Friday, June 19, 2009

Super Dude

My first published novel, WONDROUS STRANGE, is dedicated to my dad. He always knew, I think, that I would be published one day and was damn tickled by the idea, even if he didn't get to see the actual thing hit the shelves.

My dad, quite simply, rocked.

He was an engineer. He designed water-treatment plants. He was a fixer and a builder by nature. An analytical thinker with the biggest brain I've ever encountered who still panicked quietly every year over what to get my mom for Christmas. A straight arrow who wasn't above goofiness. A proper gentleman from whom I learned most of my better swear words (simply by virtue of hanging around him during bouts of home-repair or particularly stubborn pumpkin-carving sessions at Halloween).

He ostensibly hated it when I called him 'Dude' instead of 'Dad'. So I did that a lot (to this day, I think he secretly got a kick out of it).

One of my favorite memories of the Dude is the summer he taught me how to water-ski. He taught all of us kids out at the lake to water-ski; summer after summer, he'd drive the boat in endless circles taking my brother and my cousin and all of our friends on tours of the lake to greater or lesser degrees of success. I was, initially, the latter.

When it came my turn to learn the tow-ropes, as it were, I knew what I had to do, in theory. I'd heard my dad explain the process for three summers running: lean back (not too far), tips up (not too high), bend your knees (not too much)... My technique, such as it was, was flawless. My arm- and hand-strength, at the age of twelve, was... not great. I'd get up... get going... aaaannnd let go of the rope. Over and over again.

After I don't know how many botched attempts - a lot, I recall - my dad, almost as frustrated as I was, says to his (idiot) daughter: "Look. Just don't let go of the rope. Whatever happens, once you get up, don't let go of the rope."

Right. Check.

Idiot daughter tries again. Gets up. Falls. Leaving skis at the dock. Doesn't let go of the rope. Gets dragged through the water until she almost drowns.

Dude pulls the boat back around to the following exchange:

Dude (aghast at daughter's stupidity - and deathly pallor): "What on earth were you thinking?! Why didn't you let go of the rope!??"
Idiot Daughter (still spluttering and blubbering): "YOU TOLD ME NOT TO!!!"
Dude (infinitely patient): "....right. Well... good. Let's do that again and just don't fall this time, okay?"
Idiot Daughter: "Okay..."

And that time, it worked. In retrospect, it was pretty darn good advice. It's kinda the same sort of attitude that got me published. Which I think my dad always knew I would. Dude.


Lisa Patton said...

Okay, this is fabulous. You had one of those dads I wanted to have. What a super-sized blessing, Les.

Jillian Cantor said...

Lesley, this is a such a nice story and a great post about your dad!

Lesley Livingston said...

Thanks, guys!

Gotta say - Dude really was the bees knees. ;-)

Maureen Lipinski said...

Amazing. Your dad sounds like awesome. What a cool Dude.

Tracy Madison said...

Lesley, your dad sounds amazing! Your post made me feel a little teary-eyed, but it also gave me a huge smile.