Back to Tribute Tuesday this week after taking a week off from, well, just about everything last week! I’m celebrating someone who has a birthday this week (the 19th) and without whom I wouldn’t even be here. That’s right, I’m talking about my daddy-o.
Where do I begin? I think it is only over the past 12 years or so that I’ve truly come to appreciate the father I’ve had. There was never a time when I was unhappy to have him for a dad, but years and years of taking him for granted.
You know how a child thinks that every family is like her own? That every family goes to church on Sunday morning, takes long summer vacations in the car to visit relatives, and eats homemade pizza once a week, just because hers does? I was that child.
|He knows the best places to get pizza in the 'Lou (hint: not Imo's! Sorry, but we're Imo's haters)|
Of course, I was slowly disabused of the notion that all families are like mine over time, mostly by meeting other children whose families did things differently. And while I met many other fathers, I can’t ever remember looking at someone else’s dad and thinking, “Wow, I wish MY dad were more like that.” There were many dads out there who were cooler and more “with it” in a cultural sense, but I never wanted that as a trait in my dad.
Still, that’s not a very deep level of appreciation. My appreciation deepened more in college when I started meeting people who either never knew their fathers or had horrible fathers: tyrants, pedants, aggressors, manipulators. I didn’t disbelieve these accounts I heard, but there was major cognitive dissonance. My own experience had been so utterly unlike those bad ones I heard about.
My appreciation and respect for my dad has deepened further still upon becoming a wife and mother and watching Allen become a husband and father. My parents made marriage look so easy! I truly can’t remember ever seeing them have an argument. I think they must have had at least one after I was born (and I’m the oldest), but I can’t remember it.
|A proud new dad trying to calm yours truly when I was a colicky beast|
My dad made fathering look easy, too. I’m sure he had a lot of other things he’d rather have done after coming home after a day’s work of teaching, but he always took time to play with us in the evening when we were little. Usually it was building with Legos or maybe watching some classic cartoons together (you haven’t truly enjoyed old school Warner Brothers cartoons until you’ve heard my dad laughing till he cries at the antics of Bugs Bunny and Elmer and the gang). When we were really little, there was often “ruff-tuff”, which was basically my brother Chris and I wrestling Dad to the ground and squealing with delight as we tried to evade his tickles and “belly blasters” (giving a raspberry on someone’s tummy).
|Here's that "goofy" part I was talking about|
Yes, he made time to play with us or read to us, sometimes help put us to bed, and usually clean up the kitchen so my mom could go to bed (she tends to crash early and get up early)...and THEN would get to his own school work, since a teacher always takes his/her work home. And later I discovered that after his work was done, he would get out his Bible or his Book of Common Prayer and have some quiet time of prayer and reflection. Nothing showy, never tooting his own horn about “taking his daily devotional time” or whatever: just spending time with God.
Poor Allen. And not Allen as a person, but poor ANY MAN that I married. I didn’t even know that I expected all of these things from a husband and the father of my children until it didn’t all play out like I’d grown up seeing it play out. It was like the “What?? Your family doesn’t eat homemade pizza?” phenomenon all over again.
What do you mean that you don’t plan to invent a silly game called Gabloop and play it in the driveway with our children?
What do you mean you aren’t going to clean the kitchen every night so I can go to bed whenever I feel like it?
What do you MEAN you aren’t going to make it a priority to clean the house and do yard work every Saturday while listening to Billy Joel??!!
Even though I, of course, logically knew that whomever I married was not going to be just like my dad, I still somehow expected that they would essentially be like my dad, just with different tastes. Fewer sweater vests, film noir and Pinot Noir, perhaps: but all in all, basically the same person.
|Sunrise, Sunset, swiftly fly the years...|
Heh, wrong-o. I married an extremely different man than my dad. Allen is the take-no-prisoners, don’t play for the “fun” of it soccer warrior to my dad’s occasional, collegial racquetballer; he’s the blue collar construction worker to my dad’s Ph.D in Philosophy; my husband is the guy whose car is vibrating to the sound of Top 40 hits whereas my dad shares my affinity for musical scores at much lower decibel ranges. In a lot of ways, they couldn’t be more different.
In marriage, however, we’re called to leave our parents and bond to our new spouse instead, creating a new family unit. I’m very proud of the family that Allen and I have started and, God willing, will continue to bring them up as they grow in wisdom and stature. While I have left my parents’ house and authority, I haven’t lost my admiration for them, and especially my dad. I am so grateful that I grew up with a man of gentle strength, great intellect, fun-loving goofiness, and quiet godliness.
I haven’t even touched on all the things I could that I love about my dad. Here’s just a few in bullet points:
- road trips with just the two of us, first when I was looking at colleges, and then when I was going to and from St. John’s every summer...these times were always filled with great conversations about anything and everything
- his terrible puns
- his writing style, which I think I’ve consciously and unconsciously emulated for years now
- his love of all things Greek, Roman, and philosophical
- his interest in always finding new things to be interested in (making stained glass lamps and panels, wine, film noir, microbrews, cooking methods, liturgical traditions, photography)...not in a fad kind of way, like Mr. Toad from “The Wind in the Willows”, but to be a sincere connoisseur
- when I was sick with a nasty flu bug in second grade or so, he came home and began to read aloud “The Hobbit” to me...and so began several years of reading aloud from chapter books to all of us kids before bedtime
- watching him dandle his grandchildren on his knee in a most gratifyingly doting fashion
- his laugh when we’re watching movies or cartoons that crack him up (or just listening to my brothers rib each other, which is also amusing)
- his genuine interest in things that I was interested in (musicals, Caedmon’s Call, my thoughts on anything I was reading at St. John’s)
- his commitment to my mom for nearly 34 years of marriage and his obvious affection for her
|A weekend trip to San Francisco in 2007|
|Peeking at Ruby on a break in our car trip up to Chautauqua, NY in 2011|
I could go on still further, but you get the point!
Dad, thanks for being such a great inspiration and influence. For all the years I took your awesomeness for granted, I’m sure I will have twice as many of being so thankful to be your daughter.