THE BLOG

A Father's Day Poem Becomes a Song

06/13/2014 03:19 pm ET | Updated Aug 13, 2014
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I wrote this song for my father several years ago on Father's Day because I couldn't bear to buy him one more friggin' golf shirt.

When I was just a little Dani, about 4 or 5 years old, my father invented a character called The Tickle Monster, long before Josie Bissett's Tickle Monster Laughter Kit, which included cuddly tickling mitts. I'm not sure why you would need a kit to tickle someone, but whatever. My dad was the original.

My brother and I used to share a bedroom in a cozy two-bedroom apartment in Yonkers, NY. When my parents were home and not behaving like the 25-year-old's that they were; that is, partying with the downstairs neighbors and nursing Sunday morning hangovers, my dad would often don a random piece of clothing to 'mask' his true identity, and he'd become The Tickle Monster.

We'd hear growling, monster-like noises outside of our bedroom, and as the sounds grew louder, we knew that he was getting close. The anticipation was exciting and I could feel my body tense up.

Our door would fly open and my dad would come barreling in, often tripping over a Tonka truck or a Dr. Seuss book. His arms flailing, hunched over, so as to look more menacing, and then he would pretend to look for us, even though we were right in front of him, jumping up and down on our beds, screaming. He took his time, relishing in the sound of our little kid squeals.

He started with my brother because he was an easy target. The kid would start laughing at the mention of being tickled. He laughed so hard he'd gasp for air. Watching my brother squirm and shriek like a little girl made me giggle.

I was never ticklish. Seeing his two kids laughing together in the same room, instead of beating the crap out of each another, was pure joy for my father. Even at the tender age of 4, I was like the character of Morales in A Chorus Line, "I felt nothing." My dad loved playing the part, so I smiled and pretended to giggle (my best acting job to date).

This particular brand of play was out of my father's comfort zone. He was more the reading and writing type; the parent that supervised homework, exposed me to Miles Davis, quoted Rolling Stones lyrics and read Crime and Punishment to me at bedtime. He wasn't so much into kid games or child-like make-believe, but he put his heart and soul into The Tickle Monster and I couldn't bring myself to tell him that I felt nothing.

From the time that I was 12 or 13, my dad knew exactly who I was, and 30 years later, little has changed. I recently reread a letter that he wrote to me when I graduated from high school. At the time, I passed it off as a father being a fearful parent, but how wise that Tickle Monster was.

Firstly, you seem to be an anxious young bird who has learned how to fly, and now is trying to examine every tree in the forest. I can assure you that you will do that but racing to them will defeat your purpose and you will not maximize your enjoyment of them. Like constructing a building with blocks, a foundation must be laid before the spire can be placed on top.

Unless you have certain experiences to call upon, you may miss out on some wonderful fun. You know that I have never stopped you from exploring some very dark places; yet I am fearful of you missing something because of a lack of patience. Sometimes it is better to sit by the ocean and look at the sea, sense it and slowly feel it come over you, slowly and with all of its feeling, comfort and awe. Oh, yes, it is great fun to dive in, but how many people who do that could tell you the color of the sea and how beautiful it smells. Most times the short-term is not as fulfilling.

And yes, each day is a challenge to your moral sense. Each day you will have to make up your own mind as to what to do -- (unless you want to call us). You know how much I love you as my daughter, but now as you begin to leave the nest and start to fly, I relish in the fact of how much I like you. And remember our telephone number is 238.... Love, Dad.

Gotta run and get a tissue. Happy Father's Day to all dad's.