Humble Heroes

There is a guy I know—and I’ve known him for an awfully long time—who has managed to squish a plethora of memories into an area of my brain that surely should hold less than a plethora.

I am assured by doctors that this overabundance—due to the nature of said memories—is not taxing me to the point where they would create health concerns and elevate the need for antidepressants, blood pressure meds, or an overwhelming amount of double fudge ice cream.

In fact, they have advised I use these memories in place of other treatments in order to stabilize, recalibrate, and maintain a healthy weight.

So, in times of particularly high stress, like my weekly trips to the gas pump, instead of feeling the anxiety-ridden squeeze of my pocketbook as I press the gas hose handle, I play the game I used to play with this man on a Saturday morning getting fuel after my piano lessons. The bet was this: if he could stop the hose dead on ten bucks, I owed him a candy bar. Anything above or below was my win, and I got the goods. There was no slowing down, no easing off the pump, just full fledge pressure and then—WHAM!—let go.

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I always won.

The game might have been worked in my favor so the other player could avoid seeing the welling of my tears.

So now, I do that same game with myself. Squeeze, wham, note the fact that I rarely nail ten bucks, and then carry on to somewhere around sixty. Then I pay the fee and glance toward the candy bars and wave hello. I can’t afford a candy bar these days after paying for gas. And no one there is particularly concerned with the welling of my tears.

Next up? How bout the countless times I find myself in a situation where I struggle to hold my tongue, hold my words and hold my breath from releasing negativity? Displeasure directed toward my kids. Impatience aimed toward the traffic. Or outrage at my finances.

At these moments I conjure up the recollection of this man who would toss four kids, a hound, and a woman desperately in need of a break into different compartments of a station wagon and release us all onto the sharply pine-scented shores of a Wisconsin lake no one else seemed to have discovered yet.

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You were allowed to grab hold of his shoulders with the quick warning of, “Let go when you must,” just before he would immerse himself beneath the water and swim with you on his back. Deeper and deeper he would plunge, until you felt your little ears pop. And when you could hold on no longer, you’d panic, bob to the surface, gasping for breath–your underwater dolphin game over. But he … would not appear. For what seemed like hours.

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You would scan the waters, heart pounding. Waiting. And worrying.

And then he would materialize, quietly, smoothly—in the middle of the lake.

I will practice holding things in with grace. And exercise a tranquil reentry.

There are myriad memories of walking into a room and finding this man with an open-faced book resting in his palms. It was his default position. I would need something. An answer, permission, a sip of his drink, but mostly just attention, and it would not be denied. My urgency was met with a raise of the eyebrow, a slipping in of a bookmark, but most importantly, nearly always with a smile.

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As a writer I have learned the wisest way to pen a tale is to steep yourself in other’s stories. My love for reading was one of example, fueled by someone else’s insatiable hunger for words. My love for my children is one of experience. The feeling of not being brushed off, ignored, or set aside because of inconvenience is an impressionable one, and one that has me swivel in my chair to greet whomever has called my name.

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These memories are the stuff of childhood, and yet they persist. Their tangible qualities are still felt, still practiced, and still admired. I have no idea what it’s like to be this man, but I have a million memories of what it’s like to be fathered by him.

Happy Day to you, Dad. Thank you for making so many of my days … Happy.



Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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48 thoughts on “Humble Heroes

  1. This brought a lump to my throat and tears sitting on the rims waiting to overflow. I hadn’t realised it was Father’s Day in the US, ours in Australia is in September. I used to buy my Dad a card each September, and hold it to send him until June when it was Father’s Day for him. I miss doing that, and many other things with and for him, but you have reminded me of all those plethora of memories I have. Thank goodness for the plethora. xxx

    • Oh, Ardys, your words are so heartfelt. I’m glad you were able to make an abundance of cherished memories together. Some of us are fortunate indeed to have gotten a good luck of the draw in the dad department. And we are grateful. ❤

    • Thank you for saying so. I think perhaps it took my dad by surprise as well. I try to keep him on his toes these days. He’s waiting for years of teenage revenge to leak out.
      I don’t think there’s a holiday for that, but I let him know that it could be a possibility one day. Maybe. 😉

  2. Ha ha! Thanks for the memories. Our famil5 friend owned a gas station and we played a game like that. Too funny.
    Great tribute to pops!

    • Yep, today I saw one of those small smiles emerge from the corners of his mouth. He’s made it a habit not to let us know just how much he likes us. Lest we become too comfortable and find ourselves above our station. 😉

  3. Shelley,

    I remember, and thank you for bringing those wonderful years back too. Do you recall the insatiable game he used to play with us after piano lessons, the trip to the library and our luscious stop at Ray’s bakery (?) across from the library for fresh baked pumpernickel rye bread?

    It was our simple request, “please Dad, may we go to McDonald’s today?” “Sure, you bet…”, he’d reply with glee and a warped glean in his warped left eye. We could see it in the rearview mirror. We’d get closer and closer; the sent of their fries were sweeping into the hole riddled jeep’s floor making us bounce around the back of the jeep as if we won the lottery for just that moment. Closer… and then… THE FAKE TURN OF THE STEERING WHEEL!@*!%$!?! AUGGGHHHH!!!

    “Some day, but not today, ok. I love you anyway,” he’d reply. “How ’bouts we go home and dig a hole or chop some wood and listen to the Brewers on the radio, grill some burgers and watch the storm role in and freak your mom out by being outside while the monsoon rain storm rolls through?”

    “That sounds cool Dad,” and thus it would be. Sorry Mom. 🙂

    Thank you Shelley for reviving such wondrous memories.

    Dad, without you, life would be, nothing. Your guidance, be it verbal or silence, your ability to listen with patience and insatiable ability to tune us out when you dove into one of your J. Michener novels now give me humbleness. I have a lot to live up to, thank you. Happy Father’s Day Pop’s, God Bless.


    • Oh, how I hated that fake-out, but oh, what lovely memories you’ve dug up beside it. Thanks for sharing your favorite (and not so favorite) moments too, bud. I hope you have an awesome Dad Day in your neck of the woods. I’ll give the guy and extra hug from you. xxx

  4. Oh what a happy childhood you portrayed. It is my dream for my own children to have such beautiful memories. You were blessed indeed. Happy Father’s Day to your wonderful dad!

    • Somehow, Sasha, I’m guessing that your kids are some of the luckiest and wholly loved little ones around. It sounds like you all are well on your way to creating just as many meaningful memories as I’ve got tucked away. Here’s to happy childhoods!

    • I remind him of just how lucky he is on a daily basis, but once a year I’ll give in a little and make a nod of thanks to this great geezer too. Thanks for sharing your lovely words, Joanne! Cheers

  5. Rob, I forgot to mention, I LOVE the Classic Gas drawing! You have such a fantastic ability to take the norm and blow it into stellar space laughter!

    Happy Father’s Day to you as well if it applies sir,

    Much respect,

    Stoshu 🙂

    • Many thanks to you, kind sir. I hope you spotted the pun on “Shell”. Father’s Day here in Sweden is in November, round about the time when they executed Guy Fawkes in my home country for trying to blow up parliament. As a child I was unsure of whether we were celebrating the fact that he failed, or that he at least made a valiant and worthy attempt! When I asked my dad, God bless him, he smiled and told me it was actually a bit of both!
      On a final note, I do wish someone would organize some kind of International Convention or Committee or Action Group to synchronize all these important days:)

  6. So sweet – loved reading this. I only met your folks briefly for short periods, but knew they were the coolest, because they raised someone like you – unique, kind hearted and confident (and smart!) all in one. 🙂

  7. What a lovely post, Shelley. I, too, have memories of getting full attention when I needed it, and that sticks with me always. I am so glad we have lucked out in the father department!

    • Thank you for your kind words, Sue. I’m happy to hear you’re one of the lucky ones as well. If the world could only be filled with these kinds of fellows.
      Cheers to you and yours!

    • Thank you, Elaine. I know a bucketfull of women who really deserve to be recognized for Father’s Day as well, as there are plenty who step up to the plate to fill the shoes of two if need be. I so appreciate your words. Cheers

  8. Wonderful post and tribute. Such a unique way of paying tribute to a special person. Thank you also for following my blog – much appreciated. 🙂

  9. I must admit that I don’t generally get teary-eyed when reading about or witnessing happy occasions. I don’t cry at weddings and such. But this brought tears to my eyes. It makes me think of my own dad, and how he has always been there for me, even when I was the biggest pain in the butt imaginable. His temperament is totally different from mine, and yet he has always accepted me for who I am, even when I’m certain he felt he’d never understand me. Your dad sounds like a very special man as well, Shelley. We truly are blessed.

    • Yes, we are, Miranda. The world would be such an impressively perfect place if we all were born into families with exceptional parents, or at least two folks whose whole hearts were devoted to creating the best brood of human beings they possibly could. I am fully aware that my desire is somewhat Utopian and nearly improbable, but it is nonetheless something I wish every child could be given. Pure, unadulterated love.
      I am so happy someone could give that to you, Miranda. (One down. 7+ billion to go.) 🙂

    • I nearly choked when reading your comment, Susan, and I’m still laughing. I’m sure you meant to type candy BARS.
      And yes, there always seemed to be a way to secretly go against the rules and spoil one’s dinner conspiratorially. I truly loved those memories!

  10. I love it shell, so many great memories of a man we share and love.
    love you all.
    as was said in my wedding song, I danced with my father, he is my hero.
    love ya, pops. sussie

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