I can see it now, the maroon trucker’s hat (though in those days they were just called ball caps, back when hard nylon netting and a cheap polyester wrapped around a foam core was what all baseball hats looked like) with the bold white lettering spelling out “SPUD.” I don’t know why he owned that hat, but I know when I realized “SPUD” backward was “DUPS” Dad decided that would be my nickname. It wasn’t a long-lasting name, but it came out every time he wore the hat.
And I can see it on his head as we finished one of our many camping trips along the Platte River, the ones where we had our perfect spot, backed right up in the alcove bordered by a thin strip of woods before we met a small stream deviating from the larger river – the stream Dad fell in once, when we visited for a day in the winter and he didn’t realize he was heavier than the icy barrier could handle. He wore that hat as he and I competed in the ritual egg toss that signaled the end of our camping adventures. He always saved at least three eggs from those he cooked every morning on the Coleman camp stove – because he couldn’t go a morning without his sunny-side-ups - so each of us could have a shot at besting the others, seeing who was really the best at tossing an egg with Dad.
And that name, “DUPS,” isn’t the only time he took the “backwards” approach. Maybe I was so fascinated by reading backwards because my dad taught me the alphabet backward before I learned it forward – a fact I’m still a little proud of to this day, because it makes me unique. And I can still rattle it off, starting at “Z,” just as fast as I can forward. Thanks, Dad.
So, for all those times he seemed to be doing it a little backwards, a little unconventionally, I still appreciate the Dad my father was. He wasn’t always perfect, and he still isn’t, but he has never given up, on himself or on us, and has only improved with age. Happy Father’s Day to the reason I’m here.