My Two Dads

As I get older it becomes more difficult to remember things about my dad. I can remember his pager number along with our answering machine greeting.  If you ever had to leave a message at my house between 1987 and 1993 I’m sure you can hear his voice as clearly as I can saying:

“Hi.  This is Andy Peattie answering your call.  There’s no one in at the moment, so leave a message after the beep and someone will get back to you.  However, if you need me in a hurry, call my pager at 1-553-0207 and I will answer your call within an hour. Thank you.”

My Dad, 1949,  Age 21
He had a car phone, and a pretty sweet bar in our basement.  He rigged up speakers so music could be playing the back yard while he fiddled with the pH level in the pool, or re-strung the lawn chairs.  He loved big band music, and country even more, and I’ve never heard a tape played more than the Floyd Cramer greatest hits he kept in his talking Chrysler Lebaron.  He used vaseline in his hair before there was pomade and he once owned the Harding Hotel.  But what did I get from him?  I don’t look the slightest bit like him, I don’t care what anyone says.    My mother, on the other hand, I hear her voice come out of my mouth every other day.  I see her face looking back at me in the mirror and in photos and my figure has her curves written all over it.  Her genes were the dominant ones it seems.  At 14 I don’t think I really knew him well enough to figure out  the exact characteristics of his I carry with me, so I’m gonna start guessing.  Here goes my best shot:
1)  His love of music, modified,  intensified, and much more emotionally charged.  I just heard the first four bars of “Canadian Sunset” as played by Floyd Cramer, and I got goosebumps.  I went to a concert on Tuesday night, and as I often do, I found myself tearstuck as I stood in awe of the music. I doubt my dad could appreciate the Postal Service, but I’m sure seeing Patsy Cline live would have brought tears to his eyes.  Thinking of the musically talented people that surround me, my mind wanders to Rolly Honsberger, and the black and white photo of him hanging in my apartment, signed for my dad, thanking him for giving Rolly his first big break.  The eight tracks, the records, the Floyd Cramer on repeat.  These things certainly live on in me.
2)  Snacks.  The man really loved snacks.  His night table drawer was usually filled with peanut brittle, cheddar corn, and cheesies.  Nights spent without my mom were filled with trips to the Avondale to get two for $1 chocolate bars.  His intentions were that the bars were for him and my mum, though both bars had almost always vanished before mum got home from the bingo later than night.  I certainly love snacks, as most people do, but I’m willing to wager that I love snacks a lot more than other people.  SNACKS!  Thanks dad, for the undying love of tasty treats that I feel burning deep inside.
Me, my dad and some snacks
3) Broadly:  Being social.   More specifically, I’m speaking of booze and parties and bars.  And all the things that come along with that.  He had his hangouts and his chums.  He owned a hotel and later sold liquor systems.  Sounds like a pretty rad time to me…. The late nights my dad spent at the Esquire, and later Gerry’s Express have been mirrored in my life by the close the curtains and turn down the lights nights at the Cloak and the Cock and Tail.  His Friday night dart parties in the basement wrought with kielbasa, cheese and beer gently permeated the atmosphere of every “HKM” I ever hosted.  What Glen, Norm and Dave were to my dad are probably not that different from what Gord, Parker and Meher are to me.
My dad, my uncle Cliff, and some other guy who might be my uncle.
My dad at his finest.  Laying in my bed, eating Krinkles and playing Tetris on the Nintendo
I’m sure there’s likely more characteristics I could add to the list, but that’s a pretty good start.  What I hope to have, and what might still reveal itself as I grow older is that entrepreneurial spark–that one day I would be willing to go out of my comfort zone to start and run a business.  Do I know what that business would be?  Not entirely sure about that yet.    Was he successful with his businesses?  I have no idea, but his success doesn’t dictate mine anyways.  We’ll have to wait and see.
My dad died, about a month before I turned 15.  Today, I’m not in regular touch with anyone that really knew him,  so most of this is speculation at best.  But it’s my sense that these things are the “Peattie” that lives in me.
A couple of years after my dad died, my mum introduced me to Luigi.  He had one of the biggest beards I had ever seen, hideous hideous furniture, a cute little beagle, a garage full of birds and a backyard full of fruit trees.  And while I can’t say there are specific things about my character or who am I that directly point to Luigi, there is more of a general influence on things in my life, with hospitality as a big part of that.
I knew Luigi in a way I didn’t know my dad.   He loved me and Matt as his children, he did.  We would spend Sundays and holidays with him and my mum through the remainder of my teenage years and throughout my 20’s.  Often when I remember him, I remember him more fondly than I do my actual dad. Probably only because I can more easily remember him and who he was. I can remember his heart, and the heart of his home, the kitchen.
Matt, Luigi and me, in the kitchen
Luigi was outrageously generous–with his time, his money, his refrigerator and with his lectures on the many English words that were stolen from Italian.  I truly hope that there’s a fraction of his generosity that shines through me in my daily life, and I’d like this to be a reminder to be deliberately generous when the circumstances arise.
And though it may seem trivial to some, my cooking style and my palette are both heavily influenced by him and that causes me great pride.  Going to Luigi’s house always meant some sort of meal, interesting cheese and home brewed wine.  From the salad dressing to the roasted potatoes, right on down to penne a la vodka–the food prepared by his hand or with his recipe was always delicious.  I never wrote down the recipes, they weren’t meant for pen and paper, they were meant to be interpreted.  Which is how I cook today.
Luigi died in July of 2008, the summer of rainbows.  He faded away, which allowed us to say goodbye over a longer span of time.  Having already lost my dad suddenly in 1993, I had learned to cherish the thoughts and feelings and store the memories away deep in my heart for future recollection.  My memories of Luigi are much more deliberate than the memories I have of my dad.
Luigi, me & my mum, 2006
I often stop to think of Luigi when I don my apron, as I do of my dad when I get a taste of cheddar corn or take a sip of my beer.  I don’t believe they’re in heaven looking down on me.  I believe their souls went on to live somewhere else, but I’ll take the pieces I can remember along with me and share it with anyone that will listen for the rest of my life.   Of course, I make it all sound ideal–and please trust me when I say it wasn’t–I will always strive to remember the fondest throughout my life.   And hopefully, the fondest of my two dads really does live on in me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take my glass of champagne, and dance around my living room to this:

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3 responses

  1. Nice memories. It got me thinking about my Mum n Dad and how we don’t have that much to do with each other, and how that contrasts with what I desire for my 4 teenagers later in life…thanks.

    1. Thanks–when I was unknowingly pregnant with my first child, I drove away from an awful and eye opening family situation crying my eyes out and saying over and over again to myself—I’m gonna be a good mum. I’ve always wanted things to be different for my kids–and they will be. It’s important to me that they know who I am. Inside and out.

      1. Sounds like you’ve got the man for that job LadyBird, God’s luck. Respect REDdog

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