This week Ladybug asks:
Look into your archive and share a post that means a lot to you. Why do you like it so much and why is it special to you?
I have written about my father on the anniversary of his death, Father’s Day, his birthday. This past August was the 10th anniversary of his death. We had a complicated relationship as adults, but were close as I was growing up. Often death can change our perception of things, of people, we hold onto the good, choosing to blot out and throw away all the bad or less than perfect times that were. I see much of my father in myself, a reminder of the “less than perfect” person he was, but not allowing it to overshadow how much good there was in him, and how fortunate I am to also have inherited the good. The following post means a lot to me as it puts many feelings and thoughts about my father together in one place.
Are we who we are because of genetics? environment? a combination of both? As I have grown older I have to come to realize I am my father’s daughter most certainly. So much of who I am, the things that make me tick, are so because of him. I was always closer with my father than my mother. He was always the more “emotive” parent- free with his hugs, easy to laugh, a good listener who really heard what you had to say. He was willing to engage in discussion at times when my mother just saw everything as black or white, gray never existed in her world. I was an emotional child- easy to cry, sensitive- my mother didn’t know what to do with it- thankfully my father was always there.
One of my earliest memories (I was 5) is of us going bird watching together. He was an avid bird watcher and part of a club. We would leave the house before daybreak, and meet his birding group. I remember spotting a Snowy Owl once- a major sighting! My love of nature and birds stems from those early morning trips.
He loved music and loved to sing. He had hoped to become a professional singer in his early 20’s, but real life came along and he needed to be able to make a living. His love for music was infused throughout our home-he always sang to us and for us, he played the banjo- old folk songs with verses we could all join in on.
My father recorded a few songs in a studio when he was thinking he could turn his singing into a career. The recordings were on 78 rpm records. Shortly before he died I was able to have the recordings converted to CD. I remembered hearing the recordings as a child, but had literally not heard them in 45 years. At the sound of the first note of him singing, what a rush of emotion- music or a song can always take you back to another place and time- but to hear his voice! What a gift to be able to hear that beautiful voice again.
My father was a complicated man-loving on one side, the other side a short fuse with a temper. He grew up poor with an alcoholic father and no education past high school, but succeeded in rising above it and away from it, following the lead of people willing to help him, observing people, paying attention to how they got to where they got to, and reaching those heights himself because of it. Did he have a darker side, yes, but I am happy to remember what was so wonderful about him, and understand where the darkness came from and why it was a part of him and accept it. Giving, but don’t cross him or his vindictive nature would come out. He could cut people off and out of his life. He and I became estranged for almost 14 years through my 30’s & 40’s. His doing, not mine. A new wife, a different life, his ego all contributing factors. I was glad I was old enough to understand the whys, and glad that while I was growing up he had always been there for me. I needed him less as an adult. We reconciled 4 years before he died when I found out he was sick. I thanked him before he died for playing such an instrumental part in my becoming who I was as an adult. The many good qualities I have that I knew came from his teaching.
What I learned from my father:
A love of music, how to sing using my voice properly.
A love for birds and nature.
A love for clothes. He was a sharp dresser and had an appreciation for good clothes and style, and was always fastidious about grooming.
Try foods before saying I didn’t like them. If I tried it and didn’t like the taste, fine, but don’t turn your nose up to something just because you don’t like the look of it.
A love for mayonnaise! He made the BEST fried egg sandwiches on white bread slathered with mayo. I can remember coming home as a teenager, late on a Saturday night to find him in the kitchen, and he’d say he was just going to make a sandwich, did I want one too. Oh yeah.
I learned table manners from him- sometimes the hard way. The napkin needed to be on my lap when I sat down to eat dinner. Chew with your mouth closed. Use your knife to push food onto your fork, if you dared use a finger you were banished from the table, whether you were finished or not.
We watched Star Trek, F Troop, McHale’s Navy and Jonathan Winters together. I loved when he would laugh uncontrollably at some skit Jonathan Winters was doing, laughing until he cried.
His favorite poem was Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.
He read it to me many times, and always reminded me of the importance the following lines held for him.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
I am thankful to have had a father that understood me, helped me to grow as a person, and who lives within in me. I feel my ability to be a good listener, to search for deeper meaning in things, comes from him. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to tell him those things before he died. I made the following photo montages with his recordings playing in the background, if you’d like to take a listen.