Saturday, June 16, 2007

And Now for a Dad Who’s Completely Different

I’ve always had trouble finding just the right card for my father for Father’s Day. A picture of a lake brimming with fish or an image showing a range of sports equipment or a stylized painting of a car ... well, none of these work for this particular dad. I never tried wheedling money from him and would have laughed if you'd suggested that I was "daddy's little girl."

I was probably in middle school when I realized that he wasn’t in fact 7’ tall (6’3 was more like it). I would watch Huntley and Brinkley with my dad while perched on his shoulders, giving me the taste of height that I’ve never quite gotten over since I topped out at 5’4” (4-1/2” if I really stretch).

My dad was our family’s popcorn maker. He’d heat the oil, dump in the kernels, and then shake-shake-shake the pot. There was just something about the whole process that was kind of magical, and he took the job very seriously. He was also my official orange-cutter because mom just couldn’t do it the right way. Each half was cut into thirds, with the two pieces on the outside of each half being wonderfully free of the dividing membranes and seeds. And my dad never said anything about how strange it was that I preferred eating my dad-cut orange while standing in a favorite closet, on a chair, with the light on. (Now that I have kids, I know that all of them have their own equally “interesting” quirks.)

My dad put up with a lot of crap from me while I was growing up. On one occasion I came home with about a dozen “Sunnys,” (hand-sized fish), swimming around in a bucket. I brought these poor fish home with me because my dad was a gardener. In my mind, I thought that, like the native Americans, my father could plant a fish or two around each row of corn to make it grow strong and lush. He wasn’t particularly thrilled with my offering, but he didn’t yell at me, either, or demand that I take the fish back. Instead, he got a board and a small hatchet, then … well, you can figure out the rest.

My dad always supported my mother when she made decisions affecting my brother and me, and she did likewise. One summer my mother and I had a battle of wills about a certain pair of sneakers. To me, sneakers reached their peak of comfort sometime after my big toes had worn through the fabric. My mother would throw the sneakers in the trashcan. Later, when I couldn’t find my shoes, I’d run to the garage and find them right on top of the trash in the can. My father grew tired of all the drama over the shoes one day and took me aside. In a quiet voice he suggested that if I wanted to keep my sneaks, I should hide them somewhere mom wouldn’t find them – in the yard, for example. And that’s what I did for the rest of the summer.

My dad has a love of puns and, once upon a time, subscribed to Mad magazine. He can beautifully gift-wrap oddly shaped packages and has created one-of-a-kind furniture that can literally take your breath away. He’s precise and practical (the engineer gene is strong in this one) and a caring, compassionate man. I’ve never been daddy’s little girl, but I know without a doubt that I got the very best dad for me. Happy Father’s Day, dad!

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