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I suppose some people would find my father’s behavior embarrassing.
I’m sure some frightened people were probably tempted, at first, to call the cops when they discovered him on their front lawn early in the morning playing happy birthday to them on his trombone. By his own admission, his old battered instrument from college could never deliver that pure sound he hoped it would. But if he was on your front lawn, it was played with such reckless abandon that it was easy to see it represented 75 more trombones gathered together in a parade in your honor.
Despite his unorthodox approach to life, my father has four grown children who see such acts of off-tune love quite remarkable. To say we are proud of Dad is an understatement. No one else had a dad who wore an umbrella hat in public.
He was a trendsetter for us. It was during a family home evening that my dad taught us the sweetness of the “slow roll.” My mom, who was always a grown up, was giving the lesson when my dad started to rock back and forth slowly on the floor on his back as if in a giant infant rock-a-roo.
We sensed something important was afoot and we each quietly slipped to the floor and began rocking back and forth until my mother looked up and discovered us. She initially took offense, but eventually was able to see the great compliment it was to her to having her family “rocking out” to her teachings. It was like dancing in the rain at Woodstock.
Dropping and rolling in public as a way of greeting each other became a family tradition. We did it at airports. We proudly did it on my grandpa’s front lawn. He never really understood completely what my mother saw in Dad and he was confused by the powerful influence he had over his children. That made the act even more sweet.
We all knew Dad would back us at all times — sometimes in the strangest ways. When I took over a paper route in Seattle and discovered the “paper shack” where we collected our newspapers before delivering was run by a bully, my dad came up with a solution. I would go there on the first day and my dad would park around the corner. I would be pleasant until the bully crossed me or even accidentally bumped into me. At that point I would go crazy beating the living daylights out of the bully until my father drove up, jumped out of the car and forcefully threw me in the back seat. He would then apologize profusely.