Father and Son
September 5, 2012 11:57 AM   Subscribe

He was doubled-over, crying. He looked up at my mom and simply said, "Play this at my funeral." Which we did, on Memorial Day, in our backyard beside his trout pond. .."I made this video with and for my father, Larry Zander, who died a few weeks ago, on May 27, 2011. He was 78. For those of you who knew my Dad, you will instantly recognize him in his natural habitat."
posted by thisisdrew (20 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
You don't really need to watch the video to get the waterworks started this time, do you?
posted by MartinWisse at 11:59 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

It makes me wish I had a dad growing up.
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:06 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by erniepan at 12:07 PM on September 5, 2012

posted by dadici at 12:08 PM on September 5, 2012

Very well done. A beautiful tribute. Thanks for sharing this.
posted by ColdChef at 12:14 PM on September 5, 2012

I only made it about halfway through. I really can't cry at work today.
posted by muddgirl at 12:47 PM on September 5, 2012

oh, so that is how a father-son relationship is supposed to feel.. this makes me sad for a different reason, I suppose
posted by ninjew at 12:49 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Couldn't make it much more than 30 seconds into this video. Damn that Cat Stevens. I'm not crying, you're crying. Shut up.
posted by thanotopsis at 1:24 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Possibly the fish are smiling.
posted by roue at 1:36 PM on September 5, 2012

Nice video.
{I heard a music factoid about this track today - (one which I may have to check on Ask)}.
posted by Dub at 1:59 PM on September 5, 2012

I just lost it. I'm sitting at my desk at work, sobbing. I don't even know what I feel. There's a lot to it. Relationships between fathers and sons are tricky, complicated business. I love my dad - I love him so much - despite the way sometimes I want to throttle him.

God damnit.
posted by kbanas at 2:26 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the link!

My father died in an accident when I was 6 months old, I have no memories of him at all and my mother never remarried. However, there were a number of men that passed through my life that taught me how to be a man and how to be a father. One, in particular, stands out.

The only thing I wanted for christmas when I was 15 years old was a rifle. Not an air rifle, I'd had a couple of those already (and still had both my eyes, despite efforts to the contrary on the part of my friends), nope, the rifle I wanted was a .22 caliber, real bullets, type of rifle.

I didn't really figure that I had much of a chance. Growing up in a house full of women I didn't have many allies in the quest to become a gunslinger. But a guy could hope. And, hope I did, right up until Christmas morning.

As usual, I was up about four am, spending the next three hours sitting on the floor of the living room, staring at a pile of boxes that had appeared during the night. That allowed me three hours to try and figure out how anyone could get a full sized .22 caliber rifle into a box that was no bigger than two feet long, 'cuz there wasn't a box there that exceeded that size! During the first hour I had figured out that I must have gotten a pistol instead of a rifle. During the second hour I had pretty much talked myself out of that particular fantasy. By the end of the third hour I had pretty much given up hope. When seven o'clock finally rolled around (the pre-determined "earliest I could wake my sisters up" time), I patiently opened one box of underwear after another.

I can't imagine that nobody saw the disappointment on my face, after all, the ONLY thing I wanted was that .22. Then, after all the presents had been opened, my Mom gave me a small box. Cuff links? A tie clip? Couldn't have been much of anything else. I opened it and found a note, "look in the trunk of the car." Barefooted, through the snow I ran out to the car, opened the trunk and found a gift wrapped box about three and a half feet long!

It was an Ithaca, single shot, lever action .22! All I had to do was throw on some boots and head for the fields across the street. Look out, rabbits! Get out of my way, crows! I'm after big game, fox, deer, elephant!

"First you have to learn how to shoot it safely."

What? What do you mean "learn", I already know how to shoot it!!! You put the bullet in, you pull back the hammer, you pull the trigger.

"Mr. Owens said he would teach you how to shoot it", my mother said.

Let me explain who Mr. Owens is. My oldest sister, Donna, is a biology teacher. She had done her student teaching under Mr. Owens, the biology teacher at my Jr. High School. As a result, I had gotten to know Mr. Owens pretty well. He had even taken me fishing (sort of, but that's another story!).

Once the weather got warm enough to stand still in, Mr. Owens called and said he had a little time, would I like to go out to the gravel pit? "Heck no," I said, "I'm not really interested in shooting this rifle that's been sitting around the house!" Like heck! I jumped at the chance. That saturday morning Mr. Owens picked me up at about 9am. With a bag full of empty cans (no deposit on them back in those days), a box of Winchester .22 shorts, and my Ithaca rifle (which had yet to be fired, yet had been cleaned and polished ten or twelve times), we drove to the local gravel pit out on Browns Lake Road. Back in those days it was common knowledge that gravel pits were public property on the weekends, a place to sight in your rifle, shoot a few clay pigeons, and maybe teach a kid how to avoid shooting his foot off.

All in all, Mr. Owens must have taken me out 'shooting' five or six times. Spending a couple of hours each saturday morning, teaching me not only to shoot, but how to handle the rifle, how to clean it correctly, how to climb a fence with a rifle and live to tell about it, the NRA couldn't have done a better job. The climax of this intensive training was when Mr. Owens called me on a friday night and said that he would pick me up the next morning at 7am, we were going rabbit hunting!

I spent the best part of that night polishing and cleaning the Ithaca. The rest of it was spent in dreams of hoards of rabbits (was two boxes of shells enough? How would I carry all those rabbits home?). That seven am rolled around slower than Christmas morning! I can't remember where we went, I was too excited to keep track of the route. And, to be honest, I can't remember much of the morning. It's sort of a blur of walking through fields, along fence lines, kicking brush piles, and trying to remember not to keep my rifle cocked and my finger on the trigger.

Please notice that I made no mention of rabbits, we hadn't seen a single one in two hours of 'hunting'. But, there are about three minutes that I remember vividly. We were walking along a gully, I was walking the top, Mr. Owens was fighting the brush along the bottom (always making sure he was a bit behind me, after all, I had a loaded weapon in my hands!). All of a sudden I heard him yell, "there goes one!". I looked in vain through the heavy brush, and couldn't see a thing."Do you see it?" he yelled. NO, I didn't see it, I could hear it but I couldn't SEE it! Then I saw a flash of movement, and there, fifteen yards away, in the bottom of that gully was a rabbit.

It had stopped right in a clear spot, not a branch in my way. I put that Ithaca to my shoulder, aimed and pulled the trigger, which might had been a pretty good maneuver, had I remembered to cock the rifle first. And I pulled, and Pulled, and PULLED! Somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice was saying "it ain't gonna sit there forever dummy, you might want to pull the hammer back and shoot it!" So I did. And missed. Now, this Ithaca .22 was a great little rifle, it looked a lot like the ones the cowboys carried in their saddle scabbards. The only problem with it was loading it, you had to pull down the lever and slide that shell down this little ramp, push the lever back up and then cock the hammer. This isn't a difficult maneuver after two or three years of practice, in warm weather, with no gloves on. However, in the middle of 'buck fever', in 30 degree weather, with a pair of mittens on, this was no easy task. I finally got it reloaded, looked down in the gully, and, I'll be darned if that rabbit wasn't still sitting in the same spot. It had decided either that it was perfectly safe, or doomed. I fired again. And again. And again. All in all, I got off about six shots at that rabbit. I think he finally got bored.

He looked up at me (I still swear he was smiling), and hopped lazily down the gully, into brush in which you couldn't have seen a buffalo. I never did shoot a rabbit that day, in fact, in my entire life, I have never shot a rabbit. Oh, I tried those first two years, even bought a shotgun a few years later, figuring to improve my chances. I finally adopted the outlook that I went out "just to get outdoors", took a little pressure off!

The real significance of that morning didn't strike me for ten years or so. At some point in my life, in thinking about that hunting trip, a question occurred to me. Why did Mr. Owens, who had a career and a family, spend hours and hours taking me shooting and hunting, and fishing, and bird watching? I know my Mom didn't 'pay' him for his effort or time, and I probably took it for granted. The answer is really sort of simple, Mr. Owens is the kind of teacher who taught for the right reasons. Sure, he knew and loved the field of science and biology, but even more important to him are the kids.

Some kids have Moms and Dads and just needed a biology teacher. I just had a Mom and two sisters, and I think Mr. Owens saw that I needed a "Dad" too. One of my sons came to me one day, at the age of 18, and said "I was talking to some friends the other day about Mrs. Reams (his third grade teacher), telling them that I always knew that I was her favorite student." He was amazed when they all replied "you couldn't have been, I was!" Mr. Owens and Mrs. Reams both fall into that same category, they teach because they love kids, they give more than is expected, but exactly what is needed.

Once in a while I would envy kids who had Dads and start to feel sorry for myself, but, as time went on, I experienced two or three men in my life who taught me respect, and honor, how to tie a knot, and, yes, how to use a fly rod. I came to realize that the biological title of "father" was not the factor that determined who we should respect.
posted by HuronBob at 2:47 PM on September 5, 2012 [145 favorites]

posted by feloniousmonk at 3:06 PM on September 5 [] [!]
Fixed the fave link for ya

well crap, can't hack the fave JS, but still
posted by sidereal at 3:40 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this.
posted by safetyfork at 7:07 PM on September 5, 2012

As my dad's health is declining all I can say is I wish my dad found some happiness like this. He never had a hobby, friends (I shit you not), or really any family esp. after his sister died (my mom passed and his own @#$# brother didn't even call to say "sorry" to him nor to me.)
posted by stormpooper at 6:52 AM on September 6, 2012

I'm going through a bit of a midlife crisis, and seeing this really got to me.

Thanks. (sort of.)
posted by DigDoug at 7:00 AM on September 6, 2012

When will I learn if other people on Mefi are crying, I will end up a sobbing wreck. Deeply moving, patient and calm video. Hope each of us have something that makes us so happy, and the gift of someone sat with us on the riverbank.
posted by Augenblick at 9:10 AM on September 6, 2012

HuronBob's post makes me wish there was a Pick a Reason to Flag: = "Fabuloso"
posted by sneebler at 10:36 AM on September 6, 2012

My father died when he was thirty-three. I'm fifteen years older than that now.

Glad I didn't read this at work.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:51 PM on September 8, 2012

very awesome. So reminded me of my grandpa and his flying habit.
posted by jopreacher at 7:12 PM on September 8, 2012

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