Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dad


This is my Dad, complete with pee stain from me.

This is my Dad, with me in his lap.

This is my Dad, & me taking a snooze on his chest.

My dad died in August of 1979, just as I was about to start my senior year of high school. He had lung cancer, and a pituitary gland tumor. His illness was a long and difficult one, that left our family pretty devastated. Today he would have been 73 years old.

I've had a really complicated journey in thinking about and dealing with my Dad in therapy. He and I did not have a great relationship as I remember it. However, I know without question that he loved me very much. One of the difficulties we had was communication, as many fathers and daughters do. He was always on top of me, trying to make me conform to his world view, afraid I would be hurt somehow or get into some kind of irreparable trouble. I guess that's part of what Dad's do. I, however, was very stubborn (imagine that!) and determined to prove my father wrong in almost everything he wanted to foist upon me. I was too smart for my own good at that time.

But now, in my 40s, I miss him greatly. I have so many questions I'd like answered. My Dad was a big music lover, introducing me, I guess from birth, to artists like Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Connie Francis (didn't care for her quite as much). There seemed to always be music in our house. I remember being greatly enamored with Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walking", and my Dad bought me the record.
This was 1966, and I was 4 years old. Pretty spiffy for a 4 year old, don't you think? Another record I remember clearly is the Disney album for the original movie "The Jungle Book".
Now I'm 43, and married to a professional musician, who plays music in many of the styles Dad enjoyed. I realized that recently -- that my Dad had a wide variety of musical interests. This was a novel thought when it first occurred -- I really had always seen him as closed-minded and backwards somehow. But now I realize he was into a lot of interesting stuff. He loved Mahalia Jackson's singing, as well as Roger Miller's. He liked to dance, but my Mom didn't -- she says she has no rhythm. But we kids loved to dance to the fast music Dad liked to play, and he enjoyed us doing it.This is my brother and me in the kitchen, whoopin' it up! I think we're about 4 and 2 in this.

I can't help but wonder what our relationship would be like today. Would he approve of me? Would he be someone I could talk to about things like politics? I think religion would be out of the question, but how about racism? Could we talk about the war in Iraq? What would he think of Bush & Co.? Would he be impressed with or even enjoy my husband's music? How about the grandkids? How would he be with them? So many questions without answers.

I'm not sad today, but I do recognize this date as significant. One of my nieces has a birthday in a few days, and I know my Dad would have enjoyed that connection.

So, Happy Birthday, Daddy -- wherever you are out there. :) I love you, and I miss you. I wish you were here to talk with, and so I could cook for you, show you things, get your views. People tell me I look like you, and act like you in some ways -- they always say that as a compliment, too, so I know you'd be proud of that. I'm sorry you had to suffer, and I'm sorry you had to leave us so soon, but I'm glad you were my Dad.

Love,
WIP

1 comment:

RunAwayImagination said...

Your dad would be proud of you.

He would have mourned the loss of your dear husband Lance.

I feel quite certain he would have liked me and approved of our union.

I know we would have enjoyed listening to and talking about music.

You and I both lost our dads to untimely deaths. We both had trouble communicating with them and wished they had lived long enough for us to establish an adult relationship.

That's one reason I celebrate the relationship I have with my son.

I think when you have a close brush with mortality, you come to savor life in a special way.