Archive » June 14, 2012
To dad, with love
By SaraLloyd Truax, Staff Writer
Sources are either coming out of the woodwork or are nowhere to be found – so for this story, for all the good it did me, I planned long ahead.
But Father’s Day is upon us, and the dads of the Valley seem to be in hiding. Most don’t want to talk, unless it is about their own fathers – or so they say. But when push comes to shove, the town seems to have gone mum.
This got me reflecting about my own father and how rarely I speak of him, even though I think of him often. Moms are easy to praise and even easier to heap complaints on. Our relationship with them is much more immediate. Relationships with our fathers, on the other hand, seem more intimate and private and harder to talk about.
It just so happens that this Father’s Day falls on the 40th anniversary of my dad’s death, which came to pass on a Friday night, in his sleep, after a pretty heated argument. I tossed and turned the whole night wishing for a way to unsay the things that I said. It was a chance that would never come.
I was 15, opinionated, impulsive. It was the last day of classes my freshman year of high school. I had finals to study for. I needed him to be perfect at that moment, but he was only human. How dare he.
Had his heart not beat its last that fateful night, we no doubt would have made up. Sandwiched between the other tiffs that were sure to come, would be all the things a little girl needs her daddy to be – someone to confide in, to hug, to walk her down the aisle and yes, someone to vent at from time to time.
There are more things about my father which I don’t know than all the stories I have to share. He was an only child, whom my grandmother was told was born still. Luckily for me, the technician carrying the small bundle to the morgue sensed movement. So bestowed upon him was a name he always hated instead of a tombstone – a fair trade.
And this is where a memoir would fold into the few stories of Dad’s childhood that I know – how he thwarted a robber, got appendicitis in Paris, nurtured and tamed a squirrel to my grandmother’s horror. Then I would wrap up telling how he worked on the Apollo Missions – how he brought home a hunk of inch-thick pliable metal that they use in space suits and freeze-dried food for my third grade space report.
What would be absent from all the stories is how I felt about Dad, how he touched the core of who I would come to be, how much having him a part of my life means, and how much I miss him, always. These are harder to put to words, these are the things that I, like so many others, are hesitant to share.
I figured if my own words were failing me, and I couldn’t get anyone locally to open up, then I’d go hunting for words of wisdom about dads on the Internet. And sure, there are trite quotes out there along with a few wise proverbs and even some telling observations, but there are also a lot of negatives.
The expectation placed on fathers seems so high, which is dangerous perhaps, because it is so much easier for them to walk away and leave the parenting to someone else. The sense of loss children without fathers feel is enormous. Even an imperfect dad is better – in most cases – than no dad at all.
My favorite memories are the simple ones – of his having us pretend the car was Fred Flintstones’ and stomping our feet on the floor boards to make it go. The louder we pounded, the faster he drove. The camping trips, the smell of his pipe, the scratch of his whiskers when he kissed me good night, these are the things I miss most.
I wonder if he ever knew. I hope so.
I can tell you this, if come Sunday morning my dad was somewhere I could reach him by phone, I’d tell him. I’d thank him for my life, for being the person I always expected/wanted/needed to be perfect, for forgiving my stubborn unwillingness to pardon him when he couldn’t always live up to my expectations.
I’d tell him the stories of the times we shared, even though he was there also, even though he remembers them so differently than I do. I’d describe the lessons I learned from the things that he did right, and how even his missteps afforded me ways to grow.
Dads are not perfect. They aren’t meant to be. But even if flawed, they are a wonderful addition to anyone’s life. How sad we rarely stop to tell them so.
So just for the record, I love you, Dad, imperfections notwithstanding.