Happy Father’s Day!
Following are a few favorite stories from my conversations with oldest daughters about their relationships with their dads. The number in parentheses is the age each was when I spoke with her.
“Kristin” (30): After I graduated from college, a girl friend and I decided one weekend to quit our jobs and move to another city. Nine days later we had given notice on our jobs, found an apartment and moved. It felt great to get away and say, “I’m going to live my life.” My family was very surprised. It was one of the first times I got a look from my dad that said, “Go ahead. You’ve got it all figured out!” I was so happy about it.
Cathy (51): I was very influenced by my father. There was no boy before or after me. I identified with my dad. I wanted to be his son. I followed him around, mowing the grass, etc. He did not treat me in a girlie kind of way. He built things for me all the time (like) skateboards for my dolls. We were very close. I adopted all of his political positions. I used to parrot what he said. When I got married, I kept my own name. He objected, but I said, “Hey you taught me to think on my own and I’m not going to take someone else’s last name.” He felt in a little way like he’d created a monster.
April (34): I was raised by a man. When I got a “whooping,” I wouldn’t cry. I refused to let my father see my weakness. I succeeded all the time. He gave up. I certainly identify with my father. I was his favorite child. I remember one time when we were in the backyard. I was hanging clothes on the clothesline. I said to him, “I will always be here for you.” He said, “I know that. I can always count on you.” Both of us had tears in our eyes.
Kimi (35): My parents thought I was going to be a boy, but that’s not what they got. I think they were a little disappointed. But I was a tomboy. I wanted to make my Dad proud, to be a toughie, to fulfill something for him. In some way I’d picked up or perceived that he wanted a boy to go hunting with him, go to the lake with him. I think up until the time I was in middle school, I didn’t want to wear dresses, but then somehow my femininity took over.
Darsha (53): I was my dad’s shadow. I remember when I was about 10, we were pulling calves. It was a HOT day. There were flies all over us. There was no shade. I was sweating. I was wearing jeans and an old t-shirt and, of course, old cowboy boots. We were in a lot next to the barn. I had gloves on up to my armpits, that were coated with blood. I had blood and dirt all down the front of me.
When we got through, my dad thanked me and patted me on the shoulder. He said, “Squirt, if you can pull a calf, you can do anything you put your mind to.” He said it with this very proud look on his face, like I had really accomplished everything he’d always wanted me to do. As we walked back to the house, he hugged me. My dad and I were buddies. He raised me that if I had something to say, to say it, not to hem and haw about anything.
When my dad was ill, I couldn’t do anything. I was a nurse by then, but his medical condition warranted that the doctor deal with it. I couldn’t save him. Deep depression set in after the funeral. I finally had to tell myself that just sitting around crying, feeling sorry for myself, was not me. Somewhere in the back of my mind, Dad had groomed me all my life for this very moment. My time with my dad was very good, but now I had a new path to go down.
The Oldest Daughter: I remember the day I told my dad that I didn’t want him to grill a steak for me at the family barbecue because I had become a vegetarian. His already large brown eyes widened in disbelief. “I like vegetables,” he said, motioning to his large vegetable garden in the back yard. “But there’s nothing like a good steak.” Searching for something that would explain my feelings, I said, “I just prefer not to eat anything that has eyes.” His response was immediate. “How do you feel about potatoes?” His eyes twinkled, and I laughed out loud.
So this evening in honor of the man who taught me about the power of well-chosen words, I’m going to fix a baked potato—without eyes—for dinner.
Oldest Daughters: What to know if you are one or have ever been bossed around by one. Available at amazon.com, kindle.com and select bookstores.