“Hankie, keys. Comb, wallet-ey…”

God, seriously?

“Dad, I’m going to be late for school.”

But my complaint doesn’t have the desired effect of stopping my Dad. He is compelled to start his ritual over again. Depending on how late we were and whether my brother was around to join in with me in interrupting him and making fun, I’d either be slightly amused by this compulsion or slightly annoyed. But I was always resigned, because Dad would not leave the house without doing the whole thing no matter how many interruptions he faced.

“Hankie, keys. Comb, wallet-ey,” starting over, he checks two of his pockets.

“Ring, watch,” while he checks to make sure his wedding band is where it always is, on his left ring finger, and watch, well I never know why he says this, since he doesn’t wear one.

“Nuttin’, nuttin’,” as he clarifies that his two always-empty pockets are indeed empty. I always wondered what would happen if he found something in one of his “nuttin’, nuttin'” pockets.

“Barn door’s locked,” as he makes sure his fly isn’t open.

And finally, “O-F-F, O-F-F, O-F-F, O-F-F, O-F-F,” as he individually checks each knob on the stove. I learn never to interrupt him this late in the ritual, because he would still have to start over and then you essentially have to wait for him to go through it twice.

Even though I don’t remember any instance of Dad uncovering something forgotten through this routine (maybe the occasional unzipped fly?), he had to do it anyway. Dad drove me to school every morning for years. I estimate I heard this at least a thousand times.

I haven’t heard Dad say this in almost 24 years, but I can still hear it. And picture myself, school-uniformed, arms crossed, tapping my foot by the back door in the kitchen waiting for the last “O-F-F.”


This week’s writing prompt was: “We want to know what, from your childhood, do you still know by heart?”

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12 Responses to “Ritual”

  1. NC Narrator
    Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 12:58 am #

    I loved this – especially the “God, seriously?” I can really her the aggravation! It makes me wonder what I do that makes my kids nuts?

    • logyexpress
      Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

      Thanks. That’s an interesting thought. Maybe you’ll learn what drove your kids nuts when they start blogging!

  2. Galit Breen
    Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 1:54 am #

    This memory is warm and strong. I can hear him and can tell that you can, too.

    Also? My dad had quirks {Let’s chat about them over drinks one day, shall we?} and what I read in your words was how *I* felt when I was little. That’s powerful stuff, GF!

    • logyexpress
      Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

      Thanks! I would definitely love to chat for real one day…although I do think I’d need a drink to talk about Dad.

  3. Kelly Garriott Waite
    Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    So well done! You bring us right there in the room with you. I love restarting after the ritual has been interrupted. You really show this well.

  4. NotJustAnotherJennifer
    Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    My dad had coffee every morning. He always stirred in the sugar – four times around the cup – then tap-tap-tap the spoon on the rim before setting it down on the table – clink-clink. I never realized how ingrained this was until one day he only tapped twice and my sister said, “Dad! You did it wrong!”

  5. AmyBeth Inverness
    Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    This fits the prompt so perfectly, and if different from many others I’ve read today.

    I can understand the OCD that drives a person to go through such little rituals before they can move on. Isn’t it odd how someone else’s idiosyncrasies can become embedded in our memory?

  6. Frelle
    Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    thank you for this perspective, your retelling of those moments with your dad were vivid and crystal clear. You were able to write about it and convey only mild irritation at the idiosyncracy, and Im glad, as an adult, that it;s not something that you remember driving you bonkers, just annoyed.

  7. Katie
    Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

    Perfect! I have felt your frustration. I have lived your frustration. And yet, now, what I wouldn’t give to go back and relive some of those frustrating moments with my parents. Being grown up makes you realize how much those moments truly mean. Great job with this prompt…I loved being taken through your dad’s ritual, one that you still know by heart. very nice job!

  8. Renee McKinley
    Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    I can see that foot tapping. And I imagine some eye rolling went along with it.
    Isn’t it crazy how something that annoyed you growing up, becomes a missed part of your life later.

    Well done.

    • logyexpress
      Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

      Oh yes, the eye rolling. I’m sure there was plenty of that too. It’s funny how people keep commenting on the grudging affection my Dad posts reveal. If nothing else, he provides good fodder for memoir posts!


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