On this Father's Day, I would like to share the top ten things I love about my Dad, L. Cameron Hyers.
Number 10: Made me animal shaped pancakes. My parents divorced when I was pretty young, and it wasn't an amicable split by any means. Their relationship post-divorce was strained and imperfect, and we didn't see him every weekend like some kids got to do. But when we did see him, he went that extra mile for us, making it special, but not in that "if I buy my kids a lot of the crap they want they won't hate me" way. It was special in the little things things he did, like trying to make me the unicorn shaped pancake I requested even though thats really hard to do. And now, it's something I do for my son. But I only make Mickey Mouse shaped heads because I have a mold. Hey, Daddy didn't raise no dummy here.
Number 9: Didn't make me get a summer job. The summer I turned sixteen I was living with my Dad and stepmother. Around that time, my stepmother asked me when I was going to get a job. When I stammered that I really hadn't thought about it, my father spoke up and said he didn't think I needed to. He pointed out that I had the whole rest of my life to work, so why shouldn't I get to enjoy the summer like a kid should? We prevailed and I got that summer off. How cool is that? And the next summer, when the argument didn't work, he drove me to my job every ridiculously early morning, and picked me up every afternoon even though he had to interrupt work to do so.
Number 8: Taking care of his mom. My grandmother was not what you would call, um, "easy to get along with". She was quite difficult and opinionated, and that only got worse as she got older. She lived on the opposite coast from him, and he often flew back and forth tending to her almost pretty much every time she demanded it. He also made sure she was in the nursing home that she wanted, even if it meant moving her back and forth until she decided which one that was. He spent a lot of money doing that, money that I know he could really have better used in his retirement now.
Number 7: His boyish enthusiasm. Whenever my Dad finds something that he likes he gets so excited about it you would think he just discovered a new way to slice bread. If it's on the TV or the radio he will tape every show and play back the highlights to us as he explains what he loves about it. Which sometimes gets comical as he gets so enthusiastic telling us how much he loves it, that we miss it and he has to rewind it and restart it. And more often than not, he talks so much about how he was talking about it that we have to rewind it yet again. It is truly infectious.
Number 6: His support of me and my husband as comics. When I first started doing comedy, approximately two months after I first set foot on stage, I went to see my Mom in Tucson. When I talked to my Dad before the trip he mentioned he was also going to be in Tucson around the same time. Meanwhile, I was encouraged by some of my Boston comedian friends to try to get a set at the Tucson comedy club Laff's, so I mustered up the courage, called and got a guest set on what turned out to be the same day my dad was arriving. In order to see his little girl perform this barely five minute guest spot my Dad, as soon as he landed at the airport, rushed to rent a car, rushed to his hotel, changed, rushed to club and then bought his ticket at the door even though I had left his name at the door and made it to his seat pretty much as they were lowering the lights. That happened in 1993. If you ask him about it today he can still tell you about that set and the set of the other comics on the show that night. Not only that time, but after I met my husband my Dad would go to as many shows as he could with us, tape them and I think he still listens to them to this day. He remembers more of our old jokes than we do.
Number 5: My Dad is an amazing artist. I have paintings he gave me all over my house and I am so proud when visitors come and admire them and I get to say, "My dad did that, and all the other ones here as well." This is one of my favorite paintings by my Dad, and it hangs proudly in my living room. He takes such joy in his painting. Sometimes I wish he would be "discovered" and he would gain the great amount of fame and fortune that he truly deserves, but on the other hand I would hate for his painting to become a chore or just a job.
Number 4: Nobody is a stranger to him. My Dad is one of the friendliest people you'll ever meet. He can go anywhere and strike up a conversation with anyone, about just about any subject. I remember well the time I asked for, and got, a trip to New Orleans for Christmas. My school was in the Sugar Bowl and my friends and I all wanted to go and see the game. So after Christmas, to get ready for my trip, my father and I spent the day doing errands like getting traveler's checks, getting a new pair of glasses and other stops for him as well. At every place we stopped at, just after we handled whatever errand it was and before leaving he would say to the person who waited on us, "My daughter's going to the Sugar Bowl." I, of course, being a teenager, rolled my eyes thinking he was annoying the clerk. But no, the statement always led to some kind of conversation about something, whether it be football, college, or just traveling. And they all enjoyed themselves immensely.
Number 3: Introduced me to great comedy. I credit my dad for my love of comedy. He has an amazing collection of old time radio programs. Back in the days before the internet and Time-Life compilations, collectors would get cassette tapes of old radio shows from small companies that advertised in the back of magazines, or swapped them amongst themselves. My Dad had an entire bookshelf full of these cassettes. He would pick me up for our weekends together and inevitably, one of those cassettes was playing in the car. I heard Jack Benny, Burns & Allen, Bob & Ray and so many more. And I laughed. I didn't want to sometimes. Sometimes I wanted my square old Dad to put on some hip and happening Carpenter's music, but we listened to the late great comedians, and for that I am forever grateful. I also took great joy over the years when talking to other people of my dad's generation. More often than you might think I would hear them say, "You're probably too young to have heard of Fibber McGee." I would say, "Are you kidding? I've practically modeled my closet after his." Oh, how the jaws would drop.
Number 2: Drove me to school. And not just any school. My last two years of high school were at a boarding school three hours away from home, and he drove me up and back from there for every major holiday, and for the start and end of each school year. Considering how much I loved going to Miss Hall's School, I loved him for dropping me off at those doors. And it wasn't just to Miss Hall's. He drove me to Syracuse University in a blizzard for my interview, and before MHS he drove me to some of the most remote places in New Hampshire to look at other boarding schools we were considering. One school had a two mile long, dirt driveway surrounded by pine trees. We pulled up to the small rustic buildings that made up the campus and he looked at me.
"Do you want to go here?" he asked me.
"I don't think so." I answered.
And without hesitation he turned that car around and we drove away. Then he said,
"Good, because I don't want to have to drive through all this every winter."
And the number one thing I love about my Dad: He's Uncle Grampa Cam. My son graduated from preschool last month. While standing up in front of the room, he pointed to my Dad and told the girl next to him, "That's my Uncle Grampa Cam." I love that he called my Dad that because that means that he's not just the guy who is his Grampa, he's his friend, just like all the other friends of our family he calls "uncle." My son adores his Grampa, and whenever my Dad comes up no matter what they are doing together, my son wants to hold Grampa's hand, show Grampa what he can do and tell Grampa about all the things that interest him. My son definitely got the gift of gab directly from my father, because my son also never meets a stranger. I love to see my two chatterboxes together, because I see so much of each of them in each other. And I look forward to many more years of eavesdropping on their lengthy, lengthy conversations.
Happy Father's Day, Dad.