Oh, the arrogance of that title. But, what’s true is true.
While I was growing up, my dad worked very hard to support his family, but he understood the balance between work and play. Work (for the most part) stayed at work. Weekends were devoted to his family. Soccer games, chores around the house, camping trips, teaching his three kids to drive. He never missed a concert or a game, but it was more than that. He was there. He was present. He was at home, doing things that needed to be done, taking care of his house and family. I spent many hours sitting in the garage, listening to him whistle, watching him putter around. Dad’s always been a putterer.
My dad worked in city government for 35 years (he’ll correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I’m pretty close). He had the same job in the same city that entire time. Though he is far from rigid in his personality, Dad’s weekday schedule was like clockwork. Every morning we were awoken by his voice calling us for breakfast. He made oatmeal on school days. He still makes oatmeal on a regular basis, and we have it when my daughter and I go to visit. In fact, there was a period of time when I was asked to “make it the way Grandpa makes it,” on the stove, the old fashioned way, not thrown together in the microwave.
But I digress.
Dad returned home from work at 5:30 p.m. sharp every day, after leaving his office at 5:00. I always awaited his arrival with anticipation, darting looks at the clock as I read my late afternoon book. If he didn’t walk through that door between 5:25 and 5:30, something was off. He arrived home, poured himself a glass of wine and read the paper in the horrendously ugly green chair next to the drum table. And all was well with the world. We were all home, Daddy was here, and the family was complete. Every Monday night for those 35 years, Dad was forced to attend City Council meetings. I grew bored hearing about the details of them over dinner, but those meetings were a significant factor in my life. At 7:00 p.m. on those Mondays, after dinner with the family, Dad returned to his office for these meetings. He was rarely home before my bedtime. And I couldn’t sleep until Daddy was home. I lay awake, listening to the cuckoo clock in the dining room chirp off the hours until he returned. When I heard the station wagon coming up the steep hill, and the front door opening and closing, then I could sleep. Dad was home, and all was right with the world again.
My dad is the sensitive type. I often watch his lip quiver when he talks about his parents, or his grandkids, the success or failure of a family friend. At the same time, he is an absolute rock. When mom was sick, all those years, I don’t remember seeing him waver, I always felt safe, secure, held up. He still holds us all up. He stood by while I went through two divorces and some pretty severe anxiety. I saw how it pained him, but he always held steady for me. Why he didn’t haul off and slug one of my ex husbands or boyfriends I will never know; he taught me the value of forgiveness. When my life came crashing down around me on more than one occasion as an adult, Dad was always there. More often than not, he didn’t know what to say; girls in their twenties are complicated, and Dad never wanted to interfere too much, but he was always there, the net that kept me from crashing to the ground.
My dad is the marrying type. He and mom were married for 23 years before she died at the age of 43. At that point, he had two children off to college and one at home in high school. We were all smart, well-behaved, well-adjusted kids. He had a nice home, a steady job, and was a respected member of the community. He was a widow. He was good-looking and relatively young. He was a hot commodity. I noticed how the attitudes of women around him changed, how he became an “item.” I dreaded the idea of my father dating and pursuing a new wife, but I knew it was coming. That’s just the way he is, he likes having a partner. We were very, very lucky. I don’t believe Dad actually dated much. Instead, he fell in love with one of my mother’s closest friends, opened his arms, and welcomed her and her teenage son into his life, and our lives. It has been a twenty-eight year blessing. And I love how he loves my step mom. I can see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice. My father knows how to love.
My dad is one of the nice guys. Involved in community activities, volunteering his time at soup kitchens, the library and community organizations. He and my stepmom are the best examples of retired people that I have ever seen, balancing travel, family and volunteerism beautifully. Dad has a hard time saying no, particularly if he is seeing that a job is not being done well. He is kind and compassionate, but has little tolerance for stupidity, prejudice or intolerance. Stay on his good side. He has grace, and will not take you down in public, but if he disagrees, you will know. He is one of the most intelligent men I’ve ever known, though I don’t think I was aware of it as a child. He attended Boalt Law School, not something to be sneered at. He amazes me sometimes with the details and thought processes in his head, how he works his way around and through a political or social issue. He is not just another pretty face.
My dad is very funny. His favorite kind of joke ends with a really good pun. As a family, we have spent many hours around the holiday table, building on puns and odd word play. If I brought a beau to that table, and he didn’t get the jokes, you could be sure he wasn’t going to be around for very long. I always sought that sense of language and humor in anyone I bonded with over the years, and it started with Dad.
I am not convinced this piece it reflects the depth of love, respect, admiration and affection I have for my father. I’m not sure words can. I have spent my life searching for another man like my dad. I have failed, because he spoiled me for all other men. Sorry guys. Thanks Daddy. Happy Father’s Day.