Because my father never understood the rules of love, he never played the game very well. Often rather than show any emotion, he would substitute money or material items for love and attention. In his head he saw the two as interchangeable and therefore he saw possessions to be as good as affection and possessions took a whole lot less effort.
I have spent most of my life intellectually knowing that his feelings for me are likely far greater than his words and actions show but still....even at my age....feeling the sting of never being "Daddy's little girl" or ever feeling like I was in anyway special in his eyes, causes me some pain. In fact....because of my female status, I have always felt far inferior to my brother where my dad's view of me was concerned. It has been a roller coaster ride for decades of hurt and anger often followed by guilt for feeling the anger. I have noticed though...as I grow older and God help me....hopefully wiser, that I am able now, more often than not, to feel a large amount of sympathy for this man who is well into his 80's with little to show for those years except "things!"
In all fairness though, it has become quite clear to me that at times I definitely am my fathers daughter. I find myself saying and doing things at times that are quite "dad like." I also would be remiss if I didn't mention certain things that I owe him for, both the good and the bad. For starters, I owe him my ability to never give up on my kids and to let them not only have their dreams....but to live them without limits or my constant input. He never was able to do that for my brother and I and because of that, we both lost faith in ourselves and our dreams along the way. I also owe him my sharp tongue and at times wicked humor. My father was not usually one to laugh a lot or find humor in a lot of things but from a very young age I made it my mission to make him laugh on his level.... and often that meant me zinging him with his own words. I learned early on to be proficient and quick so as not to get myself in trouble for rudeness but to catch him off guard and watch him first turn red from being one upped by his child and then watching his face dissolve into a hearty laugh...again...because he had been one upped by his child. Of course I was never foolish enough to do this in front of anyone but him, which also I am sure helped to keep me out of trouble. He also taught me to tell my children daily how much I loved them and to hug them whenever possible because goodness knows I was always too poor to throw money at them. They were stuck with honest emotion and true affection instead of material things that mean very little in the big scheme of it all.
I know I often make my relationship with my father sound less than close, but in all honesty.....we do have our moments and there are things....good things that I take away from it. Sometimes there are stories. On occasions when I am in listening mode and he is in talking mode, we both are transported back to his years growing up in Oklahoma and then eventually to his years on the farm in Arkansas City, KS. Through his stories.....I see my dad in a different light and for a while....he is transformed by time and I learn a little about the man in short story glimpses.
As I said...there are both good things and bad things I have taken from our relationship. While the not so good seem to come to the surface quicker.....there are some really good things that dad has brought to our relationship that I will forever be grateful for. I will always drift back to my childhood every time I hear easy listening music on the radio as that is what he/we listened to. Turn on "The Girl from Ipanema" or "Winchester Cathedral" and I will be momentarily vacationing in 1969 again. I will forever be in love with Audrey Hepburn, Moon River and Breakfast at Tiffany's because of my dad. He also introduced me to westerns and two that will always hold a special place in my heart are "Gunsmoke" and "The Virginian". Those were our shows. I love peanut butter and honey sandwiches because my dad taught me that the two together were not just good....but a delicacy. I also owe my longing for fall and football to my dad. I began watching football at a young age for no other reason than to get his attention. I stuck with it when I realized that my brother couldn't stand the sport and it was something that Dad and I would do together that drove my brother crazy. One day though....somewhere a long the line......I actually became a fan. To this day when I am watching a game that I know my dad is watching too I will call him during half-time to discuss his opinion of the first half of the game. It is one of the few things we have in common and my brother still hates the game. Is that even American?
I realized the other day though, as I was listening to my Wicked cd for the millionth time....that the thing I owe my dad for the most is the love of the theater and especially musicals that he instilled in me. He took me to my first stage show Peter Pan, when I was very young. It left a lasting impression on me, as I remember sitting in my seat and being mesmerized by the actors, the costumes and every syllable and action that came from the stage. It was amazing and I was hooked. He also took me to my first movie musical. When The Sound of Music came out he took me to the theater to see it. Both my parents were afraid that I might be too young to actually enjoy it and behave myself through the entire picture.....but they were wrong. I remember sitting down and being so moved and excited when Julie Andrews began twirling on the mountain top as the opening music played, that tears were running down my cheeks. I simply couldn't get enough of the Von Trapps and the amazing music. When the movie ended I would have given anything to see more and even today.....I still feel the same. The right musical can still move me to tears and make me wish that I could stay for more. Yes....I owe all that to my dad.
So it is Father's Day and many girls and even fully grown women will spend the day with their fathers. They will look into their dads eyes and know that however much they love them....their dads return that love a thousand fold. I too will spend the day with my father. There will be no fatherly looks of love and time will be short as the noise and chaos of my family both tires and annoys him fairly quickly. Through it all though....we have our way. Somewhere deep inside I know that he knows I would not be there if I didn't love him and somewhere deep inside....I know that he loves me as much as he is capable of loving anyone.....and possibly more than I realize. Well anyway....a girl can dream.
Yeah....I know, this isn't the kind of normal blog tribute I give when it comes to holidays, people or holidays about people. It certainly isn't a Hallmark card of emotion and there is definitely no warm fuzzies exuding from my words. It may even be a little hard to tell that this is the closest thing to a love letter that a girl like me can write about a man like my father. Still and all though...it is who we are without any sugar coating and on most days.....we are good with that. Also...at this stage of the game, it is not lost on me that I am very lucky to still have my dad....warts and all. So maybe today I can talk him into an episode of Gunsmoke or maybe a story walk down memory lane....or maybe....I will take the risk of embarrassing him a little and simply say "Thanks Dad....I love you."
Happy Father's Day!