Less is more…

Dad wasn’t around much when we were growing up, yet he managed to have a tremendous influence on me.  Mom was the logistical foundation for my childhood, but had far less influence on the person i am today…

On a typical day, we’d have an hour with him – at most.  Early mornings were chaos.  Six of us in a small, three bedroom house, with one bathroom.  Four children attempting to get ready for school, and every one of us jockeying to get to the toilet before Dad went in for his morning constitutional.

There was no ventilation.  As the youngest?  Guess who often got the short straw.  This is the closest i came to child abuse…

Forty five minutes of that hour was spent at dinner, which was a raucous multi-party shouted conversation, held amidst food being passed, thrown, and snuck under the table to the dog when Mom wasn’t looking.  Dinner was more about words than food*.

That was when he ‘held court’ with us.  Some nights he clearly just wanted to decompress from his work day, but others?  He’d sit down and bait us with a conversation starter – “Is there life after high school?” directed at my elder siblings, or “Why is MAD Magazine** so funny?” directed at the lot of us…

After dinner, he’d wander off to his bedroom with the evening newspaper.  Listening to a ball game, or talk radio, he’d pretty much stay there most nights.  Summer evenings would find him outside, doing yard work, or reading a book in his redwood chair… 

During my junior high years, my sister T and i played softball in a local recreational league.  While Mom handled the carpooling arrangements with the other Moms to get us to the park on time, Dad never missed a game.  Showing up, watching.  Tracking our success and failures on the field.  He’d leave after the games, letting us head off with our friends until it was time for the pick up.  Unobtrusive, but clearly paying attention.

In hindsight, i think it was that “paying attention” part that paid the dividends.  He watched all of us.  Met us where we were developmentally.  Working patiently as my sister, S, learned to play saxophone.  Lending guidance to my brother as he bashed his way through his latest HeathKit electronics project.  Coaching my sister, T, through trigonometry.  Teaching me to use woodworking tools in the garage after i’d sliced a good part of my finger off with a planer…

As he was dying, he retained a deep understanding of where we were developmentally.  The conversations i had with him were completely different than those held with my siblings***.  He was not confused about his purpose in life, and felt he had succeeded.  Rescuing Mom and her two young children from nasty circumstances, he didn’t hesitate to tell me that T and i were ‘bonus’ purpose. 

Musician, philosopher, engineer, teacher… He was truly a renaissance man before his time.  But of all the things he was?  i think he put “Father” at the top of his list.  He was a natural…

It took me a few decades to figure all that out.  The pixels of his life were slow in coming together.  There’s more, and i’m resolved to get it written down.  This blog – for all the faffing about and silliness – is really about him.  He’s the only reason i got out of the trailer park.  And the only reason i keep checking in to look after the residents…

~~~~~~~~~~~

* Thankful for the words since Mom wasn’t much of a cook.  “Shake and Bake” pork chops with applesauce and corn, Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and peas were weekly meals.  She burned dinner rolls so badly once, we went in the yard and played baseball with them after dinner.  She was kinda pissed about that, but they were inedible…

** Dad frequented bookstores on the weekends, and once a month brought home the latest MAD Magazine, which we fought over like rabid dogs.   i later found out it was a deliberate attempt to teach us the joy of satire, and train us to put popular media in its proper place…  My ex-husband and i later passed this along to our children, via weekly family time watching The Simpson’s…

***  He told me that i was the only one who would listen as he talked about death.  He was ready for it, they weren’t. 

16 thoughts on “Less is more…

  1. My own father, like yours, has been gone quite awhile now. Were I as skilled with words as you, I’d be proud to pen a tribute even half as good.

    Let me leave a comment that I bet your father would echo if he were able.

    Well done Daisyfae. Well done.

    TAG

  2. I lost my mom 5 years ago and was blessed to spend a lot of time with her before she passed away. She was 47 yrs old when she passed and I was just getting used to having her as a “friend” rather than a parent. It is never easy losing a parent and even though they might be gone, we have a chance to remember them through memories like yours. Thank you for opening my memory banks.

  3. A touching and excellent tribute, i’m lucky enough to still have my dad and talk to him as much as time allows, i do remember to tell him though that everything i know about being a father i learned from him and though i may not be perfect i’m trying real hard to emulate him, out of the blue one day after Kid A was born he told me that most guys who worked all week and took care of their kid all weekend would piss and moan about it (the girl’s busiest days are the weekends) and that i’d never said a bad word about it, in fact i talked about how glad i was to have the time with the boy, he said “i’m proud of you kid”, that was it, one of the best things anyone has ever told me, after i hung up i cried like a baby.

  4. I think you make your father proud. Despite the frequent F-bomb use, you seem very well rounded emotionally and quite sensitive when it’s called for.
    a very nice tribute to your father.

  5. rob – thank you. these posts are for me, but it’s nice when they are appreciated…

    TAG – thanks. he never got to read much of my writing… but i know he was ok in general with the ‘product’ he turned out….

    archie – you need a new monitor, or new glasses?

    nursemyra – thanks. they always seem so maudlin and sappy when i re-read them. make me wanna run for the insulin. but i need to get them out.

    tNb – it really is a bit of therapy. although i’ve never gone to therapy, i suspect this is kinda how it feels…

    unbearable banishment – was sort of thinking of your situation as i wrote some of this. did dads in the 1960’s & 1970’s feel guilty for working? hardly. were they bad fathers? not necessarily… you’re a devoted father. lighten up on yourself already!

    alljoedirt – so sorry that you lost your mother at such an early age… while (at 47) i sometimes feel ancient, your note reminded me that i’m lucky to have time ahead of me…

    kono – wow. your father sounds wonderful, and he is clearly still paying attention to the things that matter in your life! very sweet…

    littlefish – good luck on the re-connect. it is certainly worth the effort. hoping you can find the good stuff, and forge a healthy relationship in the future…

    hisqueen – thanks for the kind words. dad used to laugh about the fact that his three daughters could swear like felons, but his son? never uttered the f-bomb in his presence…. it’s a bad habit, but part of my constitution at this point. i don’t do it in the office. much.

  6. Daisy, your dad sounds similar to mine. Around the dinner table was the time he chose for teachable moments and made them fun. He paid us lots of attention otherwise, as well, but dinner was most memorable. I’m glad you have this blog to talk about your father. You do it well, and you do your memories of him a great service. My father’s still here, but when he’s gone, I’ll need to write these things down as well. A father’s love is about as special as it gets, and vice versa.

  7. Great post. I’m sorry you didn’t have more time with him, though I don’t think it’s ever enough. My father was around until I was 50, and I still miss him every day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s