Monday, January 3, 2011
When I was a little girl, my Dad built me a wooden horse made out of driftwood. It had rope stirrups and overlooked the lake at camp. I remember riding the horse and swinging on the swing that Dad also built for me, the one under the front deck. My daughter enjoys that swing even to this day. I have a lifetime of memories of being with my Dad. Most of the memories make me smile, several make me laugh with joy, and only a couple fill me with regret.
One such regret is how quiet our commutes to school were when I was in high school. I lived in a district that allowed me to go home for an hour long lunch break. After enjoying Mom's cooking, Dad (who also had the hour off) would drive back to work and drop me off at school. We'd both jump into his truck and although it's understandable that both he and I had many things on our mind at that time of day, I do recall him trying to engage me in conversation, day after day, but I wasn't very receptive to talking to him. The one-to-two mile trip back to school couldn't come soon enough for me. I felt awkward and I suppose, I was just your typical "moody" teenager who felt she was so much cooler than her Dad.
Thankfully, my Dad never took all that commuting silence personally. Or if he did, the poems, stories, homemade gifts, and expressive emails I sent to him as an adult made up for those few years of insolence and selfishness. The funny thing is, that the older I become, the more and more I realize how very much alike we are. We both work extremely hard, double and triple checking our work in a meticulous fashion, wanting to do our very best. We both share a love of singing, and an appreciation of nature. We both love to ham it up on occasion, but we both think too much and worry excessively. We both tend to cuss (we call swearing "mill talk"), although mostly that occurs when we lack patience in ourselves, but we strive to do right by God and our families. And yes, we are both quite tenderhearted and definitely sentimental.
I spend a great amount of time thinking about my Dad these days. Yesterday he turned 83. I sent him a picture of us going x-country skiing back in the late 1980's and again began to recall all the fabulous times we have had together over the years--bowling downtown on Saturday mornings, splitting wood or picking blueberries, making near-nightly trips to camp for supper and a swim after his day at work, playing pool and cribbage, watching slides, going on boat rides, eating pancakes that drop on the floor, singing at the piano when we'd go visit my grandmothers, taking in the sites together on his business trips to Texas, Finland/Sweden/Denmark...
But one of the most precious remembrances I'll hold dear for years to come is of a certain conversation the two of us had while sitting on the dock together this past summer. As luck would have it, someone snapped a picture of us, forever cementing that afternoon in my memory. It was a serious conversation about life, aging, and death, but it was a natural discussion and in the midst of it, there was humor. I think one of the things I love best about my Dad is that he never takes himself too seriously. He is humble and has one of the healthiest perspectives on life that I've ever had the chance to witness. He works hard but he loves deeply.
I'm so very grateful that over the years I got abundantly more than a second chance to talk with my Dad after all those missed opportunities during our lunch time commutes back in the 80's. He is such a good man. I am so very proud to be his daughter. Happy Birthday Daddy. I love you more than you'll ever know.