He was tall, dark, and handsome, my father.
Rangy as the Marlboro man, he had straight teeth and good bone-structure. Brown eyes and a tan the color of mahogany.
He rocked the Ray-Bay aviators and a cigarette. He played piano by ear and slowly wrecked his elegant hands with rough carpentry and masonry work.
In photos he looks like a movie star, equal parts James Dean and Clint Eastwood.
So many things to remember -- little quirks and big adventures, his imagination and creativity, his lifelong friendships, the oddball vocabulary and phrases.
There was a theatricality about him: upon opening a beer and taking the first sip, he'd say, "How do they make it taste so good?"
A nap? Well, "A rested hand is a steady hand."
During a card-game, he reacted to anyone's belly-aching by painstakingly retrieving a quarter from his pocket and then sliding it deliberately across the table, and saying -- with a certain restrained malice -- "Here you go, why don't you call someone who gives a damn."
Before dry-swallowing an aspirin, he'd look into his palm and say with wonderful puzzlement, "How do it know?"
Daddo offered dramatic, matinée-idol advice with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other, "Develop many interests, honey," he'd say. "Because one by one --"
Pause for a sip and a deep breath of smoke, and the rest of the line delivered with absolute sincerity, "You'll be forced to give them up."
"Do it right or do it twice," was his carpentering advice, sometimes inverted as, "Anything worth doing is worth doing right." His workshop was a wonder of neatness.
On the job site, he once called out, "Uh, honey?" from the other room, where he was replacing a ceiling fan while I rolled paint. "Honey, REAL painters don't say 'oopsie.' "
Fifteen years and whenever the word comes out, I remind myself each and every time that real painters (real dish-washers, real gardeners, real parallel-parkers, real basketball shooters, real anything-ers) don't say "oopsie."
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