careful interrogation that stopped just short of waterboarding, the truth came out.
It turns out that if you are a child who has been officially identified as “intellectually gifted” by a major metropolitan educational bureaucracy and that major metropolitan educational bureaucracy is dumb enough to provide that minor child with a basic education in chemistry …
The kid goes home and invents thermite.
Which is, to say, they learn how to grind up and mix rust, magnesium and aluminum in the correct proportions and get a substance that the military uses to cut through armoured plate and that burns around 4,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Which melts a hole in your damned concrete patio.
In case you’re wondering, this is not a substance that should be in the hands of a 12-year-old.
Hell, as far as I’m concerned, this is not a substance that should be in anybody’s hands.
During that episode, I could literally FEEL the forehead wrinkle getting deeper.
And I have other marks that are the result of children.
For instance, I’ve got a scar on the heel of my hand that looks like some moron hit it with an axe.
I’m the moron and that’s how the scar got there.
I was splitting kindling and my little girl, for reasons that still baffle me, was so overcome by affection for me that she walked up behind me and screamed, “I LOVE YOU DADDY!” just as the axe was on the downswing.
I twitched and the next thing you know, I’ve got an axe blade stuck in my hand.
I think it took a couple of days for the eyebrow to come down that time.
But I’ll take an axe in the hand any day over what my sweet little girl did to me when she started dating.
I was the dad who didn’t want to know.
I was the dad who figured he had done his bit. I made sure that by the age of 12 she had a brown belt in karate.
“She can defend herself,” I told my dad proudly.
“Sure,” he said like the sage old cuss he was. “Until she doesn’t want to defend herself.”
I believe I said something mature, like, “Shut up” or “You’re a mean, mean, mean, old man.”
But he was right and when she decided she didn’t want to defend herself from the advances of this one fellow—a football player of considerable size—that’s when disaster struck.
He didn’t make a pass at her.
And she wanted my advice.
On. How. To. Make. A. Boy. Make. A. Serious. Grab. At. Her.
I said, “Why don’t you try talking to your mother?”
“Because I want the male perspective. And besides, don’t you want a close and honest relationship with me?”
I said: “Certainly not. I want you to have a close and honest relationship with your mother.”
But she didn’t listen and I have a close and honest relationship with my daughter and, further, my son keeps getting high marks in chemistry, only now he’s taken a keen interest in the TV series Breaking Bad.
One really deep forehead wrinkle and an axe scar?
I think so far, I got off easy.
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