This just popped into my head recently, and I figured with Father’s Day just around the corner, I knew it had to be a sign that I must blog about it.
My father’s name is Wayne Pringle, and he’s one hell of a guy. The kind of man I can only dream of growing up to be like. Hard working, determined, loving husband and fantastic father. He’s also always been a laid-back man, not too emotional, just a man of his times (he was born in 1950, after all). That’s not to say he didn’t know how to show his sons just how much he loves them, and this little gem of a memory has been putting a smile on my face all day.
My family spent a few years in Columbus, OH in the early nineties. My grandmother on my mother’s side came with us, a no cost babysitter that let my brothers and me come home after school every day. Only thing was, going home after school was NOT the cool thing to do at Forest Park Elementary School. The cool thing to do was after school latchkey.
By the time 2nd grade rolled around, I just had to go join all the kids whose parents were still at work after school. I mean, this wasn’t school; this was camp every single day with all my friends! I had to be there, and my parents finally agreed, granting me the hours of board games, playgrounds, Friday afternoon movies, and all the nachos with cheese I could handle, all of which I was sorely denied back at home (my grandmother only provided daily bowls of popcorn, with a tree house in the backyard to call my own. Clearly not enough for any seven year-old.)
Then I found out about the most amazing event my young mind could have ever imagined; the latchkey Christmas party. All the supervisors would buy a ton of gifts for all the kids, and we would pick at random from under the tree. It was kind of my very first Secret Santa. The rules didn’t matter, though; I was going to get more presents for Christmas!
My dad came by to pick me up, but the presents hadn’t been opened yet, so I begged him to stay. With a smile, he sat down, started talking to other parents, and sent me back on my merry way, waiting for the green light to dive into what promised to be a giant unwrapping frenzy. Which is exactly what it was.
Now, I don’t actually remember what I ended up getting, because all I could think of was Kasey’s gift: a Star Wars book. I had just watched The Empire Strikes Back earlier that year, and already I was a fanatic. The toys, the movies, anything and everything Darth Vader called my name. And I loved nothing more than reading.
The title of the book was The Glove of Darth Vader. That was enough to get me chomping at the bit. “Does this mean Darth Vader is still alive?” was the only though racing through my head. There were pictures too, and everything was brand new, post-Return of the Jedi. Only thing was, I didn’t really know how to go about getting it. For some reason, I couldn’t fathom the idea of anyone possibly wanting to train such an awesome gift.
Enter my dad. I told him all about the book, and while I didn’t flat out say I wanted it, I was constantly returning to Kasey, the lucky girl who received the object of my desires, asking if I could take a look at it again. Plus, he’s my dad; he knew as soon as my mom let me watch those movies, I was hooked. So he went over to Kasey’s dad and had a quick talk with him. You know, one of those awesome moves where a man gets up, walks the length of the room, and there just happens to be a chair open right where he wants to be. He leans over, starts hand shaking, appearing to have a laugh or two, shakes hands again and walks back over to me. I still have the book in my hands, my own gift hidden somewhere beneath Dad’s coat, which he quickly fishes out and hands to Kasey. She does a little squeal herself, and runs off to see her dad. I don’t really know what happens, but Dad just smiles and says “Merry Christmas.” That I understood.
We left shortly after, and I just remember not taking my eyes off Dad as we walked through the snow to his car. He was wearing this charcoal grey fedora, with a matching overcoat over his suit. He had his mustache trimmed tight, the slightly golden rims of his glasses glinting in the streetlights. I’m badgering him away with an endless stream of insights into my newfound treasure, the power of Darth Vader and the return to power of the mighty Galactic Empire with their promise to crush the Rebel Alliance once and for all. He’s just smiling the entire time, nodding his head and saying “Yes, son. That sounds very interesting.”
There was one thing I didn’t tell him though that night. At that moment, in the Forest Park parking lot, beneath the fluttering snow, I knew there wasn’t a man on the planet better than my dad. Not a one, and I’ll hold to that to this day.
Thanks for the book, Dad, and Happy Father’s Day.