Thursday, January 21, 2010
yo-yo #71: duncan o-boy
yeah, i know. it's been a long time. i don't owe any kind of explanation. i've always intended to update it when and if i have something to say.
i received this yo-yo for xmas. it was in my stocking along with a few other nifty trinkets (an old 'whirl king', several packs of ancient cheerio string, one of those silver gorham yo-yo's, and an autographed trading card of my very good friend, mr. john higby - with whom i am presently collaborting). in our family, my mom does a lot of the big-box shopping, and wraps them in thick, fine paper with a crisp brilliance that i will never be able to emulate. but the stockings are my dad's exclusive province. he loves it, and though my brother and i are all grown up now, our stockings are still replete, year after year, with small but shockingly relevant gifts. the o-boy stood out, however, as a yo-yo that i've always coveted.
one of the earliest models released by duncan following its buyout of the flores company, the first o-boys were essentially identical to the elliptically-profiled flores models of the day (we're talking about the 30's - old). those first models featured extra thick dowels for axles, and i can't imagine that they spun for very long at all. the model now in my collection materialized considerably later (don't have a date). the profile is a little wider and the axle is (thankfully) considerably thinner, so it actually spins pretty well. i can hit kwyjibo on a 50+ year-old yo-yo, which is kinda cool. shortly thereafter, it falls apart because the axle is not glued.
my dad scored all of this stuff on ebay. he's become a total ebay-junky, scouring the site for auctions of old original ansel adams yosemite photographs, 1st edition copies of john muir books and ancient medical tomes. he and my mom are collector-types. they keep everything, and each corner of their home sports some manner of miscellanea. while the untrained eye may waltz in and not understand the crumbling detritus, i see it as the substance of my youth.
i'm the third edward haponik (out of four). my father has always gone out of his way to embrace pretty much whatever i do (aside from my proclivity for sneaking out to 'roll' houses growing up). with the exception of playing baseball though, i'm not sure any of my obsessions has ever really resonated with him: skateboarding, jazz, martial arts, yo-yo (though he gave me my first - an original run yomega brain). one might expect a parent to react to their offspring's varied and apparently disconnected pursuits with a kind of benign neglect, but not my dad. he's always been secure enough to appreciate the things that he never pursued himself and to look diligently for their connective tissue. i guess i played chess, to which he could relate. i even beat him - once. (i suppose there is also the matter of our mutual appreciation for the early film work of steven seagal.)
dad's a successful doctor, and in some respects, i feel as though i may have let him down. elementary school teacher, stay-at-home-dad, yo-yo player... not the kind of stuff that typically garners one great accolades. and yet i know he's proud of me. i truly wouldn't feel 'worth it' had i not spent my entire childhood (and now adulthood) being SHOWN that i am by both he and my mom.
my most persistent memory of my childhood is probably playing catch with my dad. i have no sense for how many hours we spent in our various backyards (or at campsites, or at the grand canyon, or at the 'field of dreams' in dyersville, ia) tossing a baseball back and forth. it seems as though our relationship was built up gradually, one throw at a time. i first recognized the end of my childhood following one such catch around age 15. i was a strong (though wild) pitcher, and i turned the fingers of his left hand into swollen sausages and covered his palm with a pulpy bruise. i've always had a problem with accuracy (i once hit three consecutive batsmen, and then gave up a grandslam - no joke), but when i threw the ball across three lawns he never complained, beyond mocking his own inability to leap the 8 feet needed to catch them or else pick them out of the dirt. he never laughed or discouraged me. he did, however, make me run after them, which i did not fully appreciate at the time.
there are a number of things that i just could never imagine him doing. virtually all of them are dishonorable. he compulsively deflects praise to those around him, especially to my mother, which is appropriate considering the yeoman's effort she brought to our family. my dad isn't some kind of saint, as i'm surely making it sound... he just tries really hard to be a good man, and he's done it for so long i don't think he even recognizes it as 'trying' anymore. it's taken me a lifetime to fully understand it, but if he weren't my dad; if he were some random guy that i met at a dinner party and learned a bit about... he would still absolutely be my hero.
it's too easy to see my parents as an inseparable unit, ignoring their individual outlooks and efforts. they're as head-over-heels in love today as i imagine they were 35 years ago, a fact i found nauseating as a teenager, but which i find endearing now. while i've always seen my dad as a calm, consistent force, my mom is just pure, unyielding energy. the second of six sisters, the rhode island home where she grew up still shudders with laughter whenever the family is together (probably even when it's empty, at this point). she will kick your ass in whatever board game, whether you're 6 or 60 (though her ferocity has dimmed slightly through playing against her granddaughter), and although my dad loves the outdoors, i've always seen it as my mom's affinity for growing things that has sent the pair of them hiking through essentially all of our national parks. it was not until i became a [comparatively inept] homemaker and cook that i came to appreciate the full spectrum of what she did for us. she plays with my kids for hours. not 'watches them play'; plays with them, and usually harder than they do. my daughter loves when she comes over, not just because she's willing to play pretend... but because no one else has ever dared her to be so imaginative.
it was my dad who serendiptously picked out the o-boy, and this post was meant to be about him... but to try and yammer on about him and NOT my mom would be tantamount to pulling a portuguese man-o-war from the ocean so as to point out its features - it would immediately disintegrate. my mom loves my dad like the sea loves living things, and vice versa. each is now composed of the other.
i know an awful lot of people who have had really difficult, awkward relationships with their parents. in some respects it makes me feel guilty for having so many warm memories of my own. i didn't do anything to deserve an amazing family - no one does, just as sure as no one deserves a dull or abusive one. the worst of it is the knowledge that there is absolutely no way to repay them. ever. my dad didn't 'sweep in' and save the day valiantly one time. he saved EVERY day. my mom maintained a kind of glue that not only kept our family together; it electrified it. they're not dead, and i don't mean to preemptively eulogize them. but my whole life, now both steady and exciting in its own right, has been built around the scaffolding they provided. the closest approximation to karmic recompense that i can imagine is to be that kind of father - that kind of person - for my own son and daughter.
alex is up from his nap... guess i should get off the damn computer. ;)