Well, since it’s so much easier to get your family to respond to interviews than authors and musicians, Item Five returns today. Today’s victim is my dad. He’s got a good story which I’ll get to in a minute. I remember when I was around ten years old I found his high school yearbook in a closet of our house and I started leafing through it. Each of the students from the 1964 class at Clinton High had a small blurb written about them. When I found his picture, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the blurb. I wish I had it here so I could type it verbatim, but it was along the lines of “good looking Dean can always be seen walking the halls at an extremely leisurely pace.” (Dad, if you have this somewhere, it might be a good idea to post the actual blurb in a comment, because it’s awesome).

He was born in 1946, the first year of the baby boomers, and grew up in Massachusetts his entire life. After his time in the army, he was a mechanic and then managed an ice arena. After that, somewhere in 80-81, he joined the computer company NEC and spent almost 20 years there in the corporate world. He and my mom moved up to New Hampshire when my dad got a job up there, but he, much like a lot of people when the bubble burst, got downsized rather quickly. Now, for the past couple of years, he’s back in the rink business, managing the Ice Den Arena in Hooksett, NH, a pretty new facility with some of the best ice you’ll find. It truly warms my heart to know that my dad is happy doing what he does for a living. That is so important. I wish he’d work less hours……but I digress.

Anyway, dad is a pretty laid back guy. Except when he yells at the dogs (and they usually deserve it). Funny thing, too: all my life when I play hockey I could never hear anybody in the crowd who was watching or yelling. Anyone whose ever played sports probably knows this feeling – you’re so focused on what’s going on that everything else in that environment is silent. When the whistle blows, you can hear stuff, but when the game is on – silence. Except for one voice – my dad’s. I could always hear him. A lot of the time, especially if I was dogging it, it was a simple word like “SKATE!” Funny, huh?

By the way, my parents, thankfully, never were the types to push me, punish me for playing bad, or MAKE me play any sports I didn’t want to play. They gave up a LOT for both me and my sister (a very competitive figure skater) and to that we owe them a debt of positively immeasurable gratitude. You don’t really realize this until you’re much older and think back to how many freezing cold 6:50am youth hockey games they woke up for and drove me to. Those times and the figure skating competitions are some of the most amazing memories of childhood one can have.

Say hello to dad……

1. What is your earliest childhood memory?

About age 4 on Florence St. in Jamaica Plain, MA. I was playing and fell into a thorn bush and got a thorn stuck in the palm of my hand. It’s actually still there because, according to my mother, I would not let her take it out.

2. What did your parents do for work?
My father was a butcher and chef his entire life, and Mom worked in a factory that made flashlights and batteries (Ray-O-Vac)

3. Tell me something you did in high school that you regret or aren’t particularly proud of.
Screwed around so badly in my Freshman & Sophomore years that I barely made it through both. My freshman year I gained 0 points, my sophomore year 30 points, where you needed to maintain 40 points a year to graduate. Finally smartened up my Junior & Senior years with 65 points each year. Actually made the Honor Roll my Senior year! [Jeff note: this sounds vaguely familiar to me……I hope I can halt this tradition with my impending arrivals!]

4. Is there any advice either of your parents gave you that has stuck with you for whatever reason? If so, what was it?
Always be polite and respectful to your elders.

5. Do you remember what your first impression of Mom was or the very first thing she said to you?
WOW! Why had I never seen this girl before? She was with her friend and I asked them if they wanted to go for a ride. Eventually her friend left when she found her boyfriend and I took Mom home. Then I asked to see her again, and the rest is history.

6. You went to Vietnam. Looking back, how do you view that time (i.e., wish you hadn’t gone, just a part of life, etc etc)?
I actually looked forward to going; thought is was the macho thing to do. Once there though, getting shot became real – not like in the movies. It was part of being a soldier and what they trained you for. I had some good times as well as bad.

7. Do you remember precisely what was going through your mind when you landed back in the U.S. after your tour in Vietnam was done?
Thank God it was over and I could go back to what it was like before I left. Obviously a pipe dream.

8. Tell an amusing story you remember about me as a young child
You and the neighbors kids (Dan & Dave) watching each other pee in the woods behind our house.

9. How did I start playing hockey? Did you ask me if I wanted to try it? How did I react initially?
I was managing a hockey rink in Lancaster and enrolled you in a Learn to Skate Program. You reacted like most kids did – you held onto the boards and walked/skated around the rink several times.

10. If you had to pick one bad thing I did growing up as the worst/stupidist thing I’ve done, what would it be?
Coming home drunk one night and talking to your mother on the phone from one of the extensions in the house. [Jeff note: this classic situation warrants further explanation, because it’s a great story. It was New Years Eve and I was home on break from college. Maybe 1991 about to turn 1992. I went out with some friends to a party at Marty Reisner’s house in Clinton. My parents had also gone out – I don’t remember where. Strangely enough, I got home first that night. And yes, I was drunk. One of the things I did whenever I was drunk was stay up for as long as possible and drink lots of water – it usually quelled or at least abbreviated the hangover. So I’m sitting in the living room, watching television and I notice my parents car pull in about 1:30am-ish, into the garage and then………..the phone rings! I picked up the phone upstairs and I hear my mother’s voice. Odd, because their car had just pulled into the garage….hmmmmm. I thought for a brief second that maybe my mother was somewhere else and my dad came home early. So the conversation went on for a minute in a very confusing manner with me trying to figure out where she was and she was trying to figure out where I was. Well, it turned out my mother, who was walking in from the car, picked up the phone downstairs at the same time I did. All this time, the person on the other end of the line was dead silent. We still laugh heartily about this story today and I’ll always wonder who that was who called…….

11. What was the last thing you laughed really hard at?
Lewis Black’s stand up show last year.

12. Is there anything you find yourself doing where you stop and say “damn, I’m just like my father!”
Work too many hours.

13. You recently hit the big 60. Do you find yourself thinking more about the past or the future?
I think more about the past, since that’s where all the memories are. Can’t do much to control the future, so I just let it happen.

14. Now you can ask me a question. Go ahead. I’ll answer it.
What do you think about late at night when you can’t get to sleep. (Other than your upcoming fatherhood)
Jeff Answers: Well, that hasn’t been a problem AT ALL lately because of our new King bed! Heh heh. Anyway, I think a lot about legacy. Mine, to be specific. I seem to have a never-ending tug-of-war in my mind between staying the course with a comfortable paycheck and good job (which is very important, especially with two little robots on the way) and eventually doing something that will make a pronounced and positive difference in people’s lives. I have no idea what that is yet, but when I’m retired and I look back, I’m going to need to see that I’ve done something constructive that helped the less fortunate or something that was a material contribution to society. It might very well be as simple as passing that onto my own children. Time will tell.

Thanks Dad! I think we all know who’s next………..