Not only is Peanut NOT happy to see me when I come home from a run, she cowers with fear at my mere presence. It used to be, I'd walk through the door and ask loudly, "Who wants sweaty kisses?" And Peanut, as I'd hoped, would respond with horror. It came to a point where all I had to say was,"Sweaties!?" And she would shriek with dread. Now she's been pre-conditioned, Pavlov-style, to wail and frantically stomp her legs on the couch the moment I've turned the doorknob. I never do kiss her. Nor do I have the intention. But I wouldn't be doing my job as a dad if I were not torturing her at every opportunity.
|Me hugging Peanut after a 5K race, circa 2009.|
She was horrified.
Sometimes I catch a whiff of myself and can't believe it's even possible that a man who showers twice daily, manscapes regularly, and grooms and conditions properly could produce such a stench. Not so much a stench, but a musk. An odor. A lingering scent that must be wiped out with fresh water and Dove body wash as soon as I've inhaled some fluids and a banana.
Other times I might be working in the yard when I take a moment to wipe my brow with my forearm and I pause. Because there's that smell again. It's similar... but different. Yet familiar. And then I remember. I flash back to all of those backyards in which me and my dad were servicing swimming pools. I flash back to the dinner table growing up, where the musk from a long, hard day would linger even after he'd washed his hands. I flash back to the swimming pool store he owned, when we'd be unloading a truck or fixing a customer's pump or filter. I'd wonder to myself why he was sweating so much. It would drip off his forehead, down his nose, and onto whatever we were working on.
Whatever chemical reaction took place on my forearm produced the same smell of my dad. It was a combination of sweat, dirt, cigarettes, and coffee. Doesn't sound enjoyable, but I liked it. It was familiar. It was him. It meant safety. It represented hard work. Besides, he cleaned up just fine on holidays and for church on Sundays. That musk, somehow, now lives in me. (Even though I don't smoke.) It surfaces every now and then when I'm chopping firewood or trimming hedges.
It's funny. There was a day when I told my dad I didn't want to do what he did. We were in his truck
|Me and Big D, circa 1985.|
I respect my dad so much for working outside in the heat and clay and the muck for twelve hours a day or more all those years. I have even more respect for him for realizing he didn't want that for me. He sent me to college. He supported my dreams. He put me to work in other ways and still taught me the value of a dollar and the honor of an honest day's work. And while my twelve-hour work days involve a shirt, tie, and a smart pair of slacks, there are still those times. Times when I channel my inner Dominic and toil in the dirt and the mud and the sweat. It's not often. Maybe a few times a year. But I'll wipe my brow with my forearm and a sense of satisfaction will wash over me. In that moment I'll inhale and remember him. And I am thankful for all that he taught me, for all that he did for me. I'm thankful that I, too, stink.