I am a daddy’s girl. I openly and proudly admit that. And as such, I realize that about half of you cannot relate, purely by virtue of gender. However, I am quite sure that if you think about it, either you share the affections of your wife with her own father, or you have a daughter that is a daddy’s girl. At the very least, you know someone who is.
A true daddy’s girl is pretty convinced that her father is the biggest, smartest and best dad on the planet, and in my case, it really was true. My dad was a really big guy; his size 14 shoes were meant for dancing on. His massive hands completely swallowed up my own, something which made me feel so secure. His long legged gait required four of my steps to every one of his.
My dad was brilliant, his brain a container for not only scientific data, but minutia and trivia that would boggle most minds. He could rattle of the exact date and time, or address of some adventure that happened decades earlier. The rare word or two that might elude him in conversation, was written on a little sheet of paper neatly tucked in a pocket or carried in his wallet for nearly instant retrieval.
My dad was the son of a teacher. In fact his grandmother and his mother were both teachers, so it is no wonder that he too was a teacher in his own right. From spelling, to grammar to physics and botany, our home was a virtual classroom. My dad taught me that there is one “r” in sherbet, and two in library, (which doesn’t make either word any easier to pronounce).
I learned that catsup is “thixotropic” and that a room does not reach 70 degrees any faster by turning the thermostat up to 80. By the age of five I learned that this plant is called “echeveria” and that one “portulaca”.
Not every lesson was serious however. A lesson in horticulture included the aeration of our lawn – he would strap spikey shoe-like contraptions to his feet and dance around singing the “Johnny Appleseed song”. Now that was scientific.
I spent a period of my early childhood imagining other ways to get to school, perhaps motivated by some bullying that was happening between home and the schoolyard. I had decided that I would rather travel to and from by hot air balloon, or at least my 8 year old version. I told my father that I was going to need some helium balloons and a bed sheet, and asked if he would help me. I find it remarkable that this scientist with a whole lot more important things to ponder, did not offhandedly dismiss. Rather, he told me that he would talk to his workmates about it the next day and get back to me. He did precisely that. Upon returning from home the next evening, he sat me down and explained just how many bed sheets it would take to contain the phenomenal number of helium balloons required to carry my then very small body the distance between our house and the elementary school. I quickly abandoned the idea as it seemed I would be far too conspicuous.
Of course the next idea required even more math as he explained just how many neighborhood kids with buckets and shovels it would take to help me dig a tunnel from our backyard to school.
What I can tell you about my dad, pales in comparison to what I either did not know or knew very little about until this last week or two. Certain parts of my father have always been a mystery to me. As a four year old, all I knew about my father’s naval career was that he went to sea.
And his job was far outside my comprehension. Explaining what my father did for a living to the kids at school was difficult. Unlike those children whose fathers were policeman and doctors, If I told my classmates he was an inorganic chemist, I was met with that glazed over look. If I tired to clarify with, “he works in a metallurgy lab”, I received more blank stares. Eventually, I would resort to saying something, like, “he makes parts for space ships”. That would at least get the attention of the boys.
I am saddened by the things I never took the time to learn about him. As a seamstress, how I would have loved to know that he quilted, something I would never have known had I not found a beautifully executed quilt sample in his personal effects.
As someone who has studied a few languages, mostly dead, or otherwise not so conversational, I would have delighted to know that he had spent hours charting the different characters of several different languages, comparing them one to another. Had I known this I might have shared my charts created in much the same fashion. Who knows, we might have had that conversation in Greek or Hebrew.
I have studied religious art and architecture yet had no idea he had been to many of the very shrines and temples that I have only seen in text books. How rich it would have been for him to personally describe each magnificent and sacred site to me form his memory.
My father is still teaching me – one of the greatest lessons yet: Parents, talk to you children; kids, ask your mom and dad questions. Find out what makes them tick, what is it that they love about the color blue and where have they traveled to? Don’t waste a minute, find out who they are, and then celebrate them.