Monday, July 2, 2012

Father's Day memories of dad

6/13/12 Chatterbox
My husband and my kid's dad
Betty Kaiser

“It doesn’t matter who my father was.
It matters who I remember he was.”
Anne Sexton

Do you remember who your father was? Of course you do. For good or bad, he was YOUR dad. A unique, memorable individual. I recently polled my friends and family about their father memories. The responses were fun, warm and diverse.

They ranged from a dad who was imprisoned in the Congo while his daughter was giving birth; to dads who taught life skills without saying a word. I saved a real tearjerker for last— a 45-year father-daughter separation and reunion—but you have to read to the end of the column for her story.

There are so many horror stories today about deadbeat dads that I’m happy to share memories of every-day dads who taught life skills as they lived them—humbly and generously. Here we go…

“My Dad was always my hero.  From the time I was little I remember sitting in the window, filled with excitement, watching for his arrival from work.  I was never disappointed in him.  He was an educator and it was like living with a walking encyclopedia. He was always willing to share his knowledge with me.  What a wonderful blessing in my life.” Mary G.

“The thing I remember the most is when my father, Clarence Ahrens, came home from work on Sat. night and would tell us to hop in the car as we are going out to dinner.  My dad owned and operated the Marshall Wells store in Woodburn when I was growing up.  He died in 1999 at the age of 94. This was the highlight of my week growing up. I looked forward to the Saturday nights.” Gayle D.

My daughter Kathy surprised me with this story about her dad: “I love that Dad taught me to check all the fluids in my car, fill the tires up and know how to change a spare tire before driving. (Not that I ever did any of it!) But I love that he showed me and I know how....”

Kathy’s husband Tim, remembers good times at the family cabin in the Sequoias, wood cutting with his dad and grandpa: “Dad used the power saw; Grandpa, my brother Bob and I used a two-man saw to cut wood. My 70ish grandpa could keep up with two young teenagers trading off on the other end of the two-man saw.”

This daughter remembers her dad’s swimming lessons: “He took my brother Peter and me to the pool almost every weekend with a stop at the candy stand on the way home. He taught me to swim, dive and even do a flip off the diving board. He died in October and was 89! Thanks, Dad.” Susie D.

Another dad inspired his daughter’s love of language and Mother Earth: “My father was a great lover of the garden. I spent many days working with him in the yard-actually years-hence my love affair with the garden. He also was a consummate storyteller. “Old Bruce stories" were told of a favorite dog. He also committed large tracks of poetry to memory-so my love of language was born.” Shereda B.

No matter how old a girl gets, she still is daddy’s girl. “I loved ‘Dad's Weekend’ during my days at OSU. Dad would usually arrive on Friday night just in time for the college basketball game. I suspected the huge attraction was the game but having him all to myself and walking to and from the coliseum with my hand inside his large hand- always made me feel special. All was well.” Nancy O.

This daughter will never forget the birth of her first child when her father was with the State Dept. in the Congo.

“My Mother arrived in Ohio from The Congo to be the woman-in-residence for the birth of my first child, a son.  My Father remained in the Congo where he was informed that the birth had taken place and all was well.  To celebrate, he set out to visit friends outside the city, car loaded with the makings of a dinner-party.  

“He was stopped by bandits impersonating Congolese Army officers who, appreciating the importance of a grandson and seeing the makings of a party in his car, wanted to help him celebrate.  He refused and ended up in prison.  The American Ambassador found him and got him out two days later.”  Lynn M.

My friend Carol sent me this long forgotten nugget. She and I have been best friends since1945 when we were neighbors in Los Angeles. Dan, her dad, had a 40-ft. Chris Craft Cruiser boat berthed in San Pedro, Ca. He was a fisherman. My dad was not. Here’s Carol’s story:

“I remember an adventure our dads’ had in the 1950's when they went fishing. They came home and dumped their catch of wretched, live, slimy crabs on your mother’s spotlessly clean kitchen floor. This was an outrageous thing to do and WAY out of bounds. Their laughter was fueled by an over-indulgence of alcoholic beverages and I knew they were definitely in big, big trouble. This escapade brings back warm memories after all these years because it was the only time I ever remember my dad acting like a kid—let alone with your dad—Mr. Varner.” Carol D.

Finally, this story will touch your heartstrings and demonstrate the depth of a father’s love in what seemed like child abandonment:

“I met my birth-father when I was 45 years old. He was a tall, large man of 67, tougher than John Wayne. He worked in the woods all his life. The first time we met he handed me a tiny photo of a little girl about 3 years old. He told me he had carried it with him for the past 42 years. I was adopted into a new family at 3 years of age but he didn't need the photo any more now because he finally had me! Special Day. Special Dad. Special Memory. Also, love at first sight.” Rita S.

Happy Father’s Day, dads! Never forget how special you are.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

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