I am excited for a very new and very personal work kicking off 7 Stages‘s new season. THE DOCTOR, THE DEVIL, & MY DAD is a play which Heidi Howard, artistic director for 7 Stages, encouraged me to write in order to heal from the loss of my father, 2 years ago today. I posted on my personal Facebook page about this, but I thought i’d share here, too.
My father was born on July 27, 1931 in Cairo, Egypt.
He dropped out of school at the age of 11 to help bring more income into the household. He chose to be a mechanic. His training included: “Get under that car and figure out what’s wrong with it.”
By the age of 14, he was so good (an understatement, I believe), he was placed in charge of an entire bus line…for all of Cairo. Dad used to say, with a lot of pride, when a bus broke down and he was called in? The moment the passengers saw a “kid” coming to fix the bus, they left. As if to say, there was no way he could know what he was doing. But, he did.
Around that same time, he decided to go back to school. 6 a.m. started his day at , work for 12 hours, then night school, then wake up in the morning and do it all again. He was the first in his family, i believe, to go to college. The U.N. awarded him a scholarship and he came to the U.S. to get his masters at the University of Pennsylvania. Then he worked at Notre Dame. Then he got his Ph.D at the University of Georgia, offered a job immediately upon graduation at Mississippi Sate University. Within 2 years, he was offered tenure.
For me, my dad is MacGyver, The A-Team, Quantam Leap, Star Trek: The Next Generation, 60 minutes, Knight Rider, any Clint Eastwood movie (including the orangutan one), Doctor Who (with Tom Baker…we hated watching after the regeneration), documentaries on history, documentaries on animals, mafia movies, westerns, Dan Rather and CBS Nightly news at 5:30, a bowl of salad and glass of water EVERY night before dinner… and praying 5 times day.
When I think of my dad, I think of standing outside on Saturday mornings as he mowed the lawn on the riding mower, waiting for him to let me ride on his lap for a bit. I think of winning the argument about the engine oil because of the modulator on the 1979 Chevrolet Impala. I think of him shopping every saturday morning, with coupons. I think of vanilla ice cream and nutter butters. I think of his special secret spice recipe, which he came up with inspired by KFC’s commercials of their own secret spice. I think of a man who didn’t learn of the word ‘procrastination’ til he was in his late 60s (he thought my mom made it up). I think of a man afraid of God, therefore mostly afraid of life and death. I think of man so well-traveled and yet nothing was better than his home in Starkville, MS.
He was an incredible speaker, a great teacher, a constant provider for his family (immediate and extended) , and a passionately quiet man. He had a horrible temper coupled with a lack of patience which meant, when he took of his glasses…run. He was arrogant and shy and humble. He hated the thought of having guests in the house.
He thought soccer was boring, american football confusing, basketball was magic, and boxing was the most enjoyable to watch.
Stacy Melich swears from my stories that he had a great sense of humor. I try to tell her that he never meant to be funny, he was just being honest. For example:
Me: Sometimes when I think on childhood, I think I may have been retarded.
Dad: I didn’t want to say anything.
… If I hadn’t had him to rebel against, i’d never learned how to prove myself.
He passed away 2 years ago today. He is missed, and yet it’s okay. Because it has to be.