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Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Little Things - Happy Father's Day

(Originally posted June 14, 2008)

I've never seen my father's grave. He died early in January (1995) and so he wasn't buried immediately. His burial took place the following spring on a lonely day when we, his entire family, were away living our lives...without him. My brother saw his grave some time after, but I've never been there. I was a college student and couldn't even afford to contribute towards the headstone.

Someday I MUST make that sad pilgrimage to the UP and lay flowers at the graves of my Dad and Grandparents.

We are only dust, and if those who survive us don't remember us, even our dust is worthless to the world.

My Dad wasn't perfect...but he wasn't worthless. He's still not worthless. And it's the small things that I remember about him and his life that really mean the most to me.

I've written before, many times, that I was a "Daddy's Girl", like so many other little girls. I always wanted to be with him, and he was so easy to be with! He indulged my every little concern, I was the apple of his eye and he was the apple of mine. I even remember a discussion with Mom; I was going to grow up and marry Daddy. I saw a conflict even then, because of course Mommy was married to Daddy, but I think it was the most sincere expression of love I could muster. (Yes, I know about the Electra Complex. Don't bother my reverie with psychobabble facts.)

Well, Mommy talked me out of marrying Daddy very skillfully and suggested I continue to love him but marry someone else. I agreed. You see, I was a very agreeable little girl. And all I wanted was that stability and love that only a father can provide.

I was always so proud of my Dad. While he had terrible taste in clothing (the man could not seem to leave the 60's and 70's behind) he was maybe one of the most outgoing people I've ever met. He had a kind word for everyone, an easy sense of humor, and a compassionate demeanor. He was agreeable almost to a fault, but this trait made him very approachable to one and all. Whenever I brought friends over, he was thrilled to see them, he smiled and made them feel welcome, even if he was in the middle of an arduous task. Conversely, when I went to my friend's homes, often their fathers were not around, or aloof, or even outright rude. I heard terrible language at one friend's home, language that made me shudder and seek to take cover, while my friend didn't even flinch. Whenever we entered her home, she peeked into the livingroom first to make sure her dad wasn't there. If he was, we whispered and tiptoed to her room or back outside in order not to disturb him.

No one ever had that sense of fear around my Dad.

He really was a wonderful human being, for all his shortfalls. I've written of the bad things, but let me share with you even a short list of the moments forever caught in the shutterclick of my memory:

* Summer afternoons in the backyard with the sound of boats on the river echoing between the banks. Evenings on the patio outside the livingroom bay windows, weeds growing from between the irregular paving stones while the smell of barbecued chicken filled the air. I hovered, waiting to suck on the bristles of the basting brush when the grilling was done.

* Humid Illinois summer days in the hot sun, running towards Daddy on the red Toro riding lawnmower, hoping for a ride, hoping to "drive".

* Sunday morning, being allowed to "dress myself" much to Mom's chagrin when we arrived at the church.

* Friday nights, sitting on Daddy's back, watching "The Dukes of Hazzard" while clutching my "boo bankie" and sucking my thumb.

* The cries of seagulls piercing the clouds on Lake Michigan as Daddy taught me to fish off the pier, tying the lead sinker onto the fishing line. The subsequent "tugs" when I got a bite, and the eventual success as I caught fish...and Dad didn't.

* In later years, in Minnesota, fishing in Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, MN, catching sunny after sunny as Dad caught nothing, and in frustration tried my spot, fouling my own efforts.

* Dad's sacrifices to give me English riding lessons and his smile as I posted a trot around the ring for the first time. He had no idea what I was doing but it made me happy and that's all that mattered to him.

* My 16th Birthday at Canterbury Downs (Now Canterbury Park) as we entered the "Filly for a Fan" contest and Dad named the filly-to-be "Julie's Dream". (We didn't win the filly.)

* The pennant I recieved from Dad when he attended the 1987 Twins World Series game...and got my brother and I Homer Hankies and Pennants with the names of the team printed on it.

* Dad's advice that I could do and become anything I wanted...even President. (2009: I'm old enough now, Dad!)

* The feature article in the newspaper that Dad sent us from Michigan a couple years before his death, talking about how he and his friends bragged about their children over coffee, and how, among that group, my brother and I took precedence over all the others in our accomplishments and aspirations. We were heroes and he was proud of us.

* The summer stars, the winter warmth, the fall comforts, the spring of hope.

I write about my Dad every now and then, and I do miss him. I wish I could call him and share my life with him. I long to hear his advice and seek his comforting and loving authority. I do envy my friends who still have their parents, but I don't begrudge them this wonderful grace. I only hope they are taking note of the small moments and seeing what's important for one day they, too, will be orphans.

A few years ago, when I was really struggling in my faith, in Confession a priest told me, "God is your Father...and Mary is your Mother. Go to them."

And I have. And they have helped me understand my earthly parents and love them that much more, especially my Dad. I've learned to see his flaws, but also his good points, in balance. And I hope and pray that I can be just like him in all the ways that matter.

I love you, Dad. I miss you. Happy Father's Day.
*
Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord. May your face shine upon him and may he rest in peace.

10 comments:

Augustine from UK said...

A beautiful post. Thank you, Adoro. I recently lost my dear mother and am now trying to reconstruct a very difficult relationship with our father. Is it just me, or do we all find our very own family hardest to forgive?

As a Brit (and an Englishman to boot), I would however be fascinated to learn what "English riding" is, as we don't have that expression... Does that mean any riding that actually uses a saddle but omits the lasso?! Or am I just 150 years out of date here?

Perhaps we should also today dwell all the more on the nature of our heavenly Father's love for us, and how this differs and compares to our own human, imperfect love. It's my own feeling that we (some faith traditions perhaps more than others) over-play the "Jesus loves me" sentiment which seems to exploit a human, emotional understanding of His divine Love. I wonder if it also side-steps the more pressing question of whether or not we love God with a fitting meekness and reverence - something that previous generations understood better, maybe?

JC said...

Nice post.

"Dad's sacrifices to give me English riding lessons and his smile as I posted a trot around the ring for the first time. He had no idea what I was doing but it made me happy and that's all that mattered to him."

Yeah, I had this experience, too. I especially remember his coming to watch as I got older and was starting to become really competitive as an amateur jumper.

And for Augustine, your definition is pretty much correct. What we in the States call "English" riding is really pretty much anything with the standard saddle, sans horn and lasso. Think dressage, show jumping, etc, but especially think of fox-hunting.

Adoro said...

Augustine ~ I'm so sorry for your loss! It's so hard to lose a parent!

And yes, English riding is often called (or was) "hunt seat". I remember that in the ad at the riding school we chose. I didn't get into jumping or anything as really my Dad couldn't afford the lessons so they lasted only a year.

Our other style of riding is typically called "Western" and where I live in the Midwest, that's what dominates.

Augustine from UK said...

Thank you both for the explanations and for your condolences, Adoro. I try to carry on mum's "work" and live in a way worthy of her, and it came as a shock (!!) when I realised that I had never approached the life of Christ with the same attitude. How much easier to do when you have known someone in the flesh, lived with them, talked with them, held them. If only my faith were stronger I would see that there are so many avenues to get to know Christ just as well, if not better.

Must dash - late for my rodeo class...

Georgette said...

Aw, very nice post. My dad died 29 years ago and I still miss him. May they, and all the Faithful Departed, thru the mercy of God, rest in peace, amen.

--and Happy Birthday to you!!! May God grant you many happy, healthy and holy returns of the day! :)

Love and prayers,
Gette NM

JC said...

"Our other style of riding is typically called "Western" and where I live in the Midwest, that's what dominates."

Yeah, same is true on the west coast where I grew up (at least in the pacific Northwest), and I suppose also here in Texas. Both my mother and my grandmother are/were riding instructors. However, since we live in a fairly poor part of the state, both often did their teaching s charity, or for whatever their clients could pay.

"If only my faith were stronger I would see that there are so many avenues to get to know Christ just as well, if not better."

There's a profound though, especially in the context of your previous statement. Thank you, Augustine.

Adoro said...

Augustine ~ So true!

And I hope you had fun at your rodeo lesson... ;-)

Georgette ~ Amen, and thank you! :-)

JC ~ I know there's a few places scattered around the US, esp. East Coast, where English reigns, but of course, they get into Eventing and the like. Wish I could do that, but it's an astronomically expensive sport. Still, I have a love for English riding that, if I had a choice between Western and English on a trail ride, I'd choose English! lol

Haven't done it in years, though. No opportunity. But Western is far better than nothing!

Peggy said...

Thanks for this post. It resonated with me. This is the second Father's Day since my Dad died. For those who have not experienced this yet, nothing can prepare you for losing a parent. My Dad was 84 and lived a full life and I was priveleged to have him until I was 45 years old, so I have been blessed and rejoice in that. That being said I still miss him in so many ways I never imagined. I tried to prepare myself for the inevitable, but there's no preparing for it. Not to sound too morose here -- its a part of life and as sad as it was to lose him, grace has been abundant in the grieving process. You just have to be attuned to it. I feel his presence in so many ways. Its been a real journey. Rest in peace, Dad. I love you.

Adoro said...

Peggy ~ Thanks for your comment and...I'm so sorry for your loss! Two years is not a lot of time. I wish I could tell you it gets easier, but...all I can say is that sometimes it does...and sometimes it doesn't.

Prayers!

JC said...

"JC ~ I know there's a few places scattered around the US, esp. East Coast, where English reigns, but of course, they get into Eventing and the like. Wish I could do that, but it's an astronomically expensive sport."

Indeed, though eventing is actually less expensive than show-Jumping, I think.

"Still, I have a love for English riding that, if I had a choice between Western and English on a trail ride, I'd choose English! lol"

The better to jump over the obstacles in the trail.

"Haven't done it in years, though. No opportunity. But Western is far better than nothing!"

Indeed. I could ask for no better friend amongst the beasts than some of the horses I've had.