Sunday, June 18, 2006

Fathers Day

Parents always make mistakes in raising their children. That’s a given. My husband and I so firmly believe this that we set up college and therapy accounts for our kids at the same time. My parents were no exception. My dad, for example, was probably the fairly typical absent father of the sixties. He owned his own business, so twelve to sixteen hour work days were the norm. After all, he did have eight kids to feed.

I remember really not liking him as I was growing up. He was much more strict than other fathers and had quite a temper. There was this chant us kids would say as we walked along the sidewalks. “Step on a crack, you break your dad’s back.” I used to stomp on the cracks. On purpose. As I’ve personally dealt with the concerns of parenting, specifically a daughter, it’s occurred to me that there are many things my dad did right. Today, one thing in particular comes to mind.

I remember coming down the stairs dressed to go on my first date, a dance up at the high school. I don’t remember what I wore, but I do remember what my dad said when he first saw me. “Well, look at you!” He grinned. “Miss America!” And for one split second I believed him. For one fairy-tale blink of an eye, I had complete and total confidence that I looked gorgeous. I was Miss America, the prettiest girl in the entire country.

His encouragement wasn’t only for dressy occasions either. At ordinary times, school days and weekends, I’d hear, “You don’t need all that make-up. You’re pretty enough just the way God made you.” Of course I didn’t really believe any of that bologna at the time. I continued primping as much as the next girl. But I think some part of what he’d said must have rubbed off, deep down inside.

Years later, he’d call my nieces Miss New York, or Miss Minnesota, or Miss Oklahoma, but the top title, Miss America, has always been reserved for me. Of course, these days he calls me Mrs. America!

What did your father (or mother if you were raised in a single parent home) do right while you were growing up? Tell us a favorite memory and then tell him.


Kathleen Eagle said...

For any father's daughter, it doesn't matter what the term of endearment is; it matters that you know it for what it is every time you hear it. Daddy called me "Punky." It made me feel favored. Not "the favorite," but favored. Smiled upon.

My dad died 33 years ago at the very young age of 48. In that time I've forgotten all the things he did wrong. I really only remember the good things, which is one of the blessings of time's passing.

I think I posted on Memorial Day about taking his medals to a framer, along with a couple of photographs. I picked it up Friday. It's way bigger than I imagined it would be, but apparently good memories have a way of growing. Thank heaven for that.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy!

anne frasier said...

eight kids. wowzers!

i have such mixed feelings about father's day that i'm reluctant to comment. sometimes i think it's a day that should be retired. it conjures of visions of normalcy that i doubt exist for most -- which is why i really liked your post, helen. you didn't do the hallmark thing.

my dad was always the stranger we saw every few years. in between those visits we never heard a word, and we never had a father's day relationship. now i talk to him quite often, and visit when i can. his health is bad and everything about him speaks silent regret.

Helen Brenna said...

Sometime, Anne, I think normalcy and parenting are mutually exclusive terms.

Betina Krahn said...

My dad was one of the world's special people who was born to comfort others. One of those people you feel better just being around. All he had to do was hold out a big hand for you to put yours in, and in the quiet of his presence you found healing for whatever was hurting your heart. The world needs people like this. . . I've developed a term for them: therapeutic personalities. People who help keep the rest of us sane and stable just by being there.

So I guess the thing my Dad did best was love unconditionally, unjudgmentally. He became a father figure for countless kids he taught and counseled in a high school, and is something of a legend in our family. When he died, we all felt like our anchor was gone and two years later we've finally begun digging our toes into the sand to become the anchors for others that he would have wanted us to be.

anne frasier said...

therapeutic personalities --

i love that