Cat’s in the Cradle and a Car Ride

Nappoholics Anonymous is a weekly column featuring twelve random thoughts by actor Tony Nappo. Some are funny, some are poignant, some bother him, and some make him weep from sadness while others make him weep for joy. Here are his thoughts: unfiltered, uncensored, and only occasionally unsafe for work.

1. Assessment of the Week:

2. These new Canadian government snitch lines are getting a little out of hand. Three cops came to my door last week and took away my World’s Greatest Lover coffee mug. I mean, that shit is fairly subjective, no?

3. Fuck Yeah of the Week:

4. I watched the first half of that film Irresistible. If I HAD to say something positive about it, it would be that I’m fairly certain the ironic title is unintentional.

5. Initiative of the Week:

6. Just wanted to send out some love to all the folks who are missing the Pride parade this year. Sharing this post from the first time I actually attended, two years ago. I remember just crying and crying at the joy and beauty of it all. Hoping to see all of you back there next year.

7. Every time I see Trump talk, I imagine him holding a post-game press talk as the coach of the Leafs.

“If you don’t count any of the games, we’ve lost this season, we are completely undefeated.”
“We did NOT lose tonight if you don’t count every goal they scored. Who was counting them? I didn’t count them. I only counted one. We won two goals to one.”
“Our third period tendency to choke is Completely. Under. Control. (Whispers) And one day it is just going to miraculously disappear. It’s gonna be soooooo beautiful. It will be like heaven.”

8. Artist of the Week:

Trenna Keating is an excellent actor and a brand-new painter. Her work jumped out at me on my newsfeed and I asked if she wouldn’t mind me sharing it. My favourite is the dogs in the snow—love those shadows—but it isn’t typical of the colourful palate she works from, so I shared the birds one as well. Neither have names because she is just starting out. I love that they both tell stories and feature animals displaying somewhat human personalities, to whatever extent. Somewhere in the combination of that thought and her style and palate, it puts me in mind of the Disney animation I remember watching as a child. Lady and the Tramp or 101 Dalmatians. Either of these could be individual cells from an animated film. And I really like how the representational backgrounds are very clearly, quietly, and intentionally supporting the subjects and their actions but are also so completely necessary for a sense of completeness of the stories/scenes.

Here is Trenna’s story in her own words:

9. Guest Post of the Week:

10. Farewell of the Week:

Years ago, I wrote this line as we were going into rehearsals on a Monday after Easter:

“On Friday, Jesus rose. On Monday, Richard Rose.”

20 years at the helm. “Rocket” Richard Rose. I have been directed by him in 4 main stage productions. It would have been 5 next January but that isn’t going to happen now. He also hired me to paint the entire building inside and out for the 40th anniversary season, and I have workshopped countless scripts with him. The man knows theatre and he is an amazing dramaturg and director, as well as friend now. One of my favorite directors to work with, in fact. He pushes me to be better than I would be without him.

I will miss collaborating with him in that building but it seems like the perfect time to call it. He has nothing left to prove at all. You got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. He has served that theatre well.

On behalf of myself and many, many others: thank you, sir.

11. Here is a fun one-question quiz to see what kind of member of society you are:

I protest:
A) Systemic racism in all its shapes and forms.

B) Having to wear a mask only when I am around other people—which isn’t actually all that often—to protect them, as well as myself, from a virus that could potentially kill them or their families.

One of the two answers makes you a decent human being; the other makes you a pretty selfish asshole.

12. On Father’s Day, I took a ride with Ella and a new friend to the Big Apple. We had all just been for the same ride a couple of weeks before, and thought we’d go back again and stock up on some insane sugar treats and drop by my parent’s place on the way home to deliver some goodies to my isolating parents. Ella sat in the back seat. I always love when she sits in the back seat because I remember her being very young—car seat young—and how she would just kind of stare at me in the rear view mirror, beaming at me—her eyes so full of delight in getting to spend time with this man who she never actually lived with but knew to be her “Daddy.” I can only imagine that I was mythical to her, in the early years. A thing she heard about more than she ever experienced. Like Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. I just dropped into her life for these brief flashes and was out of it nearly as fast—primarily because of geography and work.  She spent the first seven years of her life in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where she was born. Looking into that rear-view, I remembered so clearly seeing the look written all over her face, perched in her car seat and how it screamed to me how much she loved me. And how badly she wanted for me to just be there with her. And how happy she was that I was there. To just have me be with her. And just be her Dad.

She is 15 years old now and was elected the car DJ for the three-hour ride. She selected and played all of the music off of my iPhone. She really does have excellent taste in music. She played a really great mix of songs that she liked, which I had never heard, as well as songs that I had introduced to her over the years that she already knew I liked. It wasn’t random. It was thoughtful; each song was considered. And when she hit a particularly great song, I’d glance back at her in the rear view mirror, giving her an approving smile, and see a mixed look of pride and satisfaction on her face, knowing that she had hit the mark and impressed her Dad who wasn’t ever impressed by a whole lot. I inherited that trait from my own father.

We have had many, many struggles, over the last half decade or so specifically. Her mother and I aren’t together and do not see eye to eye on almost anything in terms of raising a child. Her mother is more nurturing and gentle, from the school of “asking her” to do things, and I am an old school “tell her” what to do, hard as shit disciplinarian, who sees her as a kid who mostly needs her ass metaphorically kicked to get her to do anything she wasn’t already going to do to begin with—as well as to keep her away from people, places, and things that could lead to her being harmed in any way. As a result, there have been long periods of time where she just decided to circumvent all that and stop coming over to my place altogether. She is a clever little fucker that way. She knew that all she had to say was that she was afraid of me or mad at me and she could get a free pass and avoid me for as long as she needed to. No questions asked. And whenever she WAS asked why, she would just claim she didn’t want to talk about it. I’ve told her mom, teachers, principals, social workers, even Children’s fucking Aid that, in fact, no, she was never mad at me or afraid of me at all. She just wants to be able to do whatever the fuck she wants to do without any consequences. Not exactly rocket science, from my perspective. How did I know that for sure? Because every single time she would come back to me after an extended period away, I would ask her, “Are you mad at me? Are you afraid of me?” And she would always answer that she wasn’t and apologize and say that she just wanted to do whatever she wanted without me yelling at her or punishing her. As much as it frustrated and hurt me, at the time, I admired the shit out of her cunningness and ability to figure out a way to do whatever the fuck she wanted without following any of the rules that she didn’t have to. An art that I must have accidentally schooled her in, by example. She is exactly like me in that sense. Nobody can make me do anything I don’t want to do, either. Not ever.

Whenever we have spent time together, I have taught her about everything that I knew that the rest of the world wouldn’t—yet. She could ask me any question on any subject and get a straight, honest, adult answer; drugs, sex, politics, anything. I taught her how to physically protect herself—go for the throat, eyes, and balls—from the age of seven or so. Like the father in that song, “A Boy Named Sue,” I knew I wouldn’t be there for her every day and night—so, in the parcels of time we did have together, I tried to impart all that I knew about the world that they don’t teach you in school. Shit that may have benefited her in any way, which primarily came from growing up on the mean streets of Scarborough. I told her that if anyone ever touched her inappropriately or bullied her at all ever, anywhere, to punch them right in the fucking face (a straight right to drive the bridge of their nose to try and push it back into their brain or a hook to the jaw just beneath the ear to put them to sleep) and that I would deal with the fallout of parents, teachers, and principals later. She knew I had her back. Always.

I taught her all I knew about music and what I felt makes it worth listening to. Visual art and how to interpret it, in my mind. We watched a lot of movies together and I would always quiz her afterwards, asking questions: “What do you think that film was about?” “Why was what that character did right or wrong?” “How could that film have been better?” She was and is a sharp kid who is always listening and misses very little. By age nine, she could predict where most grown up movies were going and how they would end. I had taught her to crack the code of formula. Even though she missed virtually nothing, she wasn’t always super anxious to offer her opinions or thoughts to me without me prodding her. Every time a term I thought she might be unfamiliar with came up, I’d ask if she knew what it meant and if she didn’t, I’d explain it. No subject was ever awkward or uncomfortable. I wanted her to always feel safe asking me anything without fearing judgement. I didn’t have parents like that when I was young, and I remember having to pretend to know what people were talking about often. We didn’t have the ability to Google shit as it came up in those days, so if you didn’t have someone you could ask without feeling stupid, you just didn’t know. I remember feeling vulnerable and out of the loop in those instances and didn’t want her to ever feel anything but strong and included.

Cut back to this drive last week, we were just about to roll up on the Big Apple when she played the song “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin and I started bawling like a baby. The song itself has always been an emotionally powerful one for me. It’s a tragic, very common story, incredibly well told, about a man and his son who spend a lifetime just missing connecting with each other because they allowed life to get in the way. They weren’t each other’s priority. I think I had maybe only ever played it for her once, but I remember making her really listen to it. I don’t even remember how long ago that was, but SHE remembered it. And played it for me. On Father’s Day, of all days. As the song began—those initial finger picks on the acoustic guitar, my eyes popped open and I looked into the rear-view mirror and saw that same look in her eye—that I had seen back when she was a toddler in her car seat. That look that said to me, “I love you and I need you to be my Dad.” But she wasn’t sitting in a car seat this time. She was sitting on the brink of womanhood as, as such, and her look also said to me, “And I know you now. And I get you now. And I thank you. And I got you, too, Dad.”

This is the photo she had texted me the night before—right at midnight—wishing me a Happy Father’s Day. Ironically, from an Instagram account that I am not allowed to follow her on—but fuck it. I’m willing to take from her whatever she has to offer and to give to her whatever it is she needs. It feels like we are both just exactly where we are supposed to be.

 

 


2 Responses to “Cat’s in the Cradle and a Car Ride”

  1. Tony, item 12, I love that much like your acting, you are never afraid to leave it all out there. Father/daughter relationships can be complicated, especially if father and mother are not together. I read so much of my relationship with my youngest daughter (20 next month) in those few paragraphs that I openly wept. It felt good, and sad. Sadly for both her and me she has chosen to not have any communication with me for a few years. I say chosen but it was really because of some poison she was force fed by her mother. Thanks once again for hitting the nail on the head. Happy Canada Day brother.
    Jim.

    • Hang in there, Pal. The road is long. Whenever she comes back to you, I’m sure your arms will be wide open.

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Tony is Italian, he’s from Scarborough, he’s an actor, he’s a father, he’s a really good house painter, and he doesn’t believe that most things matter, ultimately, at all.