Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Measure of a Man

My father is the very definition of a technophobe. For years, when he wanted to watch something on the VCR, he would sit in his armchair, random remote control in one hand and VHS tape in the other, and call out for my mother or brother or me to come into the living room.

"How do you work this thing?" was the usual question.

Sighing, we'd take the tape and show him the half dozen quick maneuvers necessary to put it on, knowing we'd just be explaining again the next time.

"Make it louder," he'd say, his encyclopedic knowledge of European history, romance languages, theology, and bill due dates crowding out his ability once again to discern the VCR remote from the television remote. Now, of course, it's the same thing, only with a DVD player. Technological innovation at work.

Sometimes I think he's about to surprise me. He once said to me, "I'm going to the kitchen to heat up a piece of fresh mozzarella pizza with basil. Would you like one?"

I sat back and relaxed, visions of crushed garlic dancing in my head. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Moments later, he called out to me, "Arabella, how do you work this thing?"

I went downstairs to find that he had placed a single slice of pizza on a paper plate, in the oven, with the dial set to Broil.

His lack of interest in modern technology even extends to recall of the proper titles of movies and TV shows. When my brother and I were teenagers, he'd say, "Put on that show for me......what's it called.....'Family'......."

"'Married with Children,'" my brother would respond, fluent in Dadspeak.

One night, when Ty and I sat at the dinner table with my parents, my dad announced, "Your mother and I saw a great film this week. It was called.....something....Little Dogs....."

"Best in Show," I responded.

One day, I was telling Ty about the dollhouse my parents gave me when I was about six years old, and how I gave unique, made-up, and frequently multisyllabic names to all the dolls in the dollhouse family.

To my complete and utter surprise, Dad listed them all, one by one.

It was one of the most touching moments of my adult life.

My father is a brilliant man who hates getting bogged down with details. He doesn't remember them because they just aren't that important to him--even the details that help him engage in leisure activities that he likes.

But the names that I, his daughter, made up for my dolls twenty-plus years ago, THAT's important to him.

I don't care if he trades in his typewriter and gets a quill pen instead of a PC. With that one recollection, my father has taught me more about life than I could learn in medical school.


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