Mark Elswick, aka “Padman,” has overcome the hurdles of fatherhood and lived to write about them in this humorous collection of short stories based on his own experiences as a man dealing with women, especially his daughter. Whether it’s having to go to the store to buy those…um, feminine hygiene products for his daughter, worrying over the older man his daughter wants to date, or just accepting that he’s reached middle-age and is becoming an old man, readers will smile with familiarity at the incidents, sympathizing with Elswick’s feelings and admiring his pluck to keep going in the face of what often threatens his manhood or at least his masculine self-esteem.
Nor is Elswick above poking fun at himself. While he may be amazed and stunned by the things the women around him do, he ultimately laughs at his own reactions to events and the expectations women have of him. When he tries to outsmart women such as by “multi-tasking” (watching the game while changing his daughter’s diaper), his efforts have a tendency to backfire, ultimately to his and the reader’s amusement.
Just to provide a taste of Elswick’s humor, here is a passage from the story “A Shoestring?”:
“As I started to shut the dryer door, I decided to do something I wish I never would have done. I double-checked the dryer to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
“Sure enough, there was something-a shoestring. Why did she wash a shoestring? I rolled my eyes in typical disbelief. I reached my hand in to pull it out, hoping it hadn’t somehow wound itself inside the machine and broken something. I just knew it had caused damage to my dryer. Thankfully, as I grabbed onto the black string, it wasn’t wound into a mess and pulled right out. Relieved and feeling my anger exhale, I lifted the….
“At that point, I stopped exhaling and even stopped breathing. What I grasped in my right hand was what I had thought was a string. Now, I quickly realized it was no string at all. As I brought what I thought belonged in my daughter’s shoe to eye level, I felt it was nearly the worst Dad Moment in my parenting life. I could have screamed when I realized this “string” in no way resembled what I had originally thought.
“That tiny piece of string made me feel as nauseated as when I had discovered what With Wings meant.
“That shoestring was…one of my fourteen-year-old daughter’s thongs.
“As I had learned in my Padman adventure, there are certain things we men never want to run across in life. This one ranked right up there with catching your parents having sex.”
As if having to deal with a teenage daughter growing up were not enough, Elswick has had to overcome some other very serious hurdles in his life. While the bulk of “Padman” is composed of humorous stories, sprinkled throughout are a few quite serious stories and essays. The most dramatic story is that of Elswick himself, who survived a bizarre car accident that left him with a traumatic brain incident (TBI) injury. The doctors told Elswick’s parents that he was unlikely to live, and if he did, he would be a vegetable for the rest of his life. Against all odds, Elswick not only survived but has gone on to live a relatively normal life, although his TBI continues to affect him.
Elswick does not dwell at great length or with negativity on his trials, but he does want this book to raise awareness of TBI and appreciation for how precious life is. He provides many laughs in these pages with a little education tossed in for good measure. Elswick is currently working on a longer book about TBI to be released in 2012. In the meantime, partial proceeds from the sale of “Padman” are being donated to TBI research.