Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Studtholomew and other Teenage Memories of my Dad

This is part two of a blog series for my dad's 60th birthday.  (I am hoping to chronicle 60 memories by the end of the week.)  If you are interested in reading part one, click here.

Tonight I record some of my memories of my dad during my teen years.  Let the fun begin...

My dad is mega smart.  He wouldn’t like me bragging about him, but I am going to anyway.  He graduated with honors from Harvard Law School, which is why it’s perhaps even funnier that he played immature bedtime games and gave himself swirlies in the toilet with us when we were kids.

I benefitted from his intelligence because he was my personal tutor when I was in high school.  I am terrible at math (truly), yet he patiently helped me through my advanced algebra class.  We spent many late nights at the kitchen table with me in tears and his shoulders twitching, working on math homework. (How he stayed patient with my drama, I will never know.)  And for the record, I never took another math class again after advanced algebra my sophomore year of high school.

English was my strong subject, but I certainly had room for improvement there as well.  Dad always edited my essays throughout high school, and when he gave me back a draft, it would be covered in red ink. Because of his individualized feedback and modeling of sentence structure, punctuation, and clarity of thought, I progressed quickly as a writer, and it has become one of my passions.  It is always humbling to me now when he asks me to edit something for him.  It wasn’t my English teachers who taught me how to write; it was my dad.

My dad has always been known for his crazy nicknames, and during my high school years, he started calling me “Stresstholomew.”  For some reason, he decided that everyone in the family would be a “-tholomew,” and “Stress” was the best prefix for me during those years (sad but true--I am a perfectionist to the extreme).  And for himself, he chose an even more appropriate prefix: Stud.  So yes, he was the self-proclaimed “Studtholomew.”

He also called himself “SD,” which stands for Super Dad, obviously. ;)  He still sometimes signs emails to me as “SD.”  I wish I had a full catalog of all of the nicknames he has given us and himself over the years, but there are too many to even track, and now he is doing it to our children (more on that in another post).

Some new bedtime games were born during my teen years (yes, he still played bedtime games with us when we were teenagers).  A favorite was based on The Lord of the Rings movies.  Dad would come creeping into the bedroom pretending to be Gollum and start talking to us in a creepy voice, calling us “The Precious.”  Then out of nowhere, his arm would shoot forward in a claw, attempting to attack us.  We would be laughing hysterically at this point, as he used the other hand to grab and try to subdue the claw.  He would then thrash around and act like he had multiple personalities like Gollum, “Don’t hurt The Precious!  But me wants The Precious!  Me wants to grab The Precious.  No!!!”   So random and ridiculous!

He liked to pretend he was up on pop-culture and then tease us and our friends about it.  He learned the popular song “Jumpin” by Destiny’s Child (remember them?), and sometimes when our girlfriends were over, he would come out of his office and start doing a subtle robot dance while singing in a monotone voice, “Ladies leave your man at home, the club is full of ballers and their pockets full of chrome.  And all you fellas leave your girl with a friend, cause it’s 11:30 and the club is jumpin’, jumpin.”  And on those last two words, he would do two little hops into the air.  So hilarious.

Both of my parents loved our friends and were beloved by our friends.  My dad insisted on having a “first dance” with each of his daughters at our 16th birthday parties (my parents threw us big shin-digs with DJs—super fun).  I love that we weren’t embarrassed by our dad or our closeness to him.  It seemed like the most natural thing in the world to dance to “16 Candles” with my dad at my party.  


And then after that serious moment was over, the party music started, and my dad entertained all of the teenagers by lying on the floor and doing his signature dance move: The Twitch.  I have no idea how he does it, but he twitches his entire body off of the floor.  The teenage boys were impressed and tried to do it too, but no one mastered it like my dad.

And speaking of teenage boys, my dad was one of my confidants when I started dating.  I have always been extremely open with my parents (it’s just part of my personality—I can’t hold anything back), and when my dad was the bishop of our church congregation, I went into his home office one night, shut the door, and said, “Dad, is French kissing bad?”  Hahahaha!  My poor father!  I remember that he looked up from the legal document he was editing with an expression of surprise, took off his glasses, leaned back in his chair and said, “Well, let’s talk about this.” He went on to give me very thoughtful, wise, loving, and reasonable advice about protecting myself, my body, and my heart during the dating years.  Because he handled that conversation so well, I knew I could come to him in the future with my questions about relationships and chastity.

I come from a family of night-owls, and it was not uncommon at all for all of us to be awake until 1 a.m. when I was a teenager, particularly on the weekends.  One time when a boy brought me home from a date at midnight and we were standing on the porch talking, my dad came out and started watering the flower pots.  My dad was oblivious to how awkward this must have been for my date, and honestly I did not think a thing of it either because it was completely normal for us to water plants at midnight; but my date obviously thought that my dad was spying and giving him the hint to “get lost,” so he took off quickly.  Poor kid.

I mentioned in my last post that my dad is known to fall asleep anytime he sits down (it's no wonder when he was watering plants at midnight, right?), and this was even true when he was the bishop.  When someone else was speaking to the congregation, my dad would sometimes drift off to sleep in his seat on the stand in front of the congregation, and my sisters and I would watch him, amused, knowing that at any moment, he would wake up and do his "lost in thought" act.  He would wake up mortified that he had fallen asleep again, so he would keep his eyes closed and nod his head thoughtfully as he raised it, pretending that he had merely been pondering the words of the speaker.  So funny.  I'm pretty sure no one bought it.  But everyone knew how hard he worked at the office, at church, and at home, so no one took it personally.

I did a lot of performing when I was in high school, and my dad never missed a concert, vocal recital, or musical theater production.  After each event, when I was hugging other family members or friends who had come to support me, I would spot my dad hanging back from the rest, watching me and smiling proudly.  He was always wearing a suit and tie--he had always come straight from the office

I knew how important I was to him.  I knew he would always be there for me and that I mattered more to him than any work obligation.  I knew that he was proud of me not because of my talents but because of my hard work and my efforts to be kind and honest.  He was proud of me when I was chorus girl #100 and he was proud of me when I was the lead role, and in either case, he was there to watch and encourage me.

I am so glad that I had my amazing father as my role model, friend, and confidant during those pivotal teenage years. If it's possible, he became even more important to me after I left home for college because that is the year that my mom's cancer diagnosis became terminal and we eventually lost her.  Because of the foundation of love and trust he had built with his daughters when we were young, we relied on him greatly while we were losing our mother and have ever since.  I can't wait to share some of my memories of that difficult but sacred time in my next blog post.

(Part three here.)


  1. Could not love this more. OMGosh. "It wasn’t my English teachers who taught me how to write; it was my dad." Destiny's Child. The dance. Falling asleep and then nodding his head as if he were pondering. The plants. Too much. How blessed you are! Can't wait to read more! xo

  2. The plants!!!!!!!!! HAHAHAHA! I had forgotten all about that. That just made me laugh until I cried. I read both of these posts out loud to Sam and we loved them. Dad is the BEST. No contest.


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