My father wasn’t a Renaissance man. In fact, he rejected everything modern culture had to throw at him after 1963.
Dad’s favourite music was straight out of the 1930s. To his mind, popular music achieved perfection with the accordion, zither and opera stars of northern Europe. Every Sunday morning my brother and I would awaken to the pounding insistence of the Beer Barrel Polka or the screeching of a Prussian Prima Donna. If there’s a Guinness record for quickest scampering out of bed, wolfing down breakfast and escaping out the back door, my brother and I must share it.
Jay and I loved rock and roll. Dad detested it. So when I asked for an electric guitar, I was surprised when he seemed to agree.
“Yes, you should play an instrument.”
A few days later he arrived home with a fat, boxy suitcase. Instead of a sleek, sexy guitar, it contained a fat, boxy accordion.
“Aren’t you thrilled?” Dad beamed.
“Yeah, Ray,” my brother added dryly, “Think of all the great rock bands with accordions: The Stones, The Doors, The Beatles…”
“No Beatles,” dad interjected. “Polkas! You’ll be the most popular boy in school.”
If dad was doctrinaire about music, he was positively apoplectic when it came to hippies. Like my friends, I wanted long hair, Beatle boots and bell-bottoms. What I got was a bowl cut, loafers and pants with cuffs so narrow, I’m surprised I didn’t get gangrene. With my size twelve feet I looked like a recruiting poster for Nerds Are Us.
The penultimate insult to my dad’s world view was the portrayal of fathers on television. The worst offender was All in The Family and its buffoonish Archie Bunker. Conversely, the quintessential example of good television was a show called, Father Knows Best. It debuted before I was born, but he felt it represented a better time when fathers were feared and respected.
“But, dad, don’t you like anything modern?” I’d ask. “Our teacher says we’re going to learn new math.”
“Nothing wrong with old math.” Dad replied, irritably.
“We’re also going to learn about birth control. Dad, do you believe in birth control?”
“Sure,” dad said. “Now.”
Recently, I got to thinking about the legendary Father Knows Best program and ordered some DVD’s from the library.
They were a revelation: Far from perfect. No one listened to their dad except for a few seconds at the end of the show.
Maybe I’m being nostalgic, but I wish dad could have watched those episodes with me. It would have done him good to know he was a better dad than his role model on TV.