Friday, June 19, 2009

Memories of Dad

I've been a slacker on blogging, but since it's Father's Day this weekend, I thought I'd better play equal and list some dad memories just like I did for mom. This in honor of the fact that my parents are always worried about making everything equal between my brother and me.

1) I love to read, and have since I learned how. Part of the reason is because I got regular trips to the library on Saturdays. Dad would drive Dirk and me up there and we were allowed to look around as long as we wanted and to pick multiple books. It was part of the routine of our family life, so it became part of my routine as an individual, too. Relatedly, I remember Dad reading stories out of a magazine he got. It was a religious magazine for adults, but it always had a kid's story in it. We'd all sit on the couch while he read it aloud to us.

2) Dad traveled a lot for his job in Sioux City. We were always sorry to see him go (except that Mom took us out to eat--on a week night!!!--while he was away), but it was worth the separation when he came back with presents for us. As soon as he pulled into the driveway, we'd dash out to the car, ostensibly to greet him. Really, though, we were dashing for our new toys. They were never enormous gifts, but they were new and exciting. Once, around Halloween, I got a little plush jack-o-lantern that hid a ghost inside it. I think of it now as more of a recognition that he thought of us while he was away, and that he missed us. Even the hyperactive little girl.

3) There's still a well-known song in our house, called "Hershey Kiss Eyes." It's the song my dad wrote for me. My main memories of him singing it are around the dinner table, and after we ate. I'd sit on his lap and squirm (as usual) and he'd sing it. "She has Hershey Kiss eyes, and ruby red lips. Cute little toes and fat little hips [Ed note: Hey!!!!]. She can wiggle and she can squirm. She's her daddy's wiggle worm." He can't sing to save his life, but for this song, it didn't matter. It was perfection.

4) In addition to the library trips, one of the greatest patterns in our family was discussion. We were allowed to ask all kinds of questions, and just to generally question everything. My parents are devoutly religious, but that did not mean I wasn't able to doubt and question growing up. I could ask his opinion and contradict him all I wanted, and I was never punished for it. And if Dad didn't know an answer to something, he'd help me find it. I remember when I was about 12, I started hearing the first anti-Catholic crap in my life. I was baffled because my best friend in Sioux City had been Catholic, as were some of my cousins, and they all seemed like the same to me. Dad offered me a book on the similarities and differences and told me that Catholics were his friends the same as Protestants, and that any differences between the two groups were minor compared to the similarities. That still means a lot to me, even though I'm not particularly connected to either camp at this point in my life. Just the fact that he was intellectual about it made all the difference. I truly, absolutely believe that my success as an academic is rooted in my dad's approach to life and questions.

5) Dad likes to quote an old saying: "The best gift a father can give his kids is to love their mother." And he can quote it because he lives it. My dad still loves my mom as much (or more) than he did when he married her 40 years ago. He compliments her, gives her little thoughtful gifts, etc. This particularly struck me one time when he was going through a rough patch in his life, spending his weeks away from home, and coming home on weekends. We were in the Walgreen's parking lot, and he was talking about how hard it all was. He said, "I sit in a hotel room, and I just miss my best friend." His best friend=my mom. It was all I could do not to bawl, a similar struggle I face as I write that out. I'm perpetually single, and I sometimes think part of that is because I have yet to meet a man who will treat me the way my dad treats my mom. Those are enormous shoes to fill, and not just because he's 6ft7in. I fear that sounds creepy, me comparing dudes to my dad, but if you have a dad like mine, I guess it's inevitable.

6) One last little one. I remember one Saturday during lunch, my dad and I had an insult-off. We went on and on, trying to take each other down. It was awesome. I eventually won, but I think it's because he let me. Dad's hilarious (sometimes in a groaner sense, sure), and I've always loved that we can all just joke around and make ourselves laugh till we hurt. Dad's confident enough in himself that he's willing to take a few slams from his (truly loving and respectful) kids.

7) Okay, I lied about 6 being the last. One last thing. He didn't spank me nearly as much as I deserved. And I always had ample warning that punishment was imminent. And he never actually hurt me when he did it, despite the fact that his hands were bigger than my butt--at least for a few short years. That's a good dad for you.

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