If any man on this earth has a daughter, and that daughter grows up to think of him with the appreciation, love, and respect I feel for my dad, he would be blessed beyond measure. I know of no formulaic equation for appreciation, love, or respect. We grow to love some people, or find ourselves growing to dislike others, and while that seems simple enough, the “either we love that person/ or we don’t” of relationships, it isn’t simple at all. Today is Father’s Day but I am grateful every day for the man who fell in love with my mother, wished to make her his wife, and shared with her every dream for a future together, and then did everything to make that future come true.
I have known many women in my life who have had dads who were, let’s just say, ‘not great,’ and whose frequent bad decisions and perpetual poor choices provided these girls with a childhood that often seemed uncertain, and I imagine that is not an easy way to grow up. I’ve read enough memoirs and have had enough friends to know too that many girls grow up with a list of questions that go through their minds when their dad is expected home… “will dad be mad, will dad be late, will dad be drunk, will dad be mean, will dad make enough money for mom to pay the bills…” My life was never this way, not even a little bit…My dad was never mad, late, drunk, or mean, and he never missed work. I know to some this example might make my dad seem kind of boring, but I assure you, he is one of the most interesting men you would ever have the good fortune to know, and what he was in my life was stability, consistency, and reliability, and I know this, it is in great part what has made me crave these simple pleasures in adulthood. There is nothing wrong with a stable, consistent, reliable way of life. The fact that my fatherless daughter got to have my dad step up and fill those same needs in her life is something for which I am forever thankful. The fact that my father has never stopped loving my mother is another thing about him that I appreciate, love, and respect. There is no way to measure that level of gratitude, for the stable, consistent, and reliable life his presence allowed me to give my daughter too…If there are really 50 Inuit words for snow, then if I could, I would imagine a language where there are 51 words for thanks.
I wonder sometimes, when my brain goes off on these delightful journeys, if there could be some brilliant, measurable formula, that we simply have not figured out, for what makes us love and why? What happened for my mother and my father never happened for me and that is simply a truth in my life. I have never loved a man who was enough like my father to compare them, and if my father was the standard to which I compared all men, I wonder why I never was able to find one who fell in love with me, wished to make me his wife, shared with me every dream for a future together, and then did everything to make that future come true…
My father never taught me to bait a hook, surf, swing a golf club, cast a line, play poker, or catch a crab, but the man I am currently dating has taught my granddaughters and his own daughter to do all of these things. My father has never, not once ever, sat inside on the sofa or in his chair during the day and watched a game of any sport on television, but the man I am currently dating would, if given the chance, sit on the sofa for hours, watching any sport in which the moving of a ball is involved, on any day of any week, regardless of the weather any time of year. It’s true that when I ask my dad to do something for me I only have to ask once, and let’s just say that when I ask the man I am currently dating to do something, I often have to ask much more than once. This at times makes me curious, how I can love two men so much who are so different in so many ways.
I suppose the appreciation formulation comes to me from the ways in which these two men are more similar. I always loved about my father that he would vacuum if the house needed vacuuming, or cook when dinner needed to be cooked, or do laundry when clothes needed to be washed, the same kinds of so-called “women’s work” that the man I am currently dating does whenever it needs to be done. I appreciate, very much that it’s what I have always known in my father, and presently have in the man with whom I am sharing my life. I know some women who never had that kind of man in their lives, ones who just expected the women to do the ‘women things’ and if she did not have the time or the energy, then those things did not get done.
My gratitude was sparked this past autumn by a memory of my mother when she twisted out her back when I was a young child, and the care that my father showed her, as she cried out in agony, as he tenderly got her into the bedroom and how he did all the chores and all the parenting, for days that I recall. I thought about this time in my past after I had surgery in November that did not go as smoothly as anticipated, and how the man I am currently dating tended to my health and my comfort, my needs and my wellness, and cared for me as if he were the doctor, the nurse, the housekeeper, and the chef. It turns out, those things really matter when you are sharing your life with somebody. His tenderness towards me reminded me so much of that memory I have of my father.
I have many memories of getting hurt or banged up as a little kid, and my dad never losing his cool, and just always calmly doing whatever needed to be done, and I have watched, many times, as the man I am currently dating has scooped up his own daughter, as well as each of my granddaughters, from the driveway after a fall, or pulled them from waves and currents that grew too strong too fast, or wiped their tears, and cleaned & bandaged their knees and elbows, and stroked their heads and held them and put ice packs on their wounds, never losing his cool and always calmly doing whatever needed to be done…Tenderness is something that goes unnoticed sometimes in this busy life we all live, but showing tenderness is another way to show love without saying one word.
This man I am currently dating, well the fact is that we met too late to create together, even a little bit, the life we could have imagined. The choices we both made before we knew each other puts our chances of shared dreams ever coming to fruition at slim to none. So my dreams remain mine and his remain his, and if we find one or more that we can possibly pull off and make happen as a couple, I will consider it a success. If I could dream of one thing coming true for him, it is for when his own daughter is a woman, nearing her 50th year on earth, that she might think of him with even half of the appreciation, love, and respect that I think of for my dad…if that happens for him, this man I am currently dating, it would be a dream come true. There might not be any formula to measure appreciation, but I do know that no matter how you organize the equation, it always equals thanks.