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Mon, March 25

Father of the Year 'don't get no respect'

Father's Day, a day to honor dads: Sounds too good to be true.

Now, I don't know about the rest of the world, but around here I can best express it in the words of Rodney Dangerfield: "I don't get no respect."

For moms, Mother's Day is a complete opposite. They get flowers and special cards from the kids expressing love and admiration. They also get feted at various restaurants around the city, while Dad has to get his own breakfast.

This year I got a card from my daughter and her husband. In it, I was likened to a kid with my ability to push buttons on the remote control with equal dexterity and speed.

I must admit that's almost true. I do hit the buttons quickly, but too often it's the wrong button. Then I realize I've forgotten which button I wanted to push in the first place.

I have been told that there are three signs of old age. One is loss of memory and I forget the other two. It doesn't matter, though. I really don't think I'm that old.

However, I recall some advice I received as a kid. An older guy put his arm around my shoulders and offered me this bit of wisdom: "Don't get old. There's no future in it."

Needless to say, being a smart-aleck kid, I didn't listen.

I get a chuckle out of dads who allegedly get neckties for Father's Day. That's a joke. I don't think anyone wears neckties anymore, except on TV. Also gone are monogrammed handkerchiefs.

I remember the problems I had finding a gift for my father. He didn't hunt or fish. He did go to a lot of ball games, though. So one year I got him one of those cushioned chairs that hook onto the bench in the bleachers.

He liked that. He would carry it under his arm as he went through the turnstile, all the while carefully concealing the bottle in the brown paper bag in the other hand. And no one noticed the paper cups in his coat pocket. My dad knew how to enjoy a ball game.

My own kids have had similar problems getting me gifts. Not having money to buy anything, they usually gave me nothing, which really was all right. They would come over and give me a big hug and wish me a happy Father's Day. That meant more to me than any card that would just wind up in the trash, anyway.

It's sad, but all of that money spent on cards for me is just wasted. I never kept any of them, except one. It was a large certificate proclaiming me Father of the Year, and signed by my two youngest. They were pretty young at the time and were really excited when they gave that card to me. I can still see their faces. They were so proud.

My dad never threw anything away. He kept everything - school work, reports cards and greeting cards. My mother complained about all of the boxes of papers he had in the attic. My sister, Pat, the oldest, once quipped that she wouldn't be surprised if he started saving the toilet paper. Then Larry, my older brother, suggested he could make a notation of the date and what he had for breakfast. Dad didn't get much respect, either.

Getting Dad a gift can be a tricky proposition, especially if he's not an outdoorsman. If he's a handyman, you can consider tools. And it seems there is always something related to his hobbies you can get him. The trouble is that if you can afford it, he already has it.

I usually solved the problem for my family by getting myself something I wanted.

"That's your Father's Day present," my wife would say, and that was fine with me. I got something I wanted and wouldn't have to return it. At least I hoped I wouldn't have to return it. I always put the sales receipt in a safe place, just in case.

This year, I decided I wanted an aquarium. We went to the local stores and began checking them out. I was flabbergasted at the prices. Anything that looked good was in the $400 range, which was way out of my price range.

I started watching the classifieds. For days, nothing. Then I found an ad for a 30-gallon tank, complete with fish for $150. I knew this was it. I called, made an appointment and told the people I would be right over.

It was everything I had hoped for and more. It had a wood-grain finish on the top and bottom of the frame that matched the wooden cabinet stand.

It had a curved-glass front, which the cats enjoyed. The curved glass allowed them to see all parts of the tank. Now they didn't have to strain themselves. Cats love tropical fish.

There were five fish in the tank: a Plecostomus, or algae eater, that was about 8 inches long and a pair of Shubunkins that are like poi, the fish in outdoor ponds.

The female was about 7 inches long and the male was about 5 inches. I immediately named the algae eater Wiggles. The other two were Ma and Pa Kettle.

There were also two smaller tetras, which I named Giddy-up and Crowbar, after the "Ma and Pa Kettle" show.

I could hardly wait to get home and set up my new aquarium. It reminded me of how I felt the day I got my first aquarium.

It was my 12th birthday and I had received some money as birthday presents. My mother had allowed me to go downtown and do my own shopping.

There was a pet shop in town, Taylor's Pet and Feed.

They always had a bunch of puppies in the window and in the spring they carried baby chickens, ducks and rabbits.

They also had a large number of aquariums filled with brightly colored fish.

In past years, I had occasionally bought a baby chicken or duck. Mom was very tolerant.

She allowed me to keep it in a box in the corner of the dining room. As the pet got older and bigger, they would take it out to my uncle's farm in Washington Terrace just outside of Ogden, Utah.

I began to look around and ask questions. As it turned out, I had just enough money for a 5-gallon tank, a hood and an angelfish. I'm not sure my feet even touched the ground on the way home.

My parents were very proud of my purchases. They had been afraid I would blow my money on useless toys.

Mom helped me get a table and cleared a spot in the dining room. I got a pitcher out of the kitchen and began hauling water to fill the tank. I must have made 50 trips to the kitchen and back.

Finally, the tank was full and I carefully opened the carton that contained the fish and cautiously poured the contents into the tank.

He began swimming around, curious about his new surroundings. I sat watching him until my mother made me turn off the aquarium light and go to bed. I went to sleep thinking of tropical fish and planning how to get more.

The next morning, I hopped out of bed and hurried into the dining room and turned on the light on my fish tank. I was heartbroken to see my angelfish floating near the surface. I had just gotten my first lesson in caring for tropical fish.

That evening, my Uncle Walt came over with a jar of guppies. "These will be better for you to start with," he explained.

I had seen the large tanks of tropical fish Uncle Walt had. He also suggested that I get an air pump and a filter to clean the water. I thought he was the greatest. With his encouragement, I began learning more about tropical fish.

Several years ago I had another aquarium, a 20-gallon affair. I had gone down to the fish store and purchased a variety of fish, and was very pleased with the way it looked.

"Fish are smart," the clerk had told me. "Why is that?" I asked. "Because they go to school," he replied.

Being a bit of a wit, I asked, "Well, if they're so smart, how come they get caught?"

The clerk hesitated only a moment before replying," Sometimes they play hooky."

I loved that brightly lit aquarium, but soon became puzzled when I noticed some fish had disappeared. I first suspected the cat, which seemed very interested in the fish.

Later, I found a dead fish on the floor and realized the cat wasn't at fault. Apparently, the fish had been studying in school and had decided to test Darwin's theory of evolution: survival of the fittest.

I was happy with my new Father's Day tank, but felt limited by the number of fish I had. The Shubunkins so dominated the tank that I had little room for the more exotic fish I wanted.

I went down to Petco and talked to a clerk about my problem.

"You know that they are basically cold-water fish and don't do well in an aquarium," the clerk said.

"OK," I replied. "About how big do they grow?"

"They usually grow to the size of the tank," the clerk said. That made sense to me. "One more question: If I put it into a smaller tank, will it shrink?" I'm still waiting for the answer to that one.

I saw some decorative rocks. I particularly liked two of them. One was $8 and the other was $5.

"How come this one is more expensive?" I asked. The clerk took a quick look and said, "Because it has a hole in it."

I did like that rock, so I paid the $3 for the hole. I just hope the donut people don't find out about this.


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