This morning, around 6:50 or so, my iPod started barking at me, a notification that I had received a message. My mom had sent me a message, a greeting and announcement that she and my dad were going to be returning to their home on Monday.
Realizing they had internet access, I immediately sent a FaceTime request and Mom’s face shortly popped up on my screen. I wish I was a better daughter and could say that I remember everything that we were talking about. In all honesty, I have no idea. I know that she showed me the Rhine River and it was nice and liquidy. But my focus was on my father. I needed to tell him the obligatory statement of the day.
In looking at that last sentence, I see how I have painted myself as a superficially, trite person who is focusing on the ceremony or ritual that is expected of this day. And, in some respects, I guess I am. Because I don’t want to acknowledge my father’s importance on one day each year. Even if I add in his birthday, he is more deserving of love, honor, respect, and gratitude than just a couple of days.
Let’s move past the fact that my father is half the reason I am alive. Let’s move past the obligatory elements that he raised me and helped me become the woman I am.
My father is the reason I started writing. The time he gently sat me down and told me the sketch I was doing for my mother was nice but not that good whereas the poem I had written on a whim was really good and that I should start writing more often….that is what propelled me to start writing seriously and to consider it as a future career.
My father taught me to drive, to fish, to belch (much to my mother’s chagrin), to ski. He was my hiking partner, the person who taught me how to budget money while we played the slot machines. He taught me card games, how to smash ice over mountain streams without falling in, and how to get on and off chairlifts without falling.
My father taught me to pursue life with absolute passion, to grab the world and never let go because life is precious and finite. He taught me to be honest with my emotions and to speak with truth and frankness. Once, when we were hiking in Switzerland, Dad and I saw where people had created little stone towers by stacking rocks on top of one another. Several years later, he and Mom returned to this same hike and he wrote a letter to me and placed it under a stack of rocks. Last week, my husband and I were hiking on the Appalachian Trail and we saw a small stack of rocks, similar to what Dad and I had seen in Switzerland. I told Pat the story of Dad leaving me a note and I realized that, if I’m lucky, over twenty years later, the note will still be waiting for me, on a gravel path leading to a peak in Switzerland.
So, this morning, as I was chatting with my father even though we were separated by thousands of miles and several time zones, the first thing I told him was “Happy Father’s Day.” I didn’t have a gift for him. I didn’t have a card for him. I am a terrible daughter. But I love him and my father’s response was amazing. He grinned at me, thanked me, and then said that “You’re the reason why this is a good Father’s Day.” I don’t know why. So often, I haven’t always been the best daughter….examples plenty if you just scroll through this post. But I love my father, and he knows it. It might not be in a card that was written by someone else with yet another person’s art work. But it’s seen in every word that I say to him, in every flick of the wrist as I send out the line and baited hook so we can try and catch another fish.
My father-in-law, Frank, is yet another amazing man and father. The first time I ever met Pat’s family, Frank took me on a several hour tour of the local city, teaching me all about the history and significant sites. He was incredibly welcoming, wanting to share with me his love for his home. Every time we have a family event, Frank is there with his camera, documenting our times together. So many of my memories of Frank are seen through the reverse side of the lens as he stands on the borders of our experiences and his voice is the clicking sound of the shutter closing.
Frank is unending compassion. Due to my insecurity and lack of self-confidence, I generally despise having my picture taken (ironic given how many picture of myself are used as placeholder for each blog-post); recently, when we were celebrating his birthday, as always, Frank was taking pictures. And he pointedly did not take any pictures of me. At one point, he commented on this and I was grateful for his consideration. And then felt horrible because he was being so nice and conscientious. But that is Frank. He is constantly thinking of others. The hours he donates at his church are second to the constant hours of uncompensated over-time that he puts in at his work. He doesn’t do this for money. He does this to ensure that work is done and goals are met.
Another father figure in my life is Dave, my Big Daddy. Commitment is Dave’s mantra. He loves whole-heartedly and without end. I invited Dave to speak to my class about his experiences in the Vietnam War. Now, over a decade later, I am Dave’s “Other Daughter.” He reads my posts and frequently commends me on what I have written, encouraging me to write more. When I have written about something negative that has happened to me or one of my family members, Dave is the first person who offers to stand up for our possibly damaged honor. Last year, he took my family and me to DC to celebrate and commemorate the anniversary of the Seabees. After the ceremony, Dave took us to the Vietnam memorial and gave me a personal tour of the “Three Man” statue; then, he walked us to the Wall where he rubbed his finger’s into his fallen comrade’s name. Now, as I am planning out my new school year, I already have a point where I will invite Dave to my classroom once more. To teach my students. To teach me. Or, in all honesty, so I can hug him once more and bring him coffee and show him that love doesn’t have to be connected by name or blood.
The last father I need to discuss is my beloved, my husband, the father of our children. Right now, he is reclining on the couch, drinking a beer, and deliberating what new hobby he wants to pursue. He has just taken on a new volunteer position for the Boy Scouts. In a schedule that is already impossibly full, he has allowed himself to add on more to the requirements of his life. Patrick is completely and utterly devoted to his family, to his children, to me. Admittedly, he doesn’t always act as the most romantic person, but, in the end, he loves me and this is shown in his gentle actions, in the way he will carry our daughter’s rucksack when we go to our mountain.
I am not a great person for celebrating Father’s Day, but I hope that I honor the men in my life who have either been fathers to me or my children. I have never bought a Father’s Day card. I don’t know that I ever will. I don’t need other people to write the words of love that I feel every day for these men.
Poem for the Day:
Inspired by a Spider Web
I have stood under the rose windows of Notre Dame and
Have stood in the aisle and looked backwards to see the
Circles of stained glass windows that stood as a compass,
Follow the images clockwise and the stories of faith are told,
As though I am walking through stations of the cross.
Today, I walked four miles with the dog, walked under
The cathedral ceiling of tree limbs arching towards one another,
Lovers separated by a path, their arms stretched towards each other…
The tips just slightly touching but never embracing.
Suspended over the path but, thankfully, high enough not to brush my hair
Is a spider web with its silent minister ensconced in the center.
I tip my head back, stare in frightened admiration at the silken
Wheel that hangs over the path, its threads lightly bouncing in the
Breeze that follows last night’s storm like a contrail.
In my ears sing forty voices of men’s and boy’s choirs celebrating the
Birthday of Elizabeth the First…this is music archaic in its composition
But celestial in its execution. As soprano voices weave amongst the
Baritone, I am suspended far above this mundane plane.
This is where I feel the sacred primitiveness of life.
Here in this sanctuary, where I walk reverently down a four mile long aisle,
My genuflections might be irreverent when I flick sweat off my forehead.
My communion wine nothing more than tap water that isn’t even filtered.
But here, I am filled with the consecration of God,
Am closest to the Almighty, even when I trip over my own feet.