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Friday, December 5, 2014

Me and my dad

One of my earliest memories of my dad was at a small skating pond, near our old home in Illinois.  He was telling me we were moving, and I listened intently.  I was five at the time.

When I tell him this now he looks at me strangely, and kind of says, Oh yeah?  Maybe...

He's too kind to tell me there was no ice skating pond by our house.  And even if there was, we didn't move until summer, as far as I can recall.  So why was the pond still frozen?

But I'm going to keep it anyhow.  It felt like a nice, tender moment.  Just him and I.  At the ice skating pond that probably didn't exist.

I remember one time my dad rolling off our couch while we watched TV.  My head snapped up in concern, but he just slid a pillow under his arm and stared straight ahead.  As though nothing had happened.

He was trying to make us laugh.  As he often did.  And he succeeded.  As he often did.

In middle and high school my dad braved every single band concert, every choir performance, every musical where I only appeared for one scene and you couldn't even pick me out from the other green leotards and red flowered heads dancing across the stage.

He was extremely brave.  And loved us very much to do so.

But his place was as our coach.  It didn't matter what the sport, really.  He was always our coach.

Through first grade soccer when we picked flowers and chased mice and spun cartwheels down the field.  Through softball teams so good we won trophies and so bad we literally didn't win anything.

As an athlete himself, I think he was always quietly amused coaching us girls.  Every time we struck out or dropped a ball or threw over the first baseman's head we'd call across the diamond, "I"m sorry!"

"Don't say sorry," he'd repeat, over and over.  "Say you'll try better next time."

We made t-shirts that proudly proclaimed "We're not sorry!" and made it our team chant.

I think we missed the point.

My absolute favorite memory from those softball days, though, were the car rides home.  The further away the better.  We'd talk some.  But mostly Dad let me not talk.  Instead we'd listen to Air Supply on cassette tape and I'd rewind his favorite song over and over again.  Just to let him know I liked it too.

I know my dad worked.  And he worked hard.  But he never missed anything.  In my mind, at least, he was always there.  My sister and I were never less than first priority.  We took advantage of that.  Definitely.  But we were able to.  And I imagine that was the real gift.

My dad's not one to cry.  I suppose we can both be a bit guarded with our emotions at times.

So I didn't see him shed a tear on my wedding day, but he didn't need to.  I knew how he felt.  When he walked me down the aisle and kissed me and moved slowly to his seat.  A repeat of my sister's wedding day, three years earlier.  I know he was happy, for us both, but I also know it was so, so hard.

I know because it was hard for me too.  To let go.  To let another man take care of me when my dad did it so very well.

But just as he quietly and gracefully let go when I left for college, and again when we left for Budapest, he let go then.

He let me go into my own family.  My own life.  Knowing it would never be the same.  But knowing, as well, it would never be forgotten.

But somehow, when I watch my dad play with the boys, when I watch them smile and laugh at their silly Gramps, it's even better.

Because my kids get him too.  They get his humor and his sincerity and his various baseball tips.  And I get to relive my childhood a bit.  But this time I get to watch.  And realize just how lucky I was.  Just how lucky I am.

So happy birthday to my kind, funny, loving, handsome dad.  Just wanted to let you know that I didn't always understand.  But I do now.


2 comments:

  1. Such a sweet post. You do have a great dad! You made me cry again.

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  2. Thanks for the kind words Kimmy! Special thanks for not including the now infamous dad/coach melt-down shouting incident that occurred a long time ago during one of your softball games ... Your Mom and sister remind and admonish me about it to this day. Love you always!

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