Sunday, June 22, 2008

Father's Day...a little late.

I love my dad. But it's complicated.

My parents were married when my dad was 19 and my mom was 17. Nine months and twelve days after the day they were married, my sister was born. My dad was in Vietnam. He didn't see my sister until she was 9 months old.

My brother was born when my sister was four.

Eighteen months later, I was born.

Two years and one month later, my younger sister.

At 28, my dad had four kids and a wife to support. I think he made $6000 the year I was born.

It can't have been easy.

To complicate things, the four of us? Loud.

My dad? Quiet.


Not. Easy.


My dad was always a presence in our home, but never really there. I don't know how else to put it. My dad was the one who read us Bible stories at night. He was the one who took us to our softball games in his old blue truck. My dad was the one who put the food on the table and the shoes on our feet. He was the reliable one. With dad? We knew.

He was the most reliable person in my life. And I didn't know anything about him.

I grew up and got married and that all went to hell. My dad was the one who came to my house and loaded me and my little babies up in his van and drove us to North Carolina. My dad, this man I really didn't know at all, became the pseudo-dad to the little children I gave birth to. He would pick them up at daycare on the nights that I went to community college and all the little children, not just mine, would run to him screaming, "Poppaw! Poppaw!" They would all crowd around him and he would stop and talk to them, a twinkle in his eye.

He became everyone's Poppaw.

And I didn't know him at all.


I didn't know how it was when he was a child. I didn't know how he felt about having an alcoholic father and a mother who was a very sweet and loving enabler. How he felt having three sisters...did he feel responsible for them? How it felt to be 19 and be in the jungles of Vietnam and not sure if you'd ever get to see your daughter, except in pictures. I wondered why he never finished college, although he remains one of the smartest people I've ever met. I never asked him.


I found myself and then found Jason. My dad liked him very much, with the exception of the fact that he was from Connecticut.

"He'll marry her," he told my mom. "He'll marry her and take her away from here."

I never knew he cared.

I did marry him. After he asked me, he then went to my dad's home and asked him. Some might consider this ridiculous. I was twenty-seven after all, a grown woman with my own house and my own mortgage and my own children. Jason wasn't so much asking my father's permission as he was saying, "Approve of me. I love her. I want to be part of this."

It made my dad, this man I didn't really know at all, happy. He shook his hand. They were all smiles.

We moved away, eventually. Not to Connecticut as my dad feared. But still. Five hundred miles away.

It didn't matter. You know? I didn't know him at all. Not really.


Two years after we got here, I got the call that changed my life.


Cancer.


And I found myself in my car, racing towards this man I didn't know at all.


We sat around my dad's pool and we talked. Probably more words were exchanged during that time than we had spoken to one another our entire lives.

It came easier, for some reason.

Words came out that should have been said years ago. He talked about his past, he talked about my mom, and he talked about how it was for him when he was my age. How he struggled and how he worked. We sat around his pool and I looked at his fine house and all the nice things he has and I felt...pride. He has those things for no other reason than because he worked hard to get them.

This man is my dad.

Because of him, I am a hard worker. Because of him, I never quit. Because of him, I am kind to people when they don't deserve it.

Because of him, also, I don't always say what needs to be said. I don't wear my heart on my sleeve. I take a lot more crap than I should. I have trouble letting people into my life. I have trouble showing the people I love more than anything in this world, even my husband and my children, how very much I adore them.

I have the best parts of him.
I have the worst parts of him.


Since then, we talk. He's more apt to call to me up, just to see how I am. I send him funny emails more frequently. Sometimes just forwards but usually little stories about Boy Child and Girl Child. Pictures of them. I ask his advice now. I check on him.

He's my dad.


I always felt sorry for my husband. His father was killed when he was a child. He never really knew him. I always felt a little sorry for myself too. I wanted a father-in-law. I wanted a family to love me and want me...to take me, and my children, in. I wanted us to have that.


It occurred to me, last week, how Jason and I have that in common.

We don't know our fathers.


The difference is, I still have a chance. He doesn't.



I love my dad. It's complicated.

But we're learning. We're getting there.

24 comments:

judy in ky said...

Well said. Lovely post. Even though my dad died more than ten years ago, I still feel at times that I am getting to know him better. I see things that I know he appreciated and suddenly I am able to appreciate them too. I form opinions only to realize that my dad expressed that same opinion long ago. As I get older, I seem to see things through his eyes in ways I couldn't when I was younger.

Nen said...

this brought tears to my eyes...

giants fan said...

*sniff*

beautiful!

Kellie said...

I love it!!

Morgan said...

Lovely. I know how you feel. The more I talk to my dad, the more I realize I don't know him.

....very well said, Chick.

Katie said...

I'm very happy that you are getting the chance to get to know your father before it's too late.

I never new my dad because my parents split up when I was very young, and he was never around. I kept making justifications for not trying to find him on my own, mainly that "if he wanted to know me, he'd be here, because it's not like he doesn't know where to find me"... then he died when I was 17, and the only thing I could think about for a couple of years (and I still think about it a lot even now) is that I should have made more of an effort to find him myself (it doesn't matter how many times I get told that it's not rational to blame myself because hello, I was like, 14 when I started thinking about looking for him, how many 14 year olds know how to track down a guy that can get out of paying child support cause the state can't find him!?). Anyway, I'm rambling.

This post made me sad for myself, but very happy for you. I'm glad that you will not have to know the same regret as me. It's easy to not know your dad while he's alive, but after he's gone... knowing that you'll never have the chance to fix things... that hurts.

notmuchofacook said...

What a great story. It's never too late!

Denise said...

Aww Chick u leave me speechless.

Tiger Lamb Girl said...

It's so good you see all this clearly enough to appreciate him while you have him;).

{{{hugs}}}

Tara said...

well said.

Kimberly said...

Way to make me cry, babe. You expressed this so beautifully.

I really need to get to know my dad as well. Your dad reminds me of mine. A lot.

Stephanie said...

I am having to swallow hard in order not to cry.

Lara said...

This is an absolutely beautiful post. One of your best ever. The way you let us feel what you feel.... you put your heart on your sleeve this time. And you wore it well.

KiKi said...

I agree with lara, one of your best ever. Had me bawling.

Lily's Mommy said...

Meanie! You made me cry. Beautiful story, though.

My dad died in February and we had been estranged for many years. I had been sending him pictures of my daughter and was thinking of flying up this year to see him.

No more chances now. I'm glad you have the time to get to know your dad. He sounds awesome. :)

I am Trish Marie said...

You are very right. At least you do get the chance to get to know him.

Karin's Korner said...

Chick ~ What a wonderful post, thank you for sharing it with us. Please take the time (any time you can get) to talk with your dad.

Last week a girl here at work was complaining about her dad, he has asked her out to lunch and she did not think that she wanted to go. I turned to her (she is all of maybe 22) and told her that my father passed away in April of 2003. I would give my right arm to be able to go have lunch with him and talk.

Take the time and every opportunity you get.

CPA Mom said...

I envy you the chance. My dad slammed that door shut. This was a beautiful post.

Dawn~a~Bon said...

**hug**

kristi said...

I think it is great that your Dad is still here and you are working on getting to know him better.

I never got that chance.

SJ said...

You lady are brillant. I relate to this more than you know, and I thank you for reminding me that I too still have a chance.

Just beautiful.

kittyconcerto.com said...

I love it when you open your heart and let us in. Thanks.

My relationship with my dad is complicated too. He married my mom, possibly just so he could be my dad. But then his own demons entered his life and things changed. Now? I'm currently trying to find my biological father. But not to replace my dad. Just so that I don't miss my chance.

I'm glad you didn't miss yours.

Captain Steve said...

Your dad sounds great and I'm glad you're getting to know him.

Rachel said...

Geez, I come back to catch up and you do this to me??

You and I have a lot in common. Alot. Wow.