Saturday, June 14, 2008

Daddy Doll Under the Bed

I rarely exit the American Library in Paris without a few more books under my arm. Not borrowed books, but bargain books from the 1€ for-sale shelves. Last week I picked up a copy of Erma Bombeck's collected columns. I realized, as I re-read her work, that in some ways her writing was a precursor to blogging.

In honor of Fathers' Day, in remembrance of all dads, I offer Erma Bombeck's "Daddy Doll Under the Bed."

When I was a little kid, a father was like the light in the refrigerator. Every house had one, but no one really knew what either of them did once the door was shut.

My dad left the house every morning and always seemed glad to see everyone at night.

He opened the jar of pickles when no one else could.

He was the only one in the house who wasn't afraid to go in the basement by himself.

He cut himself shaving, but no one kissed it or got excited about it. It was understood whenever it rained, he got the car and brought it around to the door. When anyone was sick, he went out to get the prescription filled.

He kept busy enough. He set mousetraps. He cut back the roses so the thorns wouldn't clip you when you came to the front door. He oiled my skates, and they went faster. When I got my bike, he ran alongside me for at least a thousand miles until I got the hang of it.

He signed all my report cards. He put me to bed early. He took a lot of pictures, but was never in them. He tightened up mother's sagging clothesline every week or so.

I was afraid of everyone else's father, but not my own. Once I made him tea. It was only sugar water, but he sat on a small chair and said it was delicious. He looked very uncomfortable.

Once I went fishing with him in a rowboat. I threw huge rocks in the water, and he threatened to throw me overboard. I wasn't sure he wouldn't, so I looked him in the eye. I finally decided he was bluffing and threw in one more. He was a bad poker player.

Whenever I played house, the mother doll had a lot to do. I never knew what to do with the daddy doll, so I had him say "I'm going off to work now" and threw him under the bed.

When I was nine years old, my father didn't get up one morning to go to work. He went to the hospital and died the next day.

There were a lot of people in the house who brought all kinds of good food and cakes. We never had so much company before.

I went to my room and felt under the bed for the father doll. When I found him, I dusted him off and put him on my bed.

He never did anything. I didn't know his leaving would hurt so much.

I still don't know why.

By Erma Bombeck, June 21, 1981


Polly-Vous Francais said...

FYI, the photo is of me, age 5, and my dad.

Mo said...

Nice post Polly,
There are tears in my eyes. My father has been gone almost 20 years. I still miss him.

picolo said...

I LOVE erma bombeck. haven't heard her name in such a long time. thanks for bringing her up.

Shelli and Gene said...

The photo looks just like you; you haven't aged a bit!
Thanks for the post. I never know what to do on Father's Day anymore.

The Late Bloomer said...

Oh my gosh, what a terribly sad yet inspirational piece from Erma Bombeck -- hit me right THERE -- so hard... Really hit home like crazy, particularly today! I talked to my dad briefly on the phone yesterday, but it's always my mom who ends up monopolozing the conversation (like me, I'm afraid to say)... But I plan on calling him back again today, just to say HI and Happy Father's Day. Gosh, I miss my dad so much over here, and yet when we're together we don't even talk all that much -- I think we just understand each other. It's his presence -- and his hugs -- that count the most. Thank you for this, Polly!

Maggie said...

I don't know how or why I stumbled onto your blog. But this post really got to me. Probably because of Father's day and having lost my own, or loving a city that I've never been to, or remembering how much I liked Erma Bombeck. Whatever it was that got me here, I'm just glad it did.

Susan Hinck said...

Thanks for bringing this story to light...I grew up with my family enjoying Erma Bombeck. This one is another treasure. I lost my Dad to Leukemia last August, 2010. Still so painfull and he fit this description almost to a T. We lived on a farm and even though he was the hired man, he took us with very often. No matter if he was checking cattle or driving in the fields, or changing the water for the crops at night. He was an awesome Dad and Grandpa!!!

Polly-Vous Francais said...

And if you have the chance, I HIGHLY recommend "When We Were the Kennedys" by Monica Wood. An inspirational coming-of-age story about losing a father. A memoir for everyone to read, so well written and evocative.

TKW said...

Oh, I love this. The picture, the words, everything. It gave me goosebumps. I wrote a very sparsely worded post about my dad, too. It is amazing how much noise there is in the silence between fathers and daughters.

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