In My Write Mind
6.09.2005

Sardines & Yoo-hoo!

Ingredients to a Father's Day meal


That was his meal. No matter where we went, the cooler would be full of sardines and Yoo-hoo. For him. I couldn't stand the smell, let alone the taste of those small fish that came lined up for the slaughter in a small can, opened with a key. The whole ritual reminded me on some sort of Death Row for fish.

But that meal was, in fact, the key to our relationship. It meant we were headed out to bond, coming together to do something fun. It could've been boarding a fishing boat to Cape Cod; or crossing the Triboro to a Yankee game at the Stadium; or on a road trip to visit family in Pittsburgh.

Whatever the experience, it all began with sardines and Yoo-hoo. Well, it didn't really begin there. But that was the proverbial "meat" of it.

The ritual actually began with the trip to Gouz (rhymes with cows) in Elmont, NY. This discount store had everything! Eggs, flavored juice (wild cherry was my absolute favorite of the store-themed concoctions), lunchmeat, sixty kinds of mustard...and those sardines and Yoo-hoo. The outdoor barn replete with chickens and goats was just a bonus. Hell, this was the best supermarket in the world to a young kid from Queens who never saw animals outside of the stray dog pack on the block.

It was after purchasing that signature meal, along with other groceries for the house, that I drove the 1983 Ford Fairmont for the first time. Fresh off getting my license, my dad handed me the keys to take us home. Needless to say that adrenaline was pumping while I should've been pumping the brakes. Yep. There was a smackdown of Rock proportions in the parking lot that day, me hitting a parked car.

But my dad never hit the roof.

After checking to make sure the eggs didn't break, he calmly told me to back up off the bumper of the 1985 Caddy I had just kissed, and to get out of the parking lot. He stopped my syncopated heartbeat on the way home, telling me that I didn't damage the car and relating to me his first driving experience, which included a learner's permit and a pet gerbil.

Yes, a gerbil.

Maybe he made that story up. In fact, looking back, he probably did. But whatever the case, he turned what could've been a disastrous maiden voyage into a lesson on keeping perspective. His soothing words carried us home from Gouz that afternoon; in fact, carried us throughout my teenage years without incident outside of a kissed bumper and the usual growing pains.

It is his example that I still try to apply in life today. Ten years ago, when my brother passed, he showed me a type of strength that could never be taught, being strong for my mother, my sister, my niece and my nephew. No doubt he cried. In fact, I know he did. But the lesson to be there for family was still learned.

He taught me to like who or what I like, with no excuses. Sure the Mets were virtually around the corner from our house in Queens, but I favored the Yankees..and he supported that.

There were times years later, when my dad fell ill, that I would think back on some horrible New York teams. I'd be keeping score, cheering as if they could hear me while my dad sat there--after working hard all day--content with his son being content, and with his sardines and Yoo-hoo.

That may not be the only meal we ever shared, but it was always around--just like my dad. A portly man with wavy hair, a killer smile and a singing voice that could light up any room, my father has always loved his wife, his kids, his God--and his favorite meal. I've always loved being around him.

I miss him.

It was on my trips out to see my dad on weekends that I would wrap myself in all of those life lessons and memories (as opposed to wrapping my car around another fender). And as Father's Day approaches next week, I raise one of America's favorite chocolate drinks to my favorite person--the man who not only guided me through a Gouz parking lot, but through a lifetime of experiences that have molded me into a competent and somewhat successful man.

My dad's favorite saying has always been "How sweet it is!" Thank you for everything, Albert Dawson. And to borrow from a 60s soul group, "Indeed, how sweet it's been to be loved by you."

This Father's Day, my first one without you, the sardines are still on me...

I love you.

scribbled by Will at 6/09/2005 02:16:00 PM
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Mind Droppings

I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. (Joan Didion)



The Write One


Will. Lefty. Since Summer 1971.
Over the next six months, I'll be saying some hellos, some goodbyes. Living, laughing, growing. Don't.miss.a.word.
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