Sunday, June 15, 2014

Remembering Dad(s)

My dad passed away when I was in my 30s, years before I met and married my husband. I often wish they had been able to meet. I have no doubt they would have been fast friends, bonded not only through their mutual love of me, but because they were cut from the same cloth.

My favorite memories of my dad are from my early childhood. I remember him as a dad who involved us in what he did, whether it was fixing the car or noodling on the piano or the guitar or setting up the camper. When I was little, my "help" was along the lines of holding the flashlight or passing him a screwdriver or reading the next step in the instruction manual. When I was older, I got to actually use the wrench or the soldering iron or the hand saw. I never truly appreciated what he did for me until I saw my husband doing the same thing with my own children. That was when I realized that a child holding the light does not really help Dad see anything, that the screwdriver passed to him was often the wrong screwdriver (or, frequently, not a screwdriver at all but a wrench or a drill or pliers or whatever else was handy that seemed to fall in the "tool" category), that a 6-year-old attempting to read directions including words like "torque" and "receptacle" and "ventilation" is not particularly conducive to understanding what you should do next. And seeing my husband's endless patience with our children as they "help" him makes me appreciative of my dad's endless patience with me.

I also see my dad in my husband in their remarkable shared ability to be both stern and silly. Sometimes, when my husband barks at the kids, my heart jumps in a visceral, deeply-ingrained (and probably Pavlovian) response as in my mind I hear my father's voice barking at me. I often have to stifle a sense of unfairness as I realize my husband is right in chastising them, since they are generally doing something dangerous, foolish, or clearly forbidden. And I realize again that my dad's barking, like my husband's, comes from a place of deep love and a need to protect his family. That deep love also sparks a delicious - and often unexpected - silliness and playfulness. I also see my dad when I see my husband carelessly shed his dignity to roll on the floor and wrestle, to start a tickle fight, to make silly faces, to allow a small child to wrap him in a blanket like a mummy or put a sparkly tiara on his head or whack him with a pillow.

Even though my dad has been gone for 10 years, there are many moments when I miss him so much my heart hurts. There are so many parts of my life I wish I could share with him. I wish he could have been there to walk me down the aisle at my wedding, to see that his quiet and wise advice and example had led me to choose such a good man to be my partner throughout life. I wish he could have been there to see my beautiful children, his grandchildren, take their place in the world. I wish I could watch him be stern and silly with his grandchildren. I wish he could be here so I could tell him how much I learned from him, how he made me a better person, a better wife, a better mother. But since he isn't here, I can tell my husband the same thing: Thank you, sweetheart, for being the kind of dad I had, for being loving, and kind, and tough, and silly, and all the wonderful things you are.

I look forward to seeing my son carry on his grandfather's and his father's legacy as a dad. I know he'll be fantastic.

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