Monday, October 25, 2010

Lawn Art

The advent of William Shatner's new sitcom, "S*** My Dad Says" has brought forth a flurry of remarks from my friends that "OMG, that guy sounds just like your dad AND the character is a crusty old doctor!" Yes, this is the legacy of Dr. AiredaleParent: otherwise known throughout the South as "Open mouth, insert foot," or "Hoof-in-mouth disease". All of our friends bore witness to it at some point; Little Sister and I perfected a certain mortified vanishing technique for whenever Daddy's mouth got the better of him. The end result is that I don't put up with it from any other doctor, and have, on a couple of notable occasions, handed an eminent physician his head on a silver platter. I ain't skeert.

Last night, I was talking with one of the other coordinators from my Airedale Terrier rescue group, and the subject of the concrete Airedales he's been selling as a fundraiser came up. This brought to mind my father's strong aversion to lawn ornaments; in fact, Dad just has a strong aversion to lawns, period, which I think stems from his having mowed a lot of grass with one of those old manual push-mowers as a teenager.

There have been numerous incidents involving a jeremiad by Dad about lawn ornaments, particularly of the plastic or concrete varieties. His hatred of pink plastic lawn flamingos led to his late medical partner planting a couple in our front yard during a order to pull that off, he had to con a relative who owned the local dime store into digging around in the store's attic in the dead of winter. My father retaliated with something George hated: ball-shaped blue glass Christmas ornaments, strewn upon a prized blue spruce in their front yard. Although George passed away in March, 2000, I think the flamingos are still somewhere in the garage at Chez Airedaleparent, and I was an adult before I figured out the coarse joke behind the Christmas ornaments.

Another time, he went off about those concrete pillars that support mirrored glass "gazing balls", while visiting my godmother's parents. Mom had noticed something on the way in that Dad had obviously missed: the Oliphants had that very lawn ornament in the center of their front yard. She tried in vain for a couple of minutes to derail my father from the topic, without success. My godfather, who is a cousin of Dad's, later communicated that Dad was no longer welcome at his in-laws' house. Nobody except Daddy wondered why.

Flash forward to the era when I was at State Flagship U., about ten miles up the road from Carpenter's Dish Barn, a major source of concrete lawn ornamentation in the Great Bluegrass State. Following a visit to me at school, Dad, who'd noticed Carpenter's wide array of objets d'concrete, lit into the general hideousness of concrete lawn geese in front of my aunt. Again, Mom and I were in possession of a crucial piece of knowledge that Dad lacked: my aunt had two life-size concrete geese flanking the garage door at their house, for which she had made (Dad was particularly scathing on this point) seasonally-appropriate outfits. As usual, he ignored our attempts to draw him off the subject.

My step-cousin went to SFU, too, so my aunt knew about Carpenter's. On the way out the door that night, she pressed $40 into my hand and hissed, "I want you to get your daddy his very own concrete goose the next time you're on the way home from school!" I dutifully drove out and had two men from the concrete yard help heft the bloody thing into my trunk; concrete geese are quite dense and therefore also very heavy. I hauled the goose a hundred miles, and with my sister's help, transferred it to a wheelbarrow and from there, onto the center of the patio wall in our back yard. The dinner table sits next to a large window, and from Dad's place, the goose was carefully situated in his direct line-of-sight.

During dinner that night, Dad turned to his left to speak to me, and spotted the dark silhouette on the wall. "What the HELL is that?" he screeched, rising to flip on the patio light. He stood for a second, staring in horror at the enormous grey waterfowl perched on the wall; he turned and demanded, "WHY is there a $#@&&!* concrete goose on my patio?"

I didn't even look up when my mother said, "It's a gift from your sister-in-law. She has two just like it at the farm."

My father turned off the porch light and returned to the table. I thought I'd find a small pile of rubble out there the next day, but the goose remained miraculously intact. I returned to SFU, duly reported to my aunt that I'd given Dad the bird...and expected to hear from my mother any day that he'd heaved it off the cliff behind the house.

What I failed to mention is that Dad does have a sense of humor and will occasionally admit, by default, that he's screwed up. The next time I came home, not only was the goose still there (it is STILL there, to this day, twenty-three years later), he'd painted it metallic gold. He said if we had to have a tacky concrete lawn ornament, we might as well go all the way- and he has refrained from comment about other peoples' choices in lawn decoration ever since. I guess he's afraid of what might turn up in his yard as a result.

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