personal, stories

A Daughter’s Ode to Fathers

FullSizeRender (1)I didn’t really realize my father’s role in my life until I was at least 22. (Sorry it took so long, Dad!) It was so everyday, so simple oftentimes, that I took it for granted. But, the everyday things matter because it’s the everyday things that mean that, all tolled, I was and am cared for every day.  

Growing up, Dad would let me play at putting plastic hair clips in his hair — even though he didn’t even have a whole lot of hair to speak of.

Dad could rip off Band-Aids just right and make the world’s best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

He would take me to the library on Saturdays and go get lost in the basement while I got lost in the children’s section. When I had a sufficient stack of Wayside School and Baby-sitters Club, I would venture to the basement and find him absorbed in some ancient-looking tome, not knowing that someday I too would get absorbed in some ancient-looking tomes.

That one time I tried a team sport, I think he was at every basketball game — taking pictures, too, to document the awkward adolescent attempts at athleticism much to my chagrin.

The many times I tried spelling bees (yes, like the Scripps Howard kind and the kids in the documentary Spellbound), he actually made a computer program containing every single word in my practice booklet. Thousands of them. It was like a love letter written in JavaScript, saying without a word (or was it thousands of words?) that he cared about what I care about. During “spelling bee season,” we would get out the love letter for an hour every night and practice. Chionablepsia. Modinha. Ecchymosis. I still remember how to spell them, and maybe moreover I still remember my dad’s face as I spelled them, his nods and gentle no’s.

When I would come downstairs in a prom dress or walk across a stage in cap and gown, Dad would say “I’m so proud of you.” Like a little tiny echo of Father God saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

When I have a concern with my computer or car, I know all too well that Dad will answer my text messages with a healthy balance of advice  and emojis.

Now, I do realize that many, many people for many, many reasons don’t have fathers who are present like this. But, your father has probably been present at some point. I think if you think about it, there may have been some plastic hair clips or PB&Js — from a biological father or a father figure or fatherly someone.

Whether it’s easy or hard, painful or poetic, I think we can all try in some way to say this simple line, as I’ve heard a poet put it (W.S. Merwin I think): “I guess what I’m trying to say is thanks.”

Thanks for the everyday. Thanks for the mundane. Thanks for the unnoticed and unacknowledged, the forgotten and forgiven.

Thanks, fathers. Thanks.    

7 thoughts on “A Daughter’s Ode to Fathers”

  1. I pass along my love of libraries from my mother. She took me along to the local city or county library in the evenings, after work, after dinner, or even during work hours at the NASA library at Ames Research Center. She was my model for how to use a library; she didn’t drop me off or just point me to the available resources—I learned all that in school. She used the library for life long learning and that became completely matter of fact for me, too.

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