By Ted Potrikus
Hello to all my fellow dads, and a Happy Father’s Day to you.
Advertising tropes these days tend to portray dads as bumbling oafs who make questionable fashion choices, fumble with modern technology, snore, and barbeque a lot. My wife and I were watching television over the weekend, and a commercial came on advertising a big Father’s Day sale at a department store. “Find all of your dad’s favorite brands!” they promised as various pictures of things like pants and watches flew by on the screen. Angie chuckled and asked, “How many dads out there have a ‘favorite brand’?”
I’m not so sure that the general population of dads carries a torch for a particular brand. I don’t think we care, provided it fits or is a t-shirt with a band or slogan we can comfortably endorse. And while I’m not big on brands or barbequing, I plead guilty to torturing my family with that daddest of dad things, the Dad Joke.
Dad Jokes are an important chapter in the Unwritten Book of Dad Rules. Your wife goes through all the hard work of pregnancy and labor and nurturing and we instead turn into pun-wielding groan generators who can make the entire car erupt in unison and stretch the word ‘dad’ into several syllables while we think we’re the funniest dudes on the planet.
I learned a few things from my own Dad’s bag of tricks. Like this one: he and Mom would pack into the Country Squire however many Potrikus children were in the house at the time and we’d take a Sunday drive. Cheap entertainment and a chance to get out of the house. But I can still remember the little gleam in Dad’s eye as he’d occasionally steer the car out of Cooperstown toward Bowerstown: that meant a nostalgic pass across Cornish Hill where he would point out the location of the house where he and his siblings grew up. When he was feeling particularly mischievous, he’d turn right onto what I think GoogleMaps now defines as Sibley Gulf Road. “John, not this road!” my mother would say, every time. He would laugh and say, “Jane, don’t worry about it.”
Naturally, I would love to have had more time with my Dad, but that cigarette habit he picked up overseas in World War II and his life bent over barrels of dry cleaning chemicals got the better of him not long after I turned 14 years old. I’m gratified by the number of people in and around Cooperstown who still remember him. A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of talking with Hank Phillips, who said, “Your father was one of the funniest guys I ever knew.” They bowled together on Thursday nights back when our Price Chopper was the Bowl-a-Rama. “He’d leave us all roaring,” Hank told me.
Now, I saw Dad as a hardworking man who enjoyed a highball after a hard day’s work, taught me the proper follow-through for bowling, and let me stay up to watch that Red Sox vs. Reds World Series game when Carlton Fisk hit his famous home run. But the more I’ve learned, the more I’ve found out about his sense of humor. Mom once spied a stack of Ernie Kovacs DVDs on my table. “Oh my gosh,” she said, “your father loved Ernie Kovacs. We watched him all the time. He’d walk around imitating Percy Dovetonsils.”
This was happy news, and something I would love to have seen. I’m proud to know Dad was on board at the inception with daredevil television comedy pioneer Ernie Kovacs. It makes sense — this was a guy who let me watch Rowan & Martin’s “Laugh-In” with him even though I was barely six years old and who, late in his life, still laughed heartily at the twisted humor of “The Muppet Show.”
I hope all of us have happy-news Dad stories that we either can remember or celebrate in person this weekend. My girls are too far away for my liking, but there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll bore them from afar this weekend, reminding them of the time we told our daughter, Maggie — who was learning her alphabet at the time, poor thing — that her name started with “P” but it was silent. Or that our daughter Lianna, when asked in Kindergarten for a word that began with the letter “B,” responded with “book, biography, and Bob Dylan.”
Stand proudly, fellow dads — you know all the untold secrets of that Unwritten Book of Dad Rules. Pass ‘em on.