John Spiegel is an English teacher in Springfield, Ohio where he shares his love for words, beards, and the feel of vinyl records.
Growing up, my father was a source of fear. I tip-toed around him whenever he slept. Whenever we interrupted his sleep, he would jump and shout as he awoke. Too many nights I spent in silence, revering my father’s occasionally angry voice.
He left no question unquestioned – we never looked to him for answers because he shot down our inquiries in a police-room style interrogation, if police men had long oval tables sticky from all the spilled food by young children, if they got grumpy because dinner conversation got too loud, if they couldn’t understand why someone would want to go to summer camp.
My father was a steady stream of coffee breath and early mornings. My teenage years rebelled against every Sunday. While he played in the church band, I slept on the couch in the lobby feeling their vibrations through the cushions.
He always found time to stop at a small ice-cream shop on road trips and family outings. Whippy dips, he called them. For as many years as the tradition has persisted, I’ve thanked him three times. Each of those three, he responded with “Mmhmm.”
He contained a never-ending supply of Blues Keys and minor chords. There were so many odd time signatures within his fingers that I still walk funny. Whenever I hear a minor 7th, I still see his face and mimic his bass. I swear I will grow up to be a black musician and see the music take shape under my hands the same way I see a dancer swing to the saxophone and snare and hi-hat and trumpet.
My mother and my father never danced together that I can remember; I had to teach her before my older sister’s wedding.
My father had an interest in firewood I never received. Every once in a while, I could hear my younger brother chopping wood and stacking it in symmetrical, unwavering piles just like my father did. Whenever my mom gets cold, my brother starts the fire. He is the Boy Scout of the family.
My father dreamt about owning a fishing boat of his own. He purchased one with a broken motor that sat in our driveway for years before being towed out back by the shed. I used to sit in the captain’s chair and read a book. Last summer he took my brother and me fishing in Ontario. It’s not that I didn’t have fun, it’s just that I was working the whole time.
Whenever my mother would start singing a song, my father would want to sing along, but could never remember the words. Instead, he would hum the bass line – his voice reverberated my chair most dinners. My brother was able to escape his baritone voice by whistling melodies. At the table my toes would tap to the beat, the one’s and two’s. When I drive in my car, with the windows rolled down and the heat on my feet, I sing in a shaky tenor.