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How My Dad Used To Irritate Me

My dad used to irritate me.

When I was young, I once phoned him to see if he would give me a ride home from work.

“Are you on the east side or the west side of the mall, Derek?” He asked.

“I don’t know, dad. I’m right next to the Chili’s,” I answered.

“Is that east or west of the mall?” He persisted.

“It’s west of China, dad,” I said, growing impatient. “Does that help?” Truth be told, I didn’t really know if it was west of China. My grasp of geography was — and continues to be — woefully inadequate, which is why this conversation seemed so pointless to me. That was my dad, though. His thinking was very structured, and he expected the same from his children.

Still, after I hung up, determined to walk home rather than buy a compass, he picked me up anyway. Turns out I was on the east side of the mall — and heading the wrong way.

Figures.

On the way home, he told me to use the Rocky Mountains as a guide.

“They’re west,” he explained.

I relied on that tidbit for as long as I lived in Colorado. I continued to get lost on a regular basis, but I found it oddly comforting.

My dad irritated me when I was going to college too.

First, he stipulated that I take a physics class and, then, he insisted my twin brother and I get a job, instead of lying around the house all day.

This second, thoroughly unreasonable, demand was made as we were preparing to watch the Kentucky Derby. Just as the horses were parading to post, my dad came into the living room, turned off the TV, and commanded that we “get off our lazy duffs and get a job.”

Really, I thought, you couldn’t have waited 10 minutes? How would you like it if I’d turned off Louis Rukeyser right before he delivered one of his sizzling puns on “Wall Street Week,” a show my dad watched regularly, along with a host of other boring programs.

My dad irritated me when I was a little kid as well.

After a full day of emulating Evel Knievel on one’s bike or playing in the culvert with friends, what tastes better than an ice-cold Coke or Pepsi? (This was the late ‘70s, there were no video games to kill your friends with — you had to do it manually.)

If you answered a flat, tasteless Shasta Cola, call me, we may be related.

Oh, it’s not like my siblings and I didn’t try to get my dad to buy us Coke or Pepsi — we did. But every time we put it in the grocery cart, he’d say, “Too expensive. Put it back.”

I can’t speak for my brother or sister, but I think I stocked the shelves at Safeway more than some of the employees. Soda, canned goods, deli items… heck, I started bringing items from home that I thought I’d paid too much for. Back on the shelf!

Even as an adult my dad used to irritate me.

Whenever I’d complain about the way life was treating me — often like an outhouse at a chili cookoff — he would ask me logical questions about what I could do to improve my situation.

Ain’t nobody got time for that!

My dad made me learn math and physics, made me work for what I received; he taught me the importance of conservation and how to budget. He taught me logic and how to accept the things I couldn’t change, change the things I could.

I can only hope I irritate my kids as much as he used to irritate me.

Elvis D. Simon (Oct. 30, 1930 – Jan. 14, 2021)