Ours was a complicated relationship.
There were many times that I felt I just didn’t live up to your standards. Not that you were a chauvinist…. but it was tough being a girl in your world.
Eventually “you grew up” … and so did I and well do I remember the time I got on a plane for a business trip and was surprisingly seated across from your aisle! “What? My daughter on a business trip… like me?” You thought. Later you confessed that until we shared dinner that night, you never had any idea what I did for a living. Running clinical pharmaceutical trials? Really? You were amazed. Fascinated. And strangely enough, impressed.
I shrugged. Not seeing the big deal but I do think, in retrospect, you started to look at me differently. And subsequently you looked at women in the world differently too.
And to think you used to call me the drug dealer….
But you grew up in a male dominated world. And you just didn’t really know. But to your credit, your perspective changed and you came to really appreciate the minds and fury of women. In your family and in the broader world. It was like you would say, “it’s good stuff.”
But as a said before – ours was a complicated relationship. There were many tough times. Some very hard feelings. And enough post curfew arguments to fill a book. But still, you were my dad. And I respected you. I learned so many core lessons from you.
Like, mean what you say.
Never shame your name.
Work hard and actually harder.
Love your country.
Know your history.
Practice your faith.
Be thankful for what you have.
Don’t worry about other people, you can’t please everyone.
You used to say to me, some people have luck and some people have talent. You told me I didn’t need to worry about luck. Because I had talent.
And as the Georgia boy you were, you taught us the importance of supporting states rights over federal rights.
Hah! You have no idea Dad how much those lessons stuck.
Growing up with you also gave me lessons in self sufficiency and a love for things wide and wild.
You used to take us all on day trips to the mountains and always, always you would seek out some roadside vegetable stand up some farmer’s dirt road. You would say “yes ma’am and yes sir” to them. You a grown man. And treat them like they were elder statesmen and women. Because they were.
In that I learned well. Respect your elders, especially the elderly. Stop and listen to them. They have something to teach. If only today’s young and youngish understood that now.
Even so – we three kids would stand there squirming. Itching to go run in those farm fields or back woods. And just one look from you and we stopped our fidgeting. Indeed some of the best lessons I had in learning self control.
You were the man who lit up my love of history. We could not travel anywhere directly as any roadside historical sign had to be stopped at and read and discussed by the entire family. It usually turned a few days road trip into an epic journey. But these lessons in history also taught us lessons in civics, in appreciation for America’s rights AND her wrongs.
You were the dad who required family dinners most every night. And though when we were young, your rule was for us to be seen and not heard… which didn’t feel good to us – as we got older your heart softened and you wanted to hear our opinions. You required us to read newspapers and discuss world events with you. You did challenge our thinking. But it taught us to think critically. And we learned to argue. Oh lord did we learn to do that….
You dragged us camping at the ocean. In the mountains. In heavy pines. You taught me to fish. To clean it. To cook it. I know how to navigate in the woods and I swear I inherited a homing pigeon inside of me from you. I just rarely get lost. Even in a foreign country.
Well I remember the visits we had when you sought out my opinion. My help and perspective about your troubles. I could not have been more flattered.
But, as you began to age, your mind lost its sharp ways and you could sit for hours telling me the same story. I didn’t mind. It was nice to hear you come up with the many variations of the same event – you added bull to it with each telling.
And yet in the end years Dad I felt you were taken from me. Through family circumstance and dementia. I lost you. I missed you then. And I miss you now.
This is the first Father’s Day without you, Dad. Strange how time and distance erase the bad and only delivers the sweetness of our relationship. Our memories. And our love. If I didn’t say it enough when you were alive. Let me say it again now. Thank you Dad. Just thank you.
Happy Father’s Day.