In the days immediately following Dad's death I got to hear a lot of musings about what his life must be like in heaven. It is certainly one of the great comforts that religion offers - to be able to imagine our loved ones - and eventually ourselves - in a better place.
When people talked about Dad, they invariably pictured him on a golf course. Sometimes he was driving a cart. Usually he was walking - fast - in a body that didn't hurt anymore. The foursome varied - to include his brothers and other buddies who had gone before him. The sky was always blue, the grass was always green, and the pars and birdies were always plentiful. I don't even golf and that sounds pretty good to me. I could see how it might sound like paradise to an aficionado.
My favorite sentiment, though, was expressed by one of dad's golf buddies. "I picture Tut", he said, looking off at a point far in the distance, "in the clubhouse after a perfect game. He has just eaten a huge cheeseburger and a plate of fries as big as his head. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. Perfect fries. A perfect burger. And a perfect game. There is a huge mustard stain on the front of his shirt and - and this is the best part - no one is going to say a damn word to him about it."
Oh, how that made me smile.
Dad was indeed inclined towards wearing a little bit of a good meal on his shirt like a badge of honor.
Now I've said it here before, so there's no need to draw it out, but my dad was a really really good guy. Honest to a fault, kind, gentle, patient and smart - and not one to suffer fools, gladly or otherwise. There are many ways I would like to emulate my dad. I come up short in most of them. But wearing food? Oh, hell. I've been known to wear enough food home from dinner to make a nice frock for Lady Gaga.
I can't help it. I have a little problem with shaky hands. Oh - and there's also the issue of the auxiliary table I sport beneath my chin. If something's going to fall - it's going to hit me long before it hits the table or the floor. Soup in public is practically out of the question. Gravies and sauces of all sorts should be as well, but come on! So many restaurants make such good gravies and sauces...
Maybe I need to start frequenting restaurants where those little lobster bibs are acceptable...
Before my mom lost so much weight, she had a similar problem. If I recall correctly, she wore wildly patterned shirts in an attempt at camouflage. I suppose it's a thought...
My family, by the way, thinks this is hilarious. A typical dinner table conversation:
"Did you drop something on your shirt?"
"Am I eating?"
They particularly like it if I drop the first bite or - better yet - the last bite.
"Almost made it, Mom!"
"Nice try! Valiant effort!"
Or, as I dip my napkin into my club soda and try to dab at my shirt surreptitiously, "I just figured it out! That's why you always order club soda . It's not because you like it. It's because it's better at stain removal than regular water."
"How did I raise such a smartass? Don't answer that. It was intended to be rhetorical."
Food stains on my shirt today. Honest, kind, gentle, patient and smart? Maybe tomorrow. Working it out one trait at a time.