Saturday, June 26, 2010

I'm becoming my dad.

In my teen years, there was nothing I hated more than to hear people tell me “you’re just like your dad.”  And I heard it fairly often - especially from my mom.  It’s not that I don’t like my dad.  He’s pretty cool.  He’s had a tremendous impact on my life and influence over the kind of person I have become.  (More influence than I would care to admit, obviously...) (Not that I mind his influence, but when you start to turn into your father in a myriad of idiosyncratic ways, you sometimes wish the influence hadn’t been QUITE so strong.) (You know, like the fact that I am stubborn to a fault, how I’m a picky perfectionist that can never finish anything because it’s never perfect, or my propensity toward hoarding.) It’s just that the thought of turning into her father makes a girl cringe a little.  Shouldn’t we be like our moms?
I just realized as I looked over these past few posts about gifts for dads, that I never recognized father’s day.  It seems a gross oversight on my part, considering the special Mother’s Day post I wrote.  I think I have an excuse, as I was out of town visiting mr’s family over Father’s Day (something I didn’t even realize until the day of...) but I think the more realistic reason is simply that I have no memory to speak of.
In any case, I figured if I didn’t write SOMETHING dad-related, you may start to think I have no dad, when, in fact, I do.

I have a lot of dad memories.  I never lacked in happy childhood moments, or good experiences with my parents.  But here’s one of my favorites.
I lay in bed on a summer night, wishing I could stay awake for just a little longer.  It IS summer, after all.  Summer means no school, playing outside all day, warm nights waiting to be explored, and a battle every bed time.  My seven-year-old mind races with images of everything I want to do instead of sleep.  As the minutes wear on, my eyes grow heavy and I nod into a happy sleep full of summer dreams.
Suddenly, I’m shaken awake.  Confused, I turn, looking out my window into pitch darkness.  Was it still night?  I’m tired!  “What time is it?”  I mutter, blearily.  “Late.”  Dad replies.  “What’s going on?”  I ask.  “Come and see!”  He exclaims - waiting for me to climb out of bed.
I follow him outside and into our backyard.  I look around.  Everything seems odd and out of place at this time of night.  I’m not used to being awake and outdoors in the darkness.  Dad lays down on the hood of his car.  I still have no idea what this is all about.
“Look.” He says, pointing into the sky.
Colors and lights dance.  It’s a flowing pool of iridescent shimmer, playing across the night.  I’m surprised.
“What is it?”  I breathe in seven year old wonder.
“The northern lights.” He says quietly, not wanting to disturb them.  “The aurora borealis.”  
We sit together on the car.  We are silent for a long time.  Then we talk.  
I ask him about the borealis and he explains.  Of course, it’s nothing compared to what it would be if we lived further north.  It’s subdued in its intensity and quiet in its strength.  But for us, it’s a wonder to behold.  
We talk of the night, of the stars - which are beautiful and clear.  We talk about natural wonders and I ask him why he woke me up and let me come outside so late.  None of the other kids were outside with us.
“I just thought you’d like to see it.” He shrugs.
And he’s right.  I did like seeing it.
I’m not sure why he didn’t get everyone out of bed.  I’m not sure if I dreamed how clear the night was and how well we could see the northern lights.  People have tried to convince me that there was no way I could have been watching them from where I live.  But I know it happened.  I think he woke me because he realized I’d appreciate it.
I have other memories.  How he let me “style” his hair with a spray bottle, comb and every single ribbon, barrette and bow I owned - until he went bald.  How he would let me pretend to “paint” his hand and then put in batteries and power it up, giving the robotic appendage life - while I was bored during a two hour long church service.  How he made me my very own small scale stilts when I envied my sister’s much larger version.  How he built me a tire swing in the tree in the front yard because I wanted one so much, even though he knew it wouldn’t work out because there really wasn’t enough room.  All of the times he drove my rowdy friends and I to the movies, the mall, concerts and stores before I had my license.  The protective look in his eyes when I started dating.  The times he left the house just to buy me oreos after a bad break-up - even when he was busy with something else.  Watching “Alias” together before it got weird in its final seasons.  
When it comes to dads, I’d say I’m kind of lucky.
Some things I like about my dad, that I think I’ve inherited (along with those annoying traits, listed above...):
his green eyes (we’re the only two in the family)
his boisterous laugh
his storytelling abilities - boy, can that guy talk
his refusal to give up
his faith
his ability to cry - when he’s super duper happy, and when he’s super duper sad - even when there are others around
From my dad, I’ve learned friendliness.  I’ve learned that service is good - even when others try to take advantage of our willingness.  He taught me to be honest - with others and myself, with small things and big things - and with emotions.  He taught me that failure is a part of life, but it’s how we deal with it that makes all the difference.  And it’s alright to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them.
I guess there are worse things than turning into my father.
"What??  You think I'm like my father???  Where in the world did you get an idea like that?"

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