Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday Reruns: For the Love of Rob

(original post-date: January 5, 2011)

Five or six years ago, I was working regularly with a nonprofit youth drop-in agency based in South Central L.A. Though my role was as a consultant, I was given a desk to call my own, and so I was there, on-site, about two or three times a week.

On one of my on-site days, Dick Van Dyke dropped by. He had learned of the agency’s work through some community event, and he had come by to discover more.

Once he entered the development trailer, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to approach him.

I emerged from the office I shared with Miki and extended by hand. “Hello,” I said to the venerable showman. “I’m Katie. And I’ve just got to tell you that I grew up with your show, and I had such a crush on you.

“But,” I added, “it was kind of a weird crush, because I couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t know if I wanted you to be my father or if I wanted you to be my husband!”

“How about ‘Grampa?’” Dick Van Dyke replied, kindly, contorting his face to accompany his comment.

I raised my eyebrows teasingly and left him to his tour, realizing, as I headed back to my office, that his response had been a compliment: Younger than my Dad, he clearly is not old enough to be my “Grampa,” and apparently, I didn’t look old enough to be his daughter (or, for that matter, his wife).

So, that’s as far as our conversation went.

But it has stayed with me.

… More than a year ago, I ordered the entire Dick Van Dyke series on DVD (yes, there’s redundancy there), and I’ve really enjoyed watching the show that engaged me to such a degree when I was in elementary school.

Rob and Laura: the ultimate couple. Attractive and alive, they never fooled me or anyone when they climbed into those twin beds on Bonnie Meadow Road. They were in love and vibrant.

And I wanted him to be my dad…

But why?

I had a great dad… In fact, like Rob Petrie, my dad was quite funny.

Also, like Rob Petrie, my dad found ways to parlay his humor into creative pursuits.

So why would I want to replace him?

I don’t know. Maybe I liked the way Rob was at-one with his absolute klutziness. Maybe I liked the way he acted like a kid. Maybe, just maybe, it helped that Rob had a son. I know that my own dad would have appreciated having a son. It was apparent that Christmas morning when my sister and I entered the living room to discover Santa's delivery of… an electric train!

Insofar as I was elementary school age when I was developing my crush on Rob Petrie, it’s not surprising that I transferred my crush into considering his potential as a father. I mean, at that age, fantasizing about a husband?

Still, I couldn’t help but notice how he played that role so beautifully…

Especially in that era, Rob Petrie was a unique husband.

Sure, the household in New Rochelle was a sign of the times in some rather distinct ways. Laura was the housewife and mother. Rob, the bread-winner.

But: Rob worked with a professional woman (Sally Rogers), and he respected her. He respected that women could be bread winners in the world. Rob also respected Laura. She wasn’t just some “wife with an allowance.” She was a woman – a strong woman – who had opinions, dreams, talents.

And he adored her. That part was always clear.

And, regardless of what a woman expects from her man, being adored will probably always take the top of the list.

So, between the ages of six and eleven (or so), I regularly watched Dick Van Dyke. Loving the father, who was so much like my own, and dreaming about a husband…

I don’t know that most husbands these days adore their wives. I don’t know that we have a lot of time for that. With all the multi-tasking, it’s probably a bit difficult for anybody to feel adored. But, back in my pre-pubescence, that seemed like a pretty good deal. It seemed like a pretty good deal to emerge – either from a day of housewifery or from a career – to find a charmingly klutzy, extremely comic man opening his arms to my opinions, my dreams, and my talents.


Anonymous said...

This post makes me so happy b/c my mom and I both adore Dick Van Dyke - so glad he's as nice in real life as he is on-screen!

Martha Mawson said...

Between "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and the original Broadway cast album of "Bye Bye Birdie", Mr Van Dyke always helped me "Put on a Happy Face." (Sorry - couldn't resist.)

Sioux said...

I agree. Rob Petrie was a classy guy. And DVD--even though he was a klutz on the show--had a grace about him, a real sense of style when he moved.

Kittie Howard said...

Gave you a shout-out on my post today.

mshatch said...

aw, I loved that show, too! And I can relate to your cat puke post. My dog often knows beo0fre I do that someone is about to barf and he can barely wait to (I know, ick) gobble it up. Ah, the advantages of a lab.

Came over from Kitty's :)

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've ever seen the "Dick Van Dyke Show" but I loved him in "Mary Poppins" and "Bye Bye Birdie." He always makes me smile when I see him in guest roles on TV at his present age, too. :)

Jayne Martin said...

I wanted "Blake Carrington" to be my dad. All that power to really mess up someone who dared to make his darling daughter unhappy. And the money, of course...

Jules said...

I remember watching that show but what I wanted to say was... I love the way you can look at today and relate it to yesterday. And yes nothing beats being adored. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Emily R. King said...

Dick Van Dyke is one of my favorite Hollywood fatherly figures, too. I like that because of the times, Hollywood felt the need to project a wholesome, "Happy Home." We could use more of that today.

Anonymous said...

Ah, this post brings back childhood memories of watching those old television shows in black and white. Playing a Cockney chimney sweep in Mary Poppins with a doubtful if charming accent, is my more recent memory of Dick Van Dyke.
(Far preferable to cat vomit!) :-)

Lazarus said...

OK Katie, now I think I qualify as a true fan/follower because this post I remember (the Dick Van Dyke part jolted my memory...) I loved that show too and I'm sure it would bring back a lot of memories of younger times if I were to watch it today. Great piece, thanks for re-posting!