Metro-East Living

Big John and Big Red, very different men, but I have a big love for both

After Big John Meehan, left, walked his daughter Michelle down the aisle, he told her future husband, Mark, right, “Good Luck!” and he meant it.
After Big John Meehan, left, walked his daughter Michelle down the aisle, he told her future husband, Mark, right, “Good Luck!” and he meant it.

They say girls marry their fathers. I really didn’t set out to marry mine. I mean, Big John Meehan was a machinist — a blue-collar guy who thought “ain’t” was a verb. My husband, Mark, is a lawyer who uses perfect English.

My late father paired black, polyester pants with white socks and black Rockport tennis shoes. My still-living husband prefers khakis and button-down Polos.

Big John cursed like a sailor. Mark is tough to provoke.

Dad ate well and often — sometimes straight from the can. The other day, Mark caught me “cold canning it” and begged me to pour it in a bowl.

“Michelle, soup is meant to be heated,” he said.

When I countered with, “Not gazpacho,” he rolled his eyes and left the room.

Born to Archie Bunker and wed to Richie Cunningham, I sometimes have trouble straddling my two worlds. Then I remember the reasons both men are so special and somehow it all makes sense.

When I met my husband, I felt like I came home. Not the same home I was raised in, but one that has more than a few similarities.

Like Big John, Mark is a tinkerer. Dad worked on cars. Mark works on his boat. Dad loved racing. Mark loves fishing. They both love(d) me but not as much as their Chihuahuas.

My late father would openly admit he loved his dog. Her name was Rosita. She weighed 8 pounds to his 240. I won’t tell you the ratio of Mark’s weight to that of our Chihuahua’s. But I will tell you her name is Lola, and she waddles when she walks.

Like Big John, Mark came from a large, loving family. Dad had eight siblings. Mark had five. Dad went on to marry a passionate, if slightly neurotic woman — my late mother, Mildred — and Mark married someone a whole lot like her.

“What do dad and Mark have in common?” my twin sister, Melanie mused, when I told her I was writing this column. “Well, they’re both great dads.”

That goes without saying. No better dads ever existed.

“And Mark takes care of you, like dad did. Doesn’t he wash your car and change your oil and balance your checkbook like dad did?”

“Not the checkbook, Mel. I use a debit card now.”

But come to think of it, Big John did take care of a lot of the little stuff I took for granted — and coincidentally, my husband does, too.

Dad was more vocal about his efforts, of course. Mark is a soft talker. Big John liked to yell.

After he argued with me or my sister, which seemed like a daily occurrence when we were in high school.

He’d always give us a pack of Big Red Gum. We all knew that was dad’s way of saying he was sorry. I still love cinnamon gum to this day.

Did I mention “Big Red” is one of Mark’s many nicknames? He has red hair, and he loves red licorice. He also loves me. Or did. Till this morning.

“Please tell me you’re not writing about me for Father’s Day,” Mark groaned, when he saw me peering at him from behind my laptop. “Don’t do it, Michelle!”

“I’m so sorry,” I said and smiled.

“You’re apologizing before the story runs?”

Maybe I should give him a pack of gum.