Friday, July 10, 2009

My Daddy

As we get older, we look back and realize there are things we didn’t do enough of, things we should have done, things we shouldn’t have done.  Not necessarily regrets, but more like lessons learned.  Now that I’m big - no Mommy, I am not going to say ‘grown-up’ – and far away from home, I’ve realized one of those things I never really did enough of growing up.  I didn’t appreciate my daddy enough.

Daddy and I are a lot alike.  Mommy says two peas in a pod.  Both stubborn as a mule.  And, boy, can we slam doors, throw shoes and stomp our feet!  As you can imagine, this didn’t always make for the most pleasant home environment for Mommy and my sisters.  Mommy used to tell us to stop fighting just so she could have some peace.  She didn’t care who was right, she didn’t care who was wrong, she didn’t care what we did, but she wanted us to just be quiet.

Despite our occasional outbursts, driven more by our Aries’ fire than any real disagreement (and my insanely high aversion to being called a liar when I’m not lying), we actually have a lot of fun together.  Well, at least I have fun.  You’d have to ask Daddy if he has fun.

Daddy’s a great daddy.  For starters, he was – and is – always there for us.  I never really thought of that as anything special, but I don’t have to look far through my close circle of friends to see that having a Daddy around isn’t the norm.  But even if it was the norm to have a Daddy who was always around, there’d still be few to compete with mine.

When Alfred and I were little girls, Daddy used to help us get ready for school.  Eat breakfast with us, get us off on our way or drop us at the day care center.  It was the mid ‘80s and in Mr. Mom fashion, it took him a little while to get used to all those little things peculiar to little girls.  Pigtails don’t just do themselves, and tights don’t come with built in underwear.  But he learned.  And you know what, we don’t really remember that stuff – that’s the stuff we know about cuz Mommy told us.

What I remember from those mornings is breakfast in the kitchen nook with Daddy.  Oatmeal with brown sugar from the yellow tupperware containers.  Daddy would show us how to make neat little patterns in the oatmeal with our milk and brown sugar, swirling it around.  Sometimes it’d be Malt-o-Meal, sometimes cereal. 

And Daddy would tell us stories, usually something about how he met Mommy or how she broke his heart a bunch of times.  And of course, the best part of breakfasts, and the most memorable, was how Daddy would sing to us at breakfast.  “One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small….”  “I wear my sunglasses at night, so I can, so I can….”  “…see her shake on the movie screen, Jimmy Dean…” 

The best songs were the ones he wrote for us,  “I used to love my girls when they were all curls…”  (There’s more, and it’s quite good, but if I put the whole thing up there, Daddy will probably claim copyright infringement and I’ll get in trouble.)

Music is very important to my sisters and me; I think Daddy has a lot to do with that.  He and Mommy shared their music with us.  They let us blast the stereo – of course, after Daddy blew out the subs on the speakers playing Frisbee on the front yard at Grandpa’s house, those speakers didn’t blast that much – and had music on pretty much all the time.

Some of my fondest memories are of being in the black yard while Daddy’s paint splattered little yellow radio blasted KLH as he worked on some project, painting the house, trimming the birch tree, mowing the grass, and Mommy hung up the laundry.  Daddy would have on short cut-off shorts and a T-shirt, his white socks with the single colored stripe near the top pulled up as high as they went, far above the tops of his red Chuck Taylors.

He built us several sandboxes in that back yard (and in the back yard of our ‘new’ house) and showed us how to make sandcastles.  He put in an above ground swimming pool at the old house.  (2, I think)  Then he would get in the pool and take up the whole length, and Alfred in I would make a game of trying to get over, or under, Daddy.  And he would let us – sometimes making it easier, sometimes harder, sometimes balancing his large plastic cup of iced tea on his knee.

Daddy taught us to play games too, like cribbage and sheepshead.  Even though Mommy won’t play with him cuz she says he remembers everything and harps 5 hands later about how Mommy shouldn’t have taken the queen to the prom, we still like playing with Daddy.  You just have to know what to do.  For example, never agree to a trade with him in Monopoly, it is not in your best interest.

Outside, we’d play Frisbee; Daddy managing to never spill a drop of his iced tea (or beer if it was a family get together).  He’d even play T-ball or catch with us for a little while, until he got to dizzy and motion sick and had to sit down.

When we were really good girls, Daddy would give us a special treat and let us go shopping with him!  Mostly, it’d be grocery shopping at Pick N Save or possibly Piggly Wiggly.  Grocery shopping with Daddy was great cuz we’d get to be the coupon holder and help pick out which of the ‘any four varieties’ we wanted.  And, we got to help pick out the cheese flavors, or maybe even plead for some cheese curds.  On especially fun trips, Daddy would take us to Goldmann’s Department Store to shop for clothes for one of his clients (and a relative of ours) who lived at a nursing home.

When I was a young teenager, Daddy would take me to the hobby shop and help me pick out new model cars and airplanes to build.  We’d walk up and down the aisles of the big store, looking at all the neat stuff, and stand squinting at the tiny jars of paint, looking for just the right colors.

In high school, during the summers, Daddy would come home from work at lunchtime.  We looked forward to it all morning (most of the time, sometimes we were doing something secret and didn’t want to get in trouble).  He would make his lunch and sit at the table to eat it, clean the pool for us and take a nap.  We didn’t always go in to sit and talk with him, but it felt good just knowing he was home and there.

Even as I get older, Daddy’s right there whenever I need help.  Taking me to visit schools, helping me draft my Will, doing my taxes, sending me important documents.

But you know what one of the best things about Daddy is?  He shares the things he loves with us.  As far back as I can remember, Daddy would tell us about Milwaukee, the city’s history, how our family fit into the picture, what things used to be, why the roads were where, the ships that sank and the men who made the bridges not line up.

He took us on the most fascinating and fun vacations all over the place, to tiny museums where we were the only visitors.  Those vacations were always so well planned, and Daddy knew so much about all the places we visited, having researched and read about them before we left or in the hotel room.  Piled in the car with our soon-to-be-half-melted crayons, our stuffed friends and all the enthusiasm little (or big) girls can hold, Daddy would drive us down long stretches of highways to childrens’ museums and zoos, through the cities to Presidential monuments, and along dirt roads to city with a special, and very pretty, name.

At dinner, he would always share with us some interesting tid bits from the books he was reading.  Explaining to us how throwing a broken teacup into a black hole wouldn’t destroy the evidence of its being broken, but preserve it forever.  Or about how some Civil War general did the most amazing thing to win some battle.  Sometimes he’d just pull an encyclopedia off the shelf and share with us random facts about whatever was on the page he had opened up to.

There’s so much more I want to say, but this post is very long already.  And I’m getting sleepy.  I better go to bed now.  Have to get up early.  I have a flight to catch tomorrow.  I’m going home to give my daddy a big hug .

1 comment:

Jeannie said...

And he thought it was because of my mothering skills that you all turned out so well...