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Published June 15, 2013, 11:01 PM

When did you know you morphed into your father?

COMSTOCK, Minn. – It wasn’t so long ago that Phillip “Mack” Hermann woke to the realization that he’d become his father.

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

COMSTOCK, Minn. – It wasn’t so long ago that Phillip “Mack” Hermann woke to the realization that he’d become his father.

Of course, it helped that he did that waking up on his father’s old couch.

Fathers can pass many things on down to their sons and daughters – life skills, family lore, how to stay out of trouble with their mother.

But when The Forum asked readers how they knew they had morphed into their fathers, Hermann, 34, only had to look at his well-worn white couch to know the answer.

“I knew I’d become my dad when I started taking naps on the couch and then getting up only to go to bed for the evening,” Hermann said.

His father gave him the couch, which saw its best days in the 1990s. Until it entered Hermann’s house, he and his wife, Angie, were recliner people.

“The price was right – it was free,” Hermann said. “He was glad to get rid of it. And I told him I’m keeping the $5 I found in it.”

The couch first belonged to Hermann’s grandmother. While dated, there is competition for it from the couple’s mini Dachshund and a 90-pound boxer/Labrador retriever mix.

“There’s plenty of room for all three (of us), but if they’re on there before me” it won’t happen. “It’s comfortable for many different species,” Hermann said.

In the meantime, Hermann’s father, Jerry, of Georgetown, Minn., had knee surgery and is now using a lift chair, which Hermann also rates as comfy.

“I can’t recall the last time I was in the recliner. This is where I sit in the morning before I go to work. And it’s where I sit when I come home from work,” Hermann said.

“This is comfortable. Now I understand exactly why he did what he did. And I just fell into the habit,” he said.

“It’s broke in. It’s a pretty good thing to pass on. There’s a lot of undesirable things people pass on to kids, but this is one of those desirable things most people can agree on.”


When you’ve got an itch

Kerry McCullough knew he had become his dad when he started cleaning his ears with his keys.

“It drove me nuts!” when Milton McCullough, the family patriarch, did that, Kerry said.

“I thought. ‘Don’t put your keys in your ear!’ Now I’ve done it,” the Hope, N.D., 50-year-old said.

“It’s handy. It’s in your pocket. He’d have an itch or something, and it worked.

“He never had any hearing loss that I knew of.”

Mic McCullough, who ran the Hope grocery store, was well-liked in the community. He died nearly nine years ago. In the interim, Kerry finds he’s picked up another of his dad’s habits. Call it a slice of North Dakota nice.

“He waved to everybody. I’d say, ‘Who’s that?’ And he’d say. ‘I don’t know.’

“I find myself doing that. You drive down the highway and you wave to everybody,” Kerry said.


A toast to dad

It was 1967 or 1968, and Jim Brooks was well into his 20s when he pulled into the old Fargo Elks Club.

In that era, the club was still one of the social hot spots in downtown Fargo.

Jim Brooks, now 72, remembers talking to a contemporary of his father, Lee – who had died a couple of years before in April 1965 – just outside the door to the bar.

“Then I turned to walk into the bar and the bartender came. I could see his face. And he set this Old-Fashioned down in front of me,” Brooks said.

“It was my father’s drink. He made a lot of them for my dad,” he said.

The bartender said he looked up and Jim looked so much like his father that he automatically reached for the glass and started mixing Lee’s favorite drink. Even after he realized “It’s Jim, it’s not Lee,” he decided to serve the drink.

It was a sign of friendship from a man who knew the father to his son.

“As it turned out, we laughed about it,” said Brooks, who now lives in St. Paul. “I kept my hands around the glass, and I took a sip of it.”

Memories fade with time. Brooks doesn’t remember the barkeep’s name, but he remembers how much the gesture connected him with his father.

“Friends of dad came over and they sat and talked for a couple of hours,” sharing stories with Brooks about his father.

“And it was all because the bartender looked at me and thought I looked so much like my dad,” he said.

“Whenever I make an Old-Fashioned or I see an Old-Fashioned glass, I think about that,” he said.


Who stepped on a duck?

Ashley Stenerson knows when she began channeling her dad.

It’s when “flatulence became the funniest thing on the planet.”

Apparently, any toot can set the 28-year-old Fargo woman to laughing.

“It’s so funny. I just can’t stop. I just can’t help it,” she said. “My dad … he’d let out a toot and he’d laugh and laugh and laugh.”

Stenerson said her father, Geoff Dennis, of Adrian, Mich., would sometimes unleash some methane while sitting at home, or casually crop-dust a room with colon cologne as he walked on through.

“He’d be on the couch, or walking through a room, and just, ‘Hello!’ Just kind of whenever. And again, I don’t know why it’s so funny,” Stenerson said.

“If someone comes up to you and lets one rip, oh, my God, it’s so awful, but it’s so hilarious,” she said. “I’ll probably pass it on by accident.”

She said the same rules stand for burping and belching.

“If it’s loud and obnoxious, it’s funny!” Stenerson said.


Echo of the past

It’s one thing to hear your father’s voice in your head. It’s another to hear his words come out of your mouth, said Ryan Damlo.

Damlo and his wife and two children live in Wadena, Minn., but he grew up in Park Rapids, Minn., on White Pine Resort at Two Inlets Lake.

His father owned the resort, and Damlo said he and his brothers would have to help out with chores. But his younger sister “was always given a free pass” by five little words from his dad: “She’s just a little girl.”

It became a running joke in the family.

But about a year ago, the 31-year-old said those words himself.

Damlo’s son, Cooper, was 3 years old, and his little sister, Kylie, about 6 months old.

She had been playing with her big brother’s toys, when he got mad and pulled one away from her, making her cry.

That’s when Damlo said: “Cooper, give that back! She’s just a little girl. And I just stopped. Oh my goodness, I’ve just become my father!”

Now that the initial shock has worn off, Damlo hopes the words can become a source of laughter for another generation.

“It’s little words of wisdom. It’s amazing how precious a daughter can be,” Damlo said.

Damlo’s father and mother now live in Castle Rock, Colo. And Damlo said he often calls to thank his dad for the life lessons he learned at his knee.

“I appreciate everything he’s taught me. All the good values,” such as fairness, Damlo said, and pass them down to Cooper.


Old guys’ style

Jeff Gunkel knows when he’s done a working man’s labor. It’s when he’s wearing boots and he’s got one pant leg tucked into one boot, and the other pant leg out.

Just like his dad.

“You’d always see the guy with one cuff up on his pant leg,” the 50-year-old Gunkel said.

“He was a working guy. He was a carpenter. You see that in a lot of old guys,” he said.

Gunkel’s father, Edwin C., lived in Fargo, and died in 1992 at the age of 72.

“Appearance wasn’t a real big thing. He didn’t care what he wore or what he looked like,” said Gunkel, who works as a system analyst for the Jamestown (N.D.) Regional Medical Center.


Giving dad a hand

Dr. Bruce Pitts realized he’d become his father “when I saw his hand coming out of my sleeve.”

Pitts, 63, who is the chief medical officer for Sanford Health, said he’s always been very focused on the hand.

“When I was in medical school doing dissection, I literally could not dissect the hand,” said Pitts, of Fargo.

Pitts said his father, Thomas Edgar Pitts, a retired engineer, is 88 and living in Rhode Island.

“He was always busy. … Every night he’d sit and he’d be drawing machine parts on a pad and working on a slide rule. And I always remember watching his hands.”

Pitts was in his 40s when he made the connection. He remembers sitting at a clinical unit in a hospital in the middle of the night when he made the realization, which both alarmed and gratified him.

“I looked down at my hand, and it was my father’s hand.

“It was, for me, very expressive of the genetic, physical, unchanging” ties to his father.

“That was just a very striking moment for me. It really connected him to me (in a way) that I had not felt very connected before,” Pitts said.

“I guess I’ve always had a focus on hands. ... They are especially human to me. And just a lot of memories of his.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

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