I just learned over the weekend that my father was nicknamed “Hound Dog” in high school, which I am delighted to know because that is such an awesome nickname.
The topic came up Sunday when my sister and Mom came to visit.
This was their first trip to my house, and the first time they met my future mother-in-law. For background, my birthday was a few days prior and I was born the same day that Elvis Presley died.
That day is a very emotional time for hardcore Elvis fans — as I go to the bar for a few celebratory beers, they are mourning the loss of an icon who loved peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
Normally I stay away from anything serious in this column. There is too much of that in every other direction we turn.
So I am going to get this part out of the way quickly. You can skip over the next couple of paragraphs if you don’t want me to bum you out.
My dad passed away in July. Although he wasn’t healthy, nobody realized he was that ill. We actually were told he would be OK one day, and then the complete opposite the following day.
He was a great man, with a wonderful sense of humor — and now I’ve learned that he had an awesome nickname in high school.
Dad was a fan of Elvis. He was not the type of fan who would bawl at the gates of Graceland each year on the anniversary of his death.
Instead, the anniversary of the singer’s death took a back seat to cake and ice cream after 1977. But Dad was a big enough fan that his pals called him Hound Dog because that was his favorite Elvis song.Now that is a really cool nickname.
So much better than what some kids are called — like “Lumpy” or even “Spanky.”
I never really had a great nickname that stuck. I do get called “Scoop” and the occasional “Flash,” but neither of those are consistent.
I also get called Clark Kent, but for some reason it stops there. Nobody really calls me “Superman,” which I find weird. I am just waiting to rip off my button down shirt and show off the Superman undershirt I have worn every day for eight years. Which reminds me, I should wash that sometime.
I don’t know if there was more to Dad’s nickname than that he was a fan of the song. What kind of behavior elicits the moniker “Hound Dog”?
I am pretty certain that he didn’t make a habit of howling, but I didn’t know him in high school. Through the years, his nickname faded away.
It probably didn’t stick because Hound Dog doesn’t come to mind when you see a man carry home the neighbor girl who fell off her bike, or the guy coaching Little League baseball. Dad always was teasing and joking, even to his children’s new friends who he didn’t quite know yet.
It was a very comfortable humor that made uneasiness float away.
From the stories I hear, and the few I remember, my older sister was an easy target for his jokes. She fell for them all of the time, sometimes making her jump after a quick scare.
In his last days, Dad was made comfortable and lasted just about a day after we were told how grave his condition actually was. We pulled an all-nighter in the hospital before he passed away.
That night I learned a lot about the man who I had always been close to. I heard many stories of the things he did before I was born — tales of both his compassion and of his pranks.
I heard the story of a neighbor, who lived across the cul-de-sac from the small Milford, Mich., home where I grew up. He was a nervous, timid man.
During Halloween night this neighbor was alone as my dad watched trick or treaters walk up the man’s steps and ring his doorbell. Hound Dog timed his phone call perfectly. As the neighbor opened the door to hand out candy, Dad was calling his home phone.
The man was a wreck as my dad repeatedly called him each time children rang the doorbell.
I never heard that story before then, but I will always remember it.
While sitting in the hospital room for his last hours, my entire family, both brothers, my sister, my mother and my future wife (who he loved since the first time they met) shared time sitting next to Dad, holding his hand or touching some part of him with the hopes that he knew we were all there.
His breathing slowed and it was several seconds between breaths. The glances throughout the room were an agreement that Dad had breathed his final breath.
It was a silent contract among my family that the grieving process was to begin. In that solemn moment, my sister got close to my father to see if she could hear him breathing and to give him one last kiss from his only daughter.
That’s when he let out his final roar of a breath, scared the hell out of my sister and made my entire family laugh uncontrollably.
Even in his final moment, he made my sister shriek... which is exactly what a guy called Hound Dog would do.