Thanks, DadPosted: June 16, 2013
Most women are frozen in place with fear when they first note they’ve inadvertently made one of their mother’s gestures, find more than a passing resemblance made stronger with age or say something that sounds a lot like a phrase they heard over and over again as a child. No matter how much a woman loves her mother, she generally doesn’t want to be her.
Oddly, I find the more time goes by, I’m becoming more like my father. And honestly, I welcome it.
My father passed away a dozen years ago last April. And yes, it doesn’t matter how much time passes, I always feel like I’ve forgotten to do something—buy a gift, plan a dinner—whenever Father’s Day comes around.
I have to admit, my father wasn’t around all that much when I was a child—to the point that I remember some smart-ass kid in grade two telling I didn’t have one. Which in the time and place I was growing up, was akin to being a leper. I did, but a garage explosion (he was a mechanic) cost him three fingers and more than a year of his life in the burn unit of a rehabilitation facility nearly 400 miles from home. That’s a long time for a six-year-old. And when life got to back to normal, his work in construction took him out of town for long periods of time.
I think he liked it that way. The freedom. The constant change. He wasn’t really the domestic white-picket-fence type.
I remember at 17, being quite smitten with my last boyfriend’s father. He had five sons and plenty of work, but that didn’t stop him from being involved in his kids’ lives in a way that I just didn’t have.
Now, what I didn’t have doesn’t seem to matter all that much. What I remember having does.
And I do remember plenty. I remember the twangy southern New Jersey accent he never lost after decades in Canada (he never did become a citizen), the way he pronounced things like “po-lease” and “wush.” I remember having to translate things he said for my friends. I remember the tales of his exotic (to me) childhood, learning to drive when most people are learning script writing so he could race my grandfather’s homebrew from one county to another fast enough to stay off the “Revenue mens’” radar. (I think he thought “The Dukes of Hazzard” was a documentary.) I remember that he ran away from home around 12 and stayed with an aunt until basic training and I never asked why. He could do anything with a car—and spent a good deal of his youth (and mine) as a professional racer and stunt driver. He was 6’1″, dark haired handsome with sky blue eyes—and looked ready to take on the world in the photos I saw of him when he was a house mover for the Seaway project. He was accident-prone, with a painful history of broken bones and near misses. I remember he was fastidious about his appearance, even his work clothes requiring a sharp pressing—and in later years, I remember wheeling his chair through better men’s shops and forking up big bucks to keep him in style, a need he maintained despite anything the world threw at him. I remember him standing on the walk into the house on the nights I had blown off curfew or done something else to have my mom in a rage—warning me not to make her madder, wisdom I seldom heeded. And I remember not crying when he died, glad he was out of pain and figuring that since I had been inconsolable for days after every visit during the last year of his life as I watched him fade away, I had cried enough.
This is the day children give their fathers gifts—but I want to talk about what he gave me. Besides skin that resists wrinkles, wavy hair that behaves and easy access to dual citizenship. The older I get, the more I realize I have picked up his “if it doesn’t affect my life directly in the next 24 hours, then I don’t need to know about it” attitude.
My mother comes from a long line of worriers. They fuss a lot, concerned with reputation and what others’ think. They need to know everything whether it matters directly to them or not. They like the intimate details of other peoples’ lives. They gossip. My mother grew up with this kind of outward view and lets too many things outside of her control—particularly those that have no bearing on her life—get to her. My dad lived in his own little world and liked it, caring nothing what anyone thought of him. That made him strong. And it made him able to handle things that would have crushed most people.
My mother commented, in frustration, the other day, that more and more, I’m getting just like him. That I just don’t care about anything that isn’t right in front of me.
My dad gave me the gift of self-confidence, of not being affected by the words or actions of others and the spirit to do my own thing in my own way. Faith in my own decisions. Inner peace.
Although he’d have never called it that. He have just figured I should do whatever I want to do. “Ain’t no one’s life by your own,” he’d say.
Thanks dad, for the freedom.
Wherever you are, happy Father’s Day.