Last Friday, Tiber and drove up to the Minneapolis to see the Mystery Science Theater 3000 live show. I’ve loved MST3K since the early nineties. Last spring, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, MST3K returned to NetFlix with a new cast. Tiber and I watched all of the new episodes and thoroughly enjoyed them. The new cast and crew did an incredible job of capturing the camp and charm of the original low-tech series. I highly recommend it.
When I saw the tour dates and locations, I thought about going. But, eventually dismissed the idea as too expensive. August is always kind of tight for us financially. All the back to school costs really add up and this year we are sending Sydney off to UNI. I mentioned the idea to Jeri but told her it was not going to happen. She is so wise. She recognized the potential value in this type of experience. Tiber would never forget this trip she argued. We can always pull a bit out of savings to pay for a priceless memory. Of course, she was right.
On our way up to the Cities, Tiber and I had a lot of really good conversations. Inevitably, the conversations turned to my youth and my family’s annual fishing vacation to Minnesota each summer. My dad loved these trips. He got one week of vacation a year, and each year we would spend it fishing on a lake. We weren’t serious anglers. Our goal was just to catch enough “pan fish” — bluegills, sunfish, etc… — to eat for the evening meal. The irony to all of this was that on seemingly each of these beloved getaways, my dad would have some type of painful (but often hilarious) mishap. I started to recount the best ones that I remembered to Tiber. Soon, we were both nearly in tears from laughter as we rolled down the road.
After the final story, involving a fish hook, a hospital visit, and my dad demanding a numbing agent even though the shot would cause more pain than the removal of the fish hook, Tiber turned to me and said, “I wish I got the chance to know Grandpa.” My dad had died when Tiber was five months old. I said, “ I do, too. But, he knew you. And, that’s pretty awesome.” My Mom and Dad took care of Tiber for a couple of months the spring he was born.
The conversation then turned to other memories of my Dad. His quick temper. His particular speaking habits. His personal charm and affability. It seemed like wherever we went while in the Cedar Rapids area when I was growing up, someone always recognized my Dad. If we were out eating, someone would always stop by the table and say hello. The same thing would happen at the grocery store or any store for that matter. Wherever we went, he knew someone there and conversations ensued. Dad was great with people. He genuinely enjoyed these interactions. It was one of his gifts.
As I finished telling Tiber this story, he said something really remarkable. “You really named Koan well.” I’ve often talked about how fitting Koan’s first name is. He’s a mysterious, blessed riddle. But, we used my Dad’s first name as Koan’s middle name: Koan Curtis Barnum. Tiber was absolutely right. All of us in my family, Sydney, Tiber, Jeri and I refer to Koan as our rock star. Everywhere we go in the area, people come up to us to say hello to Koan. Sometimes it’s just because he’s different and charming — he smiles and flirts with everyone. But, more often than not, we get stopped by someone calling out Koan’s name. On a lot of occasions, we have no idea who these people are — a paraprofessional from school, another parent from a day camp, friends from school, etc… It’s a long standing joke that Koan knows more people than anyone else in the family. But, I had never made the connection to my Dad. That one comment and realization really made it feel as if my Dad was close by. It was one of those — ”This is how it’s supposed to be and everything is great!” moments that come along every now and again.