Posted on Jul 24, 2016 in Blog |
I wrote the following piece for Dad for Father’s Day, 2006. I found it in his files the week before this past Father’s Day among other pieces I had written. I didn’t have the courage to post it until today.
Dad And Me
June 18, 2006 – Father’s Day
I am very fortunate to have two loving parents who provided me with a ‘normal’ upbringing. Some of the threads that, together, form my ‘fabric,’ include my childhood memories. On this Father’s Day, I thought you might want to see what I saw and what I remember of you and me.
You were a corporate executive, working six days a week for 30 years. So while the hours that I saw you were more limited than those with mom, I still hold many glimpses of my childhood (and adulthood) like photographs of our relationship.
Memories from Texas:
– I wasn’t more than five years old. You came home from work; I ran up to you, quite pleased with myself, announcing, “Dad! I learned a new word today!” You were putting your coat away in the closet. I think it was your suit jacket. But you were just putting it on the hanger and putting it into the closet when you replied, “You did?! What is it?” With my excitement just beyond containment, I proudly enunciated, “Damn!” The color drained from your face, your smile evaporated. I don’t remember what you said after that, but I remember being puzzled by the look on your face.
– You held me over the wall of the dam so I could see the water coming out while Mom shrieked, “Earle, put her down. Earle, this isn’t safe.”
– I remember standing in a Baskin-Robbins ice cream store; we all got to order double scoops. I got chocolate mint chip. The total cost was less than one dollar. I remember you paying with that dollar bill and getting change back.
– I remember standing outside of our car, looking at the Grand Canyon. It is just one view that I remember, but I remember you standing in front of me, to the side, looking into the canyon too.
– “Don’t tickle me on my stomach . . . .”
Memories from our move to Virginia through my teens:
– The whole family going to Wolftrap to see the Carpenters – it was the first concert that I ever remember seeing.
– When you would pin me on the living room floor and count my ribs. And then you had to start over . . .
– Jitterbugging in our living room. Four women, one man . . . we wore you out but you never stopped smiling.
– The way your Southern drawl strengthened after our vacations in Auburn.
– On one of our visits to Myrtlewood, you helped set up the tables and chairs in the living room where we were going to eat Sunday dinner. I remember watching you that afternoon, sitting in the circle, chatting with your parents, aunts, uncles, and I’m not sure whom else, catching up on all the extended family and friends. It developed into my definition of a typical Southern Sunday with family. And it was a wonderful example of a loving family.
– At those Myrtlewood dinners, you eagerly took second helpings of the okra. Disgusting.
– Your look of childlike excitement when Grandma made homemade peach ice cream. I didn’t like peach ice cream at the time, but I liked the look on your face. Your eyes were years younger when you ate her peach ice cream; and the next morning, when we ate fresh peaches and cream.
– “The look” you gave us in the car when the three daughters were doing something in the back seat that you didn’t want us doing. We knew we were in trouble when we got “the look.”
– “The look” we got when we couldn’t stop giggling in church (Mom included).
– The countless times that I would be in tears and you would reassure me that I didn’t have to be perfect; I just had to try my best.
– Coming in from mowing the yard (a task that you obviously despised) on an especially hot day, you came to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, popped open a Coors beer, and drank it while the refrigerator door was still open. You drank beer so rarely, but you enjoyed every sip of that cold, cold beer.
– Hearing you laugh when you watched “M*A*S*H” and “All in the Family” on television. I wasn’t allowed to watch those shows and I would sit upstairs trying to figure out what could be so funny.
– The day you came into my 7th grade Social Studies class with Mrs. Ramey so you could tell the class the correct version of the Civil War.
– Coming out of church one Sunday, you walked up behind me and poked me in the back, saying, “Stand up straight! Stop slouching!” Thirty years later, you remind me that I am still slouching and I still need to stand up straight.
– When you told me on my 18th birthday that I was adopted. And then your menacing grin at Mom’s shriek.
– The moment that Jimmy Wade called and told you that his father had died. Your face went from happy to hear from him to questioning why he would call instead of his mom or dad, realizing why he was calling, and then the sheer grief you felt. You dropped your head into your hands. It was just you and I in the bedroom when you answered the phone. I felt utterly helpless.
– The countless nights you spent helping me with my math homework. First, you had to figure out the answer to the problem, and then you had to figure out how the teacher did it so you could explain it to me. Night after night you helped me.
– When you told me that you and Mom were giving me $2000 for retirement so I could learn how to invest and save money. Well, you tried.
– Every single time you said, “Make sure that anything you put into writing, you won’t be embarrassed if it is printed on the front page of the Washington Post.”
– When you gave me money for my good grades.
– Watching you grill the Porterhouse steaks for Sunday dinner, careful to time each side exactly; I mean, exactly.
– While we were touring the old Air & Space Museum (in the 1970s), you showed me a rocket that you helped design. It was the first time that I had any idea of what you did at work. Even then, I had no idea of what you did, what you contributed to the defeat of communism and protection of democracy.
– When you came home from work and I had stayed home with bad cramps, you would bring me a Rum and Coke.
– The night Ronald Reagan won the presidential election, you absolutely howled, slapping your hand on your thigh, elated, joyful, ecstatic.
– When Mom made a dish that you particularly liked, at the dinner table, you would say, “Now DON’T change the recipe! DON’T change a thing!” And then your frustrated acceptance when she would make it again, but she had changed the recipe.
– Celebrating the 4th of July at the Blackburn’s house, setting off firecrackers with Supreme Court Justice Byron White participating.
– When we studied World War II, you emphasized to me the importance of learning what the Nazis did. You said it was important to learn about it, acknowledge it so that we would never allow a horror like that to happen again.
– When I came to your office, you would race around trying to get just one or two more items resolved before we left. I do the exact same thing in the exact same way. Genetics.
– The day you arranged for me to meet with your consultants learning about neuro-linguistics.
– The interview time you arranged for me with Don Blackburn to hear about his years in the Philippines, evading the Japanese, waiting for General McArthur’s return.
Memories from my early 20s:
– The moment you saw me in my first wedding dress. Your pain was obvious, but you did your best. You walked me down the aisle and made a young girl’s dreams come true.
– The hug you gave me when I walked off the plane from Okinawa. The relief you felt was palpable.
– The moment when you walked me down the aisle the last time, stopping to wipe a tear from my cheek. Your love for me exuded from your pores during that walk. We took that walk slowly and with joy.
Memories from my more sensible 20s and onward:
– Going to Wolftrap together and seeing Pat Metheny in concert. You don’t like Pat Metheny, but you came with me anyway!
– When you told me your definition of a good friend (someone you can call in the middle of the night and ask them to bring you $100; they bring you the $100 and they don’t ask why) and the fact that you have few friends. It enlightened me to how you view people, whom you trust. At the time, you were talking about Red Hofer (one of your good friends).
– The love and attention you paid to my cat Charley, even though you don’t really like cats. And even though you don’t really like them, Charley loved you and adored you more than anyone else.
– After we talked about my decision to marry Jeff, your last words in that discussion were, “And Sharon, I can’t believe it, he even cooks!”
– Taking time out from the campaign trail, you took your grandson, Stephen, into your arms for the first time in the NICU at Children’s Hospital. Your tenderness, your fear, your joy, your love, your hope . . . you exhibited all of these emotions all once.
– During the first 48 hours of Mom’s stroke, I walked into the kitchen; you were looking out at the Gulf. When you turned around, tears were falling down your grief-stricken, panicked face. You said, “I can’t lose her. I can’t live without her.” It was another time when I felt utterly helpless. All I could do was hug you and cry with you.
– The silent commutes down Crayton Blvd. to and from the hospital the first few days after Mom’s stroke; holding hands as we walked into and out of the hospital.
– The first time I saw you cooking lunch in the kitchen. I had never seen you make an entire meal. It was also the first time I ever saw you unload the dishwasher.
– On your 70th birthday, your face looked gray; literally gray. When I saw you the very next day, your face showed relief, joy, happiness. The dichotomy was resounding.
Memories that transcend all ages, all places, all time:
– When you repeatedly told me “You can do anything you want to do; you can be anything you want to be.”
– The respect you always showed your parents.
– The countless times you showed humility.
– The countless times you were gracious and inviting to everyone around you.
– When you shake hands with someone you haven’t seen in awhile and they are a good friend; you grab their arm with your left hand and your eyes are particularly bright. Your smile is more relaxed when you greet a good friend.
– Holding the door open for me.
– The way your voice gets very serious at the beginning of a good joke. And the way your eyes light up at the punch line.
– The many times when you read the Birth of Jesus from the Bible on Christmas Eve.
– When we hold hands before dinner and you give the same Grace to God that you have said for 40+ years.
– “Gay, Car, Sharon . . . .”
I have many memories of you and me. Some are of just the two of us; some include the entire family and a few include friends. But each moment, each glimpse, whether happy or sad, is built on love. I hope these glimpses remind you of the many ways, the many times that you have shown your love for me, for our family.
You have led this family through the decades. You have held Mom at your side, but there is something in how a man leads his family. You have led by example and shown me what a good husband is and should be. Fortunately, the second time around, I listened! You have led our family with honor, love, faith, integrity, and honesty. Happy Father’s Day.