The Man Underneath This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   Mydad's looks are unassuming. His shoulders hunch so far forward that he looks agood two inches shorter than his 6'1" frame, his hair has deserted him, apartfrom his salt-and-pepper beard, and he refuses to wear a toupee or do thecomb-over. His clothes are either green or brown, suggesting that camouflage istheir most important attribute. In short, my father always looks as though hewishes he could disappear like a small insect in the grass. But this man wholooks as though he'd like to be invisible looms large in the lives ofothers.

A huge part of my dad's character is patience mixed with rawstubbornness. The year I was born, my dad began restoring a '58 Austin Healey, asmall, zippy car whose engine snarls. It is funny that my dad, a man of suchslow, deliberate pace, should choose a car of such arrogance and speed. When heshipped the Healey home from a junkyard in South Carolina, it barely resembled acar. The body was so rusted that it was impossible to determine the originalcolor, and there were no doors or outer frame.

My dad labored for tenyears to restore that car. I remember him tenderly covering the pitted bulk withour old baby blankets. Every afternoon, like clockwork, my dad would be under thecar, flat on his back, tinkering away. With his arms and legs waving in alldirections and the fluorescent light of our garage glowing on his bald head, helooked like a frantic June bug flipped on its back. Now that he's finishedrestoring the Healey, he keeps it covered for fear of scratches. But sometimesI'll see him sitting quietly in the garage, puffing on his Sunday afternooncigar, having pulled back the Healey's cover to display the glory of his thirdchild.

Though my dad's patience is evident from the success of hislong-term endeavors, he has another quality that is invisible to the rest of theworld: passion - for God, country and family. He was raised to believe that thisis the proper order of devotion, and that eventually each man's loyalty to theseinstitutions would be tested. I remember tears in his eyes when he said, "IfI were to fail in my duties, I would fail as a man. That's one test I don't wantto flunk." To my knowledge, my father never has.

And just as heserves God, he served his country. My dad was a pilot in the Navy before he metmy mom. He loved flying, but infinitely more, he loved demonstrating hispatriotism. I think it hurt that he was unable to fly combat missions in Vietnambecause he was trained late in the war when pilots were no longer needed.

Instead, he served in Alaska, performing communication experiments ofvery low frequencies. The fact is, I don't think my dad was cut out for combat.His spirit is far too gentle. Still, the walls of his office are lined withpictures of fighter planes. I think he displays them as a reminder of what he waswilling to sacrifice for the life he enjoys today.

My dad has manyadmirable qualities, but perhaps most likable is his sense of humor. He misuseswords intentionally, such as "selfdefecating" and"demandatory." He calls me nicknames like Honey Booger Chick Pie andToba Roba From Manitoba, and gives nicknames to inanimate objects; a calculatoris an "electronic sweetheart." But his humor is not just reserved forhis family; he'll try to make anyone smile. In the grocery store, he cracks jokeswith the bag-boy. In a restaurant, he never fails to make the waitstaff smile.

How strange it is that my dad, a man who often wishes not to be noticed,should have a quality that not only makes him noticeable, but also endears him toothers. My dad calls this "cracking the face," and though it's harderto do with some than others, I don't think he has ever failed. Perhaps it isbecause he, too, hides behind a shell.

My dad's looks suggest that he isa man with a strong desire to go through life unnoticed. But he will never beignored because his personality shines, and his sense of humor and ability to"crack a face" attract people far more effectively than clothing orlooks ever could.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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