My Dad knows everything
We sat with our backs stiff, intently listening as Dad pulled into the faded parking lot of a bowling alley. He wrenched the gear into park and turned in his seat to face us.
“Technique is the key to bowling,” he held up one finger to emphasize his point, then went on to explain in lavish detail.
My two younger siblings and I had never been bowling before and thus paid careful attention to his every word.
Dad knows everything. There was no doubt about it. From the confidence gleaming from his eyes to the raw talent dripping from his fingertips, Dad was by far the world’s most experienced bowler.
At least that’s what we assumed.
Timid, we filed after him one by one like a line of ducklings trailing a mother duck. He strode into the building with an air of pride as he thrust the doors open to either side. The dimly lit scene of colorful tables facing narrow strips of slick bowling lanes made my throat constrict. I watched with rapt attention as an elderly gentleman gracefully thrust a dark purple ball down an alley which glided smoothly until it crashed with a loud crack into the pins below. A scream to my left jerked my head to see a boy leap away from a ball that apparently landed on his toe. Another yelp to the right showed the sad frame of a man bent double in front of his track, the ball he had tossed stuck between two alleyways.
Dad surveyed the spectacle with his chest puffed slightly. “That, my children,” he said, pointing to the man bent in sorrow over his lost ball. “Is what not to do. I’ll demonstrate how to do it properly.”
Once we’d paid and gotten our bowling shoes, we again filed after our father to the lane assigned to us. It was one of the end lanes, adjacent to a young family with two little kids who used a walker-like contraption to help guide the ball towards the pins. Dad glanced at it and scoffed.
“If you feel like you can’t handle it, you can use one of those,” he said, jerking his head towards the odd contraption. “I’ve never used them, but they’re good for beginners.”
He then led us to the shelves where all the bowling balls were, and carefully explained how to select the best one. We stared at him fixedly, wishing we’d brought pen and paper to jot down all this terrific advice.
Balls in hand, we returned to our table and sat down to listen while Dad carried on with his detailed instructions. He elucidated the various stances and techniques used for different shots, taught us which fingers to place in the ball, and even went so far as to describe the muscles used to toss it.
Dad knows everything.
The best demonstration ever!
The time for demonstration had arrived. Satisfied that he’d taught us enough basics to survive, he turned to face the alley. Lifting the ball to his chin, he paused for a brief moment to take a calming breath, then swung his arm back and charged forward. Apparently there’s a red line on the lane that you’re not supposed to cross. Also the workers evidently grease the track to allow the bowling balls to travel more quickly. Perhaps Dad didn’t know this, or maybe he just forgot, but whichever the case, he bolted straight past the warning red line onto the slippery lane beyond. Immediately he lost his footing and scrambled to get it back, jerking and twisting his legs in a mad dance. It looked the way I imagine a baby horse would when stepping on ice for the first time. In a panicked effort to regain control, he tossed the ball across the many rows of surprised bowlers and began flinging his arms about in wide circles. The sudden shift in weight thrust him off balance and he careened backwards onto the floor, all the while still traveling down the lane. None too pleased with this new position, he began kicking his legs out wildly, which did nothing but spin him in circles. Now looking like a beetle stuck on its back, we watched our self-assured father spin closer and closer to the pins at the far end. He would have made it too had he not reached out and grabbed one of the gutter lanes. After much struggle and many sour words, he half dragged, half army-crawled his way back to the start line. We faithful followers burst into loud laughter long ago, and could barely see through the tears of unabashed mirth. Dad gruffly placed both fists on his hips and stuck out his chin. An embarrassed smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as a hot flush of red crawled up his cheeks.
“I was trying to demonstrate what NOT to do,” he said at last, nodding as though it were a very serious situation.
That made us roar all the more.
In truth, I cannot remember the rest of that afternoon, although Dad claims that he scored nothing but strikes and spares from then on out, because nothing stuck more deeply in my memory than that glorious “proper” demonstration.