Before I write about last night (and how I can’t stand Monica’s veganass sister Caroline), I thought I’d get into the spirit of Fathers Day and write something about Dad. I sent him a card (and a left-handed burger flipper off Amazon), but, since Dad gets uncomfortable if you write too much on a card, I thought this would be a good place to tell y’all something about him.
Dad’s not the kind of dad you hug and kiss and tell him how much you love him a hundred times a day. Dad and I rely more on knowing how we feel than by saying it all the time. We just understand each other really well and don’t have to put it into words. And just because he slaps me on the back and puts his arm around my shoulders more than he hugs me doesn’t mean that Dad’s cold. A slap on the back from Dad after a little league game probably meant a lot more to me than those hugs some of the other dads gave their sons…because I knew Dad meant it.
And, while he wasn’t big on saying “I love you” all the time, he was big on saying he was proud of me. He said it when I homered in little league games, he said it when I came in second in an oratorical contest in high school, he said it after my first game in Hickory, and he also said it lots of times when I didn’t expect it. “Proud” with Dad didn’t mean he was thanking me for making it possible for him to show off to his buddies that his boy was a pro ball player. Maybe this will help explain it: I always had the feeling that the only person he needed to know that he was proud of me was me.
My dad, Wesson Hunter Block, was named for Papaw’s favorite gun maker and then for Papaw himself. (Papaw was Hunter Cantrell Block. The first Hunter Cantrell Block fought in the Civil War. I’ll tell y’all about him some other time.) Meemaw and Papaw lived on a farm in Maury County, and Papaw planned for his only son (Dad has a sister…but she’s a whole other story) to take over the farm and live the kind of life he loved so much.
Ok, that never works out, and it sure didn’t for Papaw and Dad. Dad was never a real country boy, and Papaw couldn’t understand why Dad enlisted in the army so he’d be able to pay for college when he got out.
Dad’s not one of those ex-army dads who had us up at 6 am to do push-ups outside in the snow. But there are two things about the army that stayed with him: he believed that rules are made to be followed…and he never could stop telling time the army way.
So Sgt. Block got out of the army, went to college (UT), met Mom, had my sister Elizabeth, finished school, went to work, and worked his way up in the company he worked for. He’s in the insurance business (and, like a good Southern boy, he pronounces it INsurance.) We live in Maryville because, early on, they had him working in a small office in town. Then he got promoted to the big company office in Knoxville, and now he runs that. He’s only ever worked for that one company.
He and Papaw eventually made it up. I think Papaw realized Dad had “made good” in the way Dad wanted to make good…even if Papaw did say Dad got a little above his raisin’ by doing it. (You may need to be a Southerner to understand what that means. Gettin about your raisin’ doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get ahead in life: it means that, when you do get ahead, you shouldn’t forget where you came from and go around acting like something you’re not.)
I told y’all that Dad said he would kick my ass if I ever made a rolling stop. That’s a good rule to teach a 15 year old boy. So is teaching him that’ll he’ll kill you dead if you get a girl pregnant. But that doesn’t mean we were afraid of Dad. I mean, yeah, he really would have kicked my ass if I’d gotten a ticket for running a stop sign. He’d probably still do it today. But that’s not why I never make rolling stops. I guess (Dad isn’t gonna like me writing this) I never make a rolling stop because I love and respect my father and because I know he’s right about rolling stops (and not getting girls pregnant.)
I wasn’t a bad kid, but I did some stupid shit when I was growing up. Like stealing a can of Copenhagen from the Kenjo when I was 14. Most of the times I got into trouble were because I’d gotten in a fight. Not like every day, but enough so that, when they were deciding who got in trouble for being in the fight, that kid was usually me. That doesn’t mean I always got in trouble for it at home: if the fight was because I was standing up for myself, my family, my buddies or what I believed in, then it was ok with Dad. (I had a sister almost my age and boys can say stupid shit about girls. Let’s just say that they learned pretty quick that you never talked shit about Melanie Kate Block.)
If, on the other hand, I got into the fight for some stupidass reason or was just making trouble or if the other boy was smaller than me, then there were consequences at home.
And I was a real easy kid to punish. You didn’t have to ground me, you didn’t have to take away my allowance or my phone.
You just had to take away baseball.
Dad taught me a lot of things. I guess you can call them the basics of being a man. He taught me how to fight (“if you’re gonna keep getting in fights, you might as well know how to win one”) and how to work on the car, how to fix stuff, how to use tools and build a treehouse, how to flip a burger on the grill and how to drive. (Papaw was in charge of teaching me how to fish and shoot. He also gave me my first swig of beer and my first puff on a cigar. My granddad was pretty dang awesome too.)
But maybe the most important thing Dad ever taught me to do was play catch.
(There’s a lot more to this. I guess I’ve been saving it up for 25 years. I hope you’ll check out the second part. It’s got some important stuff I’d like y’all to know about me and my dad.)