Zip Lining

Every year at the start of August*, when my pool days are dwindling and I’m getting the itch to get back into my classroom to set up, I begin to think, with a mixture of summer nostalgia and a touch of excitement for fall, of my favorite summer memories…

…like the July several years ago when my dad got a tick on his back and allowed it to suckle until it was as fat as a pulsating cantaloupe because his metal spatula, as he explained later, wasn’t long enough to reach it and scrape it off.  So he decided to just “let it hang out for a while,” naming it Omar and using the spatula as a mirror so he could say hi to Omar’s reflection when he “felt a little lonely.” (My dad is a bachelor and all of us kids are long out of the house but don’t let him fool you when he’s trying to gain sympathy or attention—he prefers it that way until he has a tick stuck to his back.)

My brothers and sisters and I didn’t know anything about Omar, but we began to get a bit concerned when we would visit Dad and watch him stumble into things like big, easy-to-maneuver-around couches in the middle of the living room while dazedly murmuring the phrase “tick fever” over and over.  If I’m being completely honest, I was too busy laughing at him to be too worried.  But one day my older sister, who fancies herself a nurse, was at his house and decided she’d had enough of the nonsense. So she smacked him across the face, and that provided a few moments of clarity in which the whole sordid story came tumbling out. My older sister happens to be one of those gross pimple-popper weirdos who loves doing things like squeezing ticks right off of her dad’s fleshy, hairy back, and so she killed Omar, basically saving my dad’s life.

It should also be noted that this very same sister also gets her kicks from doing things like preserving the bloodied, tattered tick corpses from her father’s back in a Ziploc bag for the next time she sees you so she can hold it up to your face until you scream and run away. There’s something wrong with that girl.

Sometimes when I’m feeling a little bloated and want to drop a pound or two, I just think of the little piece of dried, translucent Dad-skin that was hanging from one of Omar’s tiny mangled tick legs along with the small spot of congealed blood (Omar’s or Dad’s?) crusted into a crumble that had settled in the corner of that Ziplock bag. I certainly can’t eat for a few hours after that.

My sister swears she only saved it “for testing,” but I tell you what, I never saw her drag that dead tick bag to any clinics. She’s a dirty liar.

My dad’s response to her antics?  A teary “Look what you’ve done to Omar! He’s barely recognizable.  He was my best friend for three days…”

“You wore that tick on your back for THREE DAYS?” my sister snapped.

Anyway, I wrote about Dad and his tick Omar on an old blog that I used to have but had to take down when it started getting really popular and my boss, a writer himself, got jealous. He’s retired now so I’ll post the story here sometime soon.

In the meantime, one of my current favorite summertime memories that doesn’t include ticks, at least not that I know of:

It all began at the start of summer 2021, when my younger sister and I made plans to rent a cabin in Gatlinburg with our families.

We told our dad about our Gatlinburg plans, and we were surprised when he said “Why didn’t you invite me? You know I love to travel!”

And it’s true; we do know he loves to travel. In fact, I attribute my own passion for traveling as something I got directly from my dad.  The only reason we hadn’t asked him to come along with us was because his answer is always the same:  a self-important huff, a roll of his eyes as if we should know better by now, and a “No thanks.  You guys cramp my style…you slow me down.”

I pointed this out to him, but then I said, “Of course you’re invited. You’re always invited.”

My little sister quickly jumped in. “But the cabin only has three bedrooms and they’re all spoken for, so you get an air mattress on the floor.”

My dad was as excited as a kid on Christmas.  “You know me!” he exclaimed. “I don’t need much!  An air mattress will be fine as long as I’m close to an outlet so I can hook up my C-PAP!”

I brought along my older sister’s son because I’m still convinced that he was supposed to be mine and God just mixed up the wombs accidentally, and my sister sometimes plays along—especially when it involves a trip because her boy inherited the travel bug, too.

We all had the best time in the world.  We ziplined, whiskey-tasted, hot tubbed, hiked, rode mountain coasters, smoked cigars, spotted bears, shopped, tasted fudge, bought handmade knives, sipped margaritas on the deck of an open-air Mexican restaurant while watching people meander the streets below, and we rode ski lifts—which was the only awful, scary part of the trip and I’ll never do it again. (UGH. There go my dreams of becoming a movie star and vacationing in Vail with the Kardashians.) 

It was beautiful in Gatlinburg. Glorious.  If you’ve never been, I definitely recommend a trip there.

What my dad told people for months afterward, though, as he was going through the highlights of the trip, his eyes cast downward in a practiced old-man pitiful gaze, was, “My daughters made me sleep on an air mattress that they shoved into the corner of the living room with their toes.  I don’t even think it was blown up all the way; my back hurt for days. And all the grandkids were kicking me and laughing as they ran by.  Can you believe the way they treat me?  I don’t get no respect!”

Ah, Rodney Dangerfield.  Again.

My dad was being dramatic. The kids weren’t doing that. 

Or heck, maybe they were.  But if it did happen and my dad wasn’t just being dramatic, then it was probably really funny and I’m sorry I missed it.

I think the vision of my dad getting kicked by a bunch of little kids is a good one to pause on for now.  I’ll finish the story in a future installment that I’m thinking of entitling “Ziplining Part 3:  The Never-Ending Story”.

You can find the first part of the story here

*I wrote this in August, when my pool days were dwindling and I was getting the itch


The man himself at my cousin's wedding last weekend.  Omar was NOT his +1, thank God.


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