I remember my father, Lee Devine, often, but there was a double dose of reflection yesterday because it was Father's Day. We lost my father in 2015 after he succumbed to prostate cancer that had metastasized. I bit of a surprise because our money had been on the heart disease, diabetes, or Alzheimer's to do him in. He was 85.
My dad was a world-class misadventurer, and I learned about how to find and get in the middle of a misadventure from him. This is not an exaggeration or some sappy made up dedication story. Consider:
- He routinely set our house on fire while tinkering in his shop or attempting to jury rig some broken mechanical concoction back to life.
- He once made a jeep/dune buggy Frankenstein vehicle out of six other vehicles. It had no doors or seat belts, but had a horn that played several different melodies. He took me (8 or 9 years old at the time) for fast rides in it, which did not please my mother but pleased me very much.
- He got this fun new zero turn radius riding lawn mower. Top of the line for the time! He then drove it into our canal because he was going too fast and the grass was a wee bit wet. He stayed sitting on it and screamed as it kept going into deeper and deeper water.
- He brought me home a turtle that he found on the side of the road. It was a snapping alligator turtle.
- He then got me a chicken and rooster (we live in a small city). My rooster Chico crowed a lot. Then the alligator in our canal ate my rooster.
- He built a diving board to go into that very same canal.
- He believed in pyramid power and started making small pyramids in the scale of the Great Pyramid. He gave me one to hang from my rearview mirror in my first car (a VW Fastback). I then crashed three times. I was 16, so the pyramid may have had nothing to do with it. Or did it?
- He built a pool in our backyard in the shape of Africa. Southern Algeria was very deep, deeper than most pool companies deemed safe. I loved sitting on the bottom while holding my breath.
- My parents divorced when I was 13. My dad started having toga parties and made me help the guests fashion togas out of the bed sheets they'd bought. Some things are hard to unsee.
- He would take me to the uninhabited canals in Cape Coral to catch wild guppies to feed to our Oscar fish. The wild guppies ate the pretty colorful tails off all the ornamental guppies we had. Envy?
- He started painting after retirement and was prolific for a time. Not his strongest skill, but always interesting.
- He took up making stained glass and did some beautiful work.
- He liked it when I made him new, made up cocktails.
- He bought and sold crap and garage sales. He once gave my mother fake pearls from a garage sale. This did not go over well.
- He routinely ran our boat onto sandbars. One time, we all got off and walked to a nearby beach that they didn't realize was a nude beach until too late.
- He drilled a small hole into the edge of my boxer turtle's shell so I could walk it on a leash and to keep it from escaping. This did not work.
- He played harmonica and a few other instruments a wee bit. He'd jump in and play at any hootenanny. Even when we was clearly losing his battle with cancer. The harmonica pic above is one of the last I have of him. Playing, still, but out of breath and strength.
I could go on. And consider these are just some of the stories I remember. Being the youngest child, he'd already lived a life chock full of misadventure by the time I was born. Heck, I might've been one of those misadventures since I was born seven years after the next youngest sibling (oops! hahaha).
The spirit of the misadventurer is unmistakable. They demonstrate an almost childlike willingness to jump into a new situation - with known skills or none - and give something a shot in the name of adventure and having a great life. Or just to figure something out.
What a special gift it was to have watched my father misadventure his way through what turned out to be a fascinating and well-lived life.
May we all embody the misadventurer's spirit.