THE BEST GIFT MY FATHER EVER GAVE ME

PROOF I GOT MY GREATEST ASSET-MY IMAGINATION-FROM MY FATHER

Last Father’s Day I did the mushy thing, extolling not only my father’s extensive virtues but also the near infinite patience he demonstrated putting up with me over the course of my life. But this year I thought I’d take another route and get something that’s bothered me for a while off my chest. An annoyance that marches hand in hand with a little bit of gratitude. And what better time than Father’s Day?

I’ve never made a secret of the hyperactive imagination I had growing up and the fact that I began weaving the geek banner I proudly fly as an adult during my formative years. If a movie or TV show had the slightest thing to do with fantasy, science fiction, super heroes or horror, I was all over it. My father and I shared some of those experiences (he took me to see all the original Star Wars movies) but for the most part we were miles apart on what we considered entertaining.

While he was watching an All Creatures Great And Small marathon on PBS, I was waiting for the next episode of Star Trek. While he was waiting for the evening news, I was devouring an episode of Transformers or G.I. Joe or He-Man or whatever after school cartoon was my obsession at the moment. While he was watching Olympic diving I was plotting how to hijack the boob tube to watch Batman for the 113th time. While he was reading the newspaper, I was eyeballs deep in Stephen King or Robert Jordan or Arthur C. Clarke. And so it went. The fact that we had one TV in the house made for some interesting bargaining sessions as well as a few occasional groundings.

For the most part he put up with my nerdiness with patient, good humour. But there were times when he couldn’t hide his thinly stretched tolerance and one memory distinctly stands out from all the rest. One night, while racing towards the house after completing my nightly chores, he asked me what my big rush was. There was a TV movie I wanted to watch about a vampire who was a cop (I think it was the precursor to the Nick at Night television show). Jesus Shayne, he replied, his voice thick with irritated disapproval, why do you watch stuff like that? I can’t remember if I bothered with an answer and in all honesty I didn’t really care (I had long since given up trying to justify my tastes to either one of my parents or my teachers-it was a small town) but that memory has always bugged me. Not for any psychological reason, but because my father watched just as much weird stuff as I did, he just labeled it differently.

A TV show my father never missed was Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. It was a sequel to the seventies show Kung-Fu, it ran exclusively in syndication (that should tell you everything you need to know about its quality) and starred David Carradine as a descendant of the character he originally played in Kung-Fu (trust me, don’t ask). A few of the handy little life hacks Carradine’s monk had picked up along the way included supernatural senses, superhuman strength, a healing factor, the ability to talk to animals, the power to cure cancer through touch, communicate to the dead, ferry souls to the afterlife and I’m pretty sure in one episode he went all Marty McFly and travelled through time-without a time machine. Yet according to my father, all the stuff I watched as “unrealistic.”

When I was a kid I ate professional wrestling up like it was going out of style. Couldn’t get enough of it. The Ultimate Warrior, The Road Warriors, Sting and The Undertaker were among my personal favourites (you’ll notice a pattern) and as you probably guessed, good old Dad was never shy about his disdain for the circus that happened in the squared circle. He was always curious how I could spend so much time (if me and my small circle of friends invested just a fraction of the time we spent obsessing over wrestling on our studies we’d, probably own both Apple AND Google right now) on something that was fake (because a Shaolin monk dodging bullets while fighting demons was the height of reality). But that never stopped him from cheering on the baby faces when they were on the verge of pinning the heel or summoning me to the TV whenever it looked like two of the top names of the day were going to throw down unexpectedly. But, he’d always tell me afterward, he never really liked it.

He refused to watch The Matrix and X-Men because “they had no logic” but he loved Lost and could often be heard trying to explain confusing plot points to unconvinced family and friends every week (even after it was apparent the writers themselves had no idea what they were doing). And just like Kung-Fu, he claimed to never take it seriously because “it was just a show” (and like Kung-Fu, one he never missed). And don’t even get me started on Coronation Street (yes, you heard me right, Coronation Freaking Street).

In the end though, between both my parents I come by my geek credentials and my knack as a storyteller quite honestly. Last Mother’s Day I wrote how my mother was responsible for a good deal of what little creative talent I have, partly because of her understanding but mostly because of her quiet nurturing. And at the end of the day, despite all the differences and complaints, I have Dad to thank for my geek tastes as. We rarely agree on the same stuff, but I think I inherited the seed that would grow into my imagination from my Dad. And of all the presents he’s ever given me, that may be the best one.

Shayne Kempton

 

 

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