Since Father’s Day is this weekend, I thought that it would be a great tribute to my father, John Bowman, to channel my Inner Marcia Brady and to let him (and everyone who reads this) know why I believe he deserves to be nominated (and win) the title of Father of the Year…if not the Century.
I’m the eldest of four children. I am proud to say that I am my father’s daughter. From sinus issues, a love for red Flair pens, and the urge to lunge over the table and smack the person slurping their soup in a restaurant, there is daily proof that I am most definitely my father’s daughter.
After forty-plus years of teaching in San Diego and becoming one of its most revered natives, I am sorry to say, however, that I don’t have quite the same fan base that he has, but pulling out the “Yes, Mister Bowman is my father” card has gotten me out of more than a few speeding tickets when the cop in question has been one of his former students. In short, my father has become a legend.
Allow me to share with you what it’s like to be the daughter of “a legend.”
First of all, being seen out with my father anywhere in the Greater San Diego vicinity is like hanging out with Gandhi. Or Elvis.
“Mister Bowman! You were my favorite teacher, dude … I mean, sir!”
“Mister B!! You still living in that bright pink house on Lemon?”
(Please note that said pink house – Pepto Bismol pink to be exact – has been repainted … proving that fifteen years of praying does pay off)
“JB! You used to scare the sh*t out of me! You still giving the kids hell?”
What can I say? My dad is a legend AND a bad ass.
My father could also easily be on the cover of Dr. Laura’s book, Bad Childhood, Good Life, because he is living proof that even experiencing the most devastating childhood is no excuse not to show up and make a positive difference in this world as an adult.
Hear that, annoying and ungrateful child stars from the Seventies, Eighties, and Lindsay Lohan?
At age six, my dad experienced not only witnessing the brutal murder of his own mother at the hands of his stepfather (who then immediately committed suicide in front of my dad and his half-sister), but even after years of being shuffled from family home to family home as an orphan, and despite all of the hard knocks dealt to him in the following years, John Bowman put himself through school and became one of the most respected and revered teachers in San Diego history.
Because he held the position of teaching English-Lit at a private high school, there were many evenings when he’d return home after working a second job. He and my mother both got up and went to work every single day of my childhood, and Pop, living on the fumes five hours of sleep each night (since his source of relaxation was watching Johnny Carson) and teaching all day, still dragged up the energy to help his four kids with our homework and school projects.
And speaking of living on fumes, one summer he drove from San Diego to USC three days a week for courses enabling him to earn his coveted PhD. But even when he got home from those hot summer commutes, bleary eyed from the drive and the smog, he would still patiently translate what Ricky Ricardo was screaming at Lucy in Spanish as we kids whiled away our summer afternoons watching reruns of I Love Lucy.
My father is the first to gush about the love he has for his children. He has often told us that his life completely changed for the best once we entered the picture. And when I look through the photos of him holding us as babies, I can see, even from the back of his head, the pure joy we brought to his life.
Admittedly, we were pretty spoiled, but Pop never allowed it go to our heads. There was always a reality check. Like the time when I was five years old and I begged him to take to me see the annual Mother Goose Parade. He explained to me that it would be just as fun to watch it from our home on television. In other words, we wouldn’t be heading to witness the nursery rhyme pageantry in living color, and when I whined about how it would only be in black and white on our television set, Pop graciously offered to lend me his sunglasses. Wise guy. Gee, wonder where I got it ...
Our annual family trips to Disneyland trips were always colorful. Whenever we’d ask him how far til we get there, he’d say “a hundred miles” and as we’d cruise north on Interstate 5 and spy the Matterhorn, all hell would break loose. And it would continue to break loose at the end of our stay at The Magic Kingdom when we’d all promise to meet at three o’clock (no later!) at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle to gather for the two-hour drive home.
The best laid plans of Mickey Mouse and men.
There Pop would be, seated on the stone bench, puffing impatiently on his pipe as we all arrived at least thirty minutes later than we’d promised, and his reaction was classic.
“Where have you been? If I have to listen to that gawddamn cricket sing ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ one more time, I’m gonna shoot him.”
Pop also has one of the most infectious laughs of all time. So boisterous and contagious, in fact, that to this day, if any of his kids are in a show, the rest of the cast makes us sign in blood that we will make sure he’s got a prime seat so that they can hear him guffaw and hopefully start a wave effect throughout the entire audience at the most opportune and hilarious moments.
And speaking of hilarious (or medicated) moments … what about boys and dating when you’re the daughter of a legend?
Pop had little to no patience with my boy crazy ways which started at the age of FOUR when I proclaimed that I would be marrying Davy Jones of The Monkees very soon.
Pop’s response to my wedding plans?
“Well, you’d better hurry up since you’ll be taller than he is by your next birthday.”
(He was right)
After Davy came the long line of what he deemed “long hairs” and their only purpose was to help destroy the paint on my bedroom walls. Anyone whose last name was “Cassidy” guaranteed some head scratching on Pop’s part.
“What talent? They both look like girls.”
Oh, and speaking of boys … did I mention that the private high school where he taught was ALL boys?
Yeah, go ahead and ask me how easy it was to get a guy to look at my photo in the church directory, much less ask me out when they all knew that my father was not only the toughest teacher at Saint Augustine’s but the Vice Principal Disciplinarian as well.
And my parents wondered why I moved to Los Angeles at age twenty? It was so I could get a DATE. There were no guys in the greater San Diego area that hadn’t either heard of my dad or who experienced, first hand, his reputation for taking no prisoners. And as the eldest daughter of said warden, NO boy would ever have that much courage to make a move. Just the gay ones.
During my “teen angst” years (when he nicknamed me “Sarah Heartburn”) I wondered if Pop and I would ever really understand each other. We’d scream and slam doors and sulk. But we always made up. We were too much alike, even though I often felt that he “just didn’t understand!!” And I often wondered if I would ever understand who my dad REALLY was beneath that gruff, bad ass exterior.
Then one day it all came together and the planets aligned.
I was in his office secretly digging through the desk drawers in search of one of the red Flair pens, and after shuffling through some graded papers and pipe cleaners, I came upon a sight so incredible that I swear I heard the angels sing. If I’d been a teen smoker, I’d have needed a cigarette. I had just landed upon the Secret Scrolls.
One entire drawer of The Feared One’s desk was filled with a stack of MAD Magazines.
So THIS is who my dad really is.
A brilliant, well read, respected and revered, feared, intelligent-beyond-measure GOOF BALL.
Yes, I am most definitely my father’s daughter.
I love you, Pop.
Happy Father’s Day!
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