That's what you were expecting, right? Sorry, but this is not that kind of story . However, if you can come up with a good joke including those 3 things-- by all means-- just leave it in the comments below.
A Peanut. A Bird. And a Bat.
They really don’t have anything to do with each other on the surface. Yet they have everything to do with my dad. And since Father’s Day is right around the corner, I figured I owed him a little something, something. I mean, he didn’t get all that grey hair on his own. In our 30 years together, it can all be summed up with: a peanut, a bird, and a bat.
I’m sure some fathers call their daughters all kinds of cutesy names: princess, honey, daddy’s little girl, etc. But whenever I hear the word 'peanut', I instantly think of my dad. I really don’t know what made him start calling me 'Peanut'. Maybe it’s because I was always so little. Or the youngest of us girls. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a little nutty. That's probably more like it.
Or maybe it’s because we never can be trusted in those restaurants that serve the endless peanuts in gargantuan troughs. We eat our weight in them. And we can’t help ourselves (even though we’re now both grown adults) but what starts as a casual toss of a shell usually ends up in a full-blown battle with peanut remnants zinging through the air. By this time, Mom steps in and yells at the both of us to knock it off. But I know that years from now (and I hope it’s MANY YEARS) when he’s moved on to that great fishing lake in the sky, I’ll probably find myself bawling in the grocery store aisle surrounded by Planter’s honey roasted.
Actually, this just isn’t any bird. It’s a “little birdy". And that dang bird caused me more stress as a child than any other animal. See, this little birdy used to visit my dad on the job site and tell him about all my naughtiness throughout the day. If I didn’t share with the neighbor kids, that bird somehow knew. If I didn’t listen to the babysitter, that feathered creature of doom was on it. If I got in trouble at recess, that mangy animal got to him before I did. Every. Stinking. Time.
Needless to say, I hated that bird. I plotted it’s demise many times. I thought if I ever caught sight of that flying bag of feathers, it would surely regret tattle-tweeting all of my business. I held many a planning session with my cat and gave careful instruction that upon site, she could eat it. It wasn’t until many years later that I figured out that old bird had a name. Funny how it was the same one my mother had. And that bird had my dad on speed dial.
But not the flying kind. This was a Louisville Slugger. And to this day, my dad probably still has nightmares. See, it all started when my dad coached our softball team. I won’t name names or anything but the coach seemed a little extra hard on one player in particular…. (Me.) Now I’m not saying what I did was payback. I’m not saying that at all. I’m not saying anything, really. In fact, I don’t think either one of us said much to the other for the next few days after the Bat-O-Matic incident went down that fateful summer.
My dad had a plan to get me to become a better batter. My swing wasn’t level and he was bound and determined to correct that with his priceless new invention. I use the term “priceless” very loosely because he had a few days-worth of effort and a few hundred dollars-worth of supplies put into this contraption that he was convinced would probably allow him to retire once the rest of the softball programs started calling in their orders. My grandpa and my dad worked for hours, tinkering with PVC pipes and nuts and bolts. Looking back, the concept was pretty good, too. The center vertical pipe had two pipe arms that horizonatally extended out from the upright pipe to form your strike zone. Those arms could be adjusted to different height levels to line up with any batter’s knees and shoulders (their respective strike zone). When used correctly, if you swung level, the pipe arms would remain still because your bat would swing right through them without touching anything. If you were reaching for a ball that was too high or too low, you’d hit one of the arms and it will swivel around the center pipe. Seems easy enough. Well, it should have been.
They worked night and day until finally it was time to test the Bat-O-Matic. I was summoned to the driveway and handed that infamous metal bat. And this is what my Dad said to me, verbatim: “Hit it. Hit it as hard as you can.”
I'm sure he wishes he could take back those 9 simple words. If he could take them back, he'd probably be retired on his own personal yacht right now.
“Hit it. Hit it as hard as you can.”
If that imaginary little birdy was there, I would have swung without question at it. But, like usual, I tried to reason with my father. I knew how much work went into this thing and I didn’t want to destroy it. “I don’t want to hit it, Dad. It’s going to break”, is what I pleaded.
“You can’t break it, Laura. We designed it to withstand even the hardest swing. Just hit it." That's what he proudly told me. And so.... I did.
And it would have worked. And it would have withstood a normal swing, had a normal person swung like a normal batter does. But we’re talking about me, who isn’t always normal. I’m blonde and whoever came up with the term "blonde moments" sure knew what they were talking about. But to my defense, he wasn’t exactly specific with his “hit it” instruction and so I mustered all my might and swung. Except, it wasn’t quite a normal swing.
In the blink of an eye, I demolished the entire apparatus. I took that bat, hoisted it above my head and blasted downward with the might of Paul Bunyan on steroids. Dad said to HIT IT HARD and I did. The entire “swing” (which in hindsight was more of a chop) lasted only seconds, but the demolition seemed to occur in slow motion. The PVC pipe shattered into smithereens and nuts and bolts were sent flying through the air like shrapnel. I can’t quite remember, but for added gusto I may have even let out a bellow to make sure I HIT IT HARD enough. We all dove for cover and when the dust settled, I looked over at my Dad to say, “See, I told you it would break”.
But it was the look on his face that conveyed a mixture of shock, awe, and disappointment that made me realize before I got the first word out: I don’t think I did that quite right. Oops.
I quietly layed the bat in the driveway, came in the house, and we never spoke of it again. If that little birdy was around then, he probably flew south that day realizing nothing could top this event.
My poor dad. All that work, gone in less than a minute. There never was a second model of the Bat-O-Matic ever made.
A peanut. A bird. And a bat.
As the years have gone by, you’ll notice my dad is indeed a little more grey. I’m not going to take responsibility for all of it, but I know the peanut is to blame for a majority of it. But so is the bird. And most of all, the bat.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.
- Copyright 2014 Laura McKenna. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without express written consent.