why the sour face?


today is father's day, and i didn't get my dad anything. i didn't even send him a card. i bought him an iphone for christmas because he saved my life during that atv incident in boracay, but he still doesn't know how to use it. i tried to show him how to use it when i visited in april. i showed him all the cool things he can do, like tag songs with the shazam app, or google search by voice, or find a nearby sushi place on yelp, or locate his old house in san francicso using google maps. but it all seemed to go over his head.

each time i try to show him how to do something technologically related, it's always the same scenario. first, even if there's nothing to read, he'll put on his glasses. he'll put his glasses on and then he'll bring his chin in toward his chest and look over the top of his glasses. i'll start to show him something, maybe it's how to navigate folders in his email, or how to upload pictures from his camera, or how to download music. he'll look at everything closely, and then he'll stop me and say, "slow down. you're going too fast!" and so i repeat steps. by the end of it, i tell him to show me what i've just shown him to make sure he's understood it.

after years of doing this, i've pretty much given up hope on trying to teach him anything and everything technologically related. i figure that if he really wants to do something, he'll figure it out. for example, he knows perfectly well how to look up "the house of the rising sun" performance on youtube. he knows how to play a dvd because he really loves watching his elvis movies. and he loves the beatles and supremes so much that it was actually he who first showed me how to properly place the needle on a moving record.

but besides that, my dad hasn't really taught me anything. he tried to show me how to ride a bike at 13, and it was a complete disaster. when i was younger, he tried to teach me to swim multiple times, but i still don't know how to swim. when i got my license, he showed me how to change a flat, but we only did it once, so i'm pretty sure i'll be calling triple a the next time i get a flat. i only remember ever playing catch with my older cousin. my dad took me fishing once at a dirty lake past ione. i didn't catch a single fish that day, but i did see a lot of tires and other debris in the water.

when i was in cub scouts, he glued little bb gun pellets to the top of my soapbox race car. he told me that the car needed weight, since it would be going downhill in the race. i'd never made a wooden car before, so i trusted him. my car couldn't even finish the race, and all the boys laughed at me. being so young, i don't even remember what really happened. all i remember is seeing my car stopping way before the finish line, and i wondered why it kept stopping. the scout master even made it race two, three more times just to make sure it wasn't the track's fault. it wasn't. it was my dad's.

i kept it all in until we got to the car. as soon as i got in the front seat, i started bawling. my dad tried to reassure me. "it's just a race," he said, trying to comfort me. between sobs, i managed to say that i never wanted to go back there. i didn't want to be in cub scouts anymore. i can't imagine now all the similar heartaches i put him through. sometimes, after getting in a fight with one of my cousins at my grandma's house, i'd call my dad to come pick me up. i'd manage to keep it all in until we'd reach the driveway. that's when i'd start to frown and tear up. "why the sour face?" he'd always say. and i'd never be able to speak. i'd just shake my head. i was born on a wednesday, didn't he know?

that's not to say my dad hasn't looked out for me. when coach ownbey didn't play me in a basketball game, my dad called him up and chewed him out, and i started the next game. when some older kid grabbed me by the shirt, my dad got up in his face. when the comic book store guy overpriced me on a bunch of comic books, my dad was there to make sure i got every dime back. he showed up to every single soccer and basketball game i ever played. he gave me a car when i turned sixteen. he bought me a guitar and paid for lessons. he bought me everything i've ever asked for. he always made sure i didn't ever stay up too late or sleep in. he told me to get an education because that's something no one can ever take away from me.

we hardly ever talk on the phone because it's always so awkward, and we have nothing to say to each other. we've never really had a heart-to-heart, but then again, how many men ever do with their fathers? after saving me from the atv accident last december, i'll always remember that moment afterward, though. we had just made it up the mountain, and we were sitting togeher on a bamboo platform up in the trees. the natives had created a makeshift zoo or bird sanctuary, and grace and nikki were still a few levels up, taking pictures of each other. we both realized then that something miraculous had transpired - after all, i could've been badly injured or worse. we recognized that there was some kind of animal instinct within my dad that had allowed him to crash into me, and keep my vehicle stationary. he only asked if i was okay, but i could tell he wasn't just asking about what had happened that afternoon.

later, i asked him how he knew to do that. how did he know that hitting my vehicle from behind wouldn't have made me spiral out of control even more? he told me he didn't know. he told me he just got lucky. and that pretty much sums up my dad. my dad who often can't get an electronic hotel key card to work. my dad who watches wowowee, reads nonfiction books, and eats tuna sandwiches and vienna sausages for breakfast every morning. my dad who married a woman who made double, even triple his income over the years.

he didn't know. he just got lucky. maybe it's life's way of repaying him for the awful thing he had to endure before i was born. when his cousin, his best friend in the whole world, died in a car accident. my dad has had panic attacks ever since then. he takes xanax before flights, sometimes pulls over on road trips for no reason, and sometimes he'll just zone out at the dinner table. my mom will say, "hey!" and then he'll snap out of it. "where did you go?" she'll ask him. but he'll just smile and nod. a lot of people think he's simple. mostly because he barely knows how to work the tv remote control, but also because his english isn't that good, he keeps to himself, and he never made it past the tenth grade. but my mom, who knows him better than i do, better than anyone does, always warns me not to underestimate him. "you think he's simple," she says, "but he isn't."

one day, i hope, he's going to tell me that story about his cousin, about what really happened. one day, he's going to tell me what he's been keeping to himself all these years.

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