I remember you telling me how, because I was a cesarian-section birth, that you were the first of my parents to hold me. Of course by then you’d had practice holding a baby because my sister was born two and a half years earlier. By the time I came around you knew what to expect from a newborn – the spitting, the diapers, the early-morning feedings. That is not to say that taking care of me was a piece of cake. It’s just that by the time I came around, you’d already been broken in as a father and I suppose I should thank my sister for that.
Growing up, I know I was sometimes a pain in the ass. My temper tantrums were the worst but somehow you were able to remain calm (most of the time). For that reason you were the easiest parent to go to when my moods were overwhelming. Mom was there too, but her temperament was more like mine back then making her harder to talk to when I felt myself spiraling out of control. (Sorry Mom – I know you’re calmer now and you know I love you)
When I was young you wanted both my sister and me to learn to play violin in part because you happened to have a couple violins laying around, one of them, a child’s violin, was to be my instrument. But then when I saw they were giving my sister harder lessons because she was older, I decided the violin wasn’t for me and convinced you I needed a piano instead. After a few years, you caved in and got a second-hand upright that we kept in the house until I was at university and it was sold and, later, replaced by an electronic one.
I didn’t become a great pianist. Perhaps I would’ve had I practiced more. But I did learn to sing because you and Mom also let me take voice lessons. You loved to hear me sing and still do, I believe. You used to play my amateur recordings sometimes on loud speakers (much to my embarrassment) even for other people to hear. And I suppose I shouldn’t mind for I’d sung for strangers before and not been afraid. But the recordings of my youth were made with either my teacher’s karaoke machine or whatever simple mic and tape recorder we had laying around the house. I had no access to a fancy recording studio.
As an adult I tried to make a living without you but when we discovered I had a mental illness that interfered with work, the social security disability income folks thought I didn’t have the cognitive ability to handle my own finances. That’s when I named you my payee. To be honest, there was no one else I trusted.
I’ll bet you never thought when you were holding that little baby all those years ago that she’d be 40 years old and living at home. But you have never complained. Even when asked to be my payee, you took on the responsibility and have shouldered it with fairness, respect, and love.
I imagine it’s not easy having a daughter who has a mental illness that has kept her from living on her own. And I complain far too much when I should be counting my blessings. One of those blessings is you.
You’ve born with all my mental illness symptoms very well and have always believed in me. Throughout my life and especially as an adult, you have encouraged my creativity. As an adult you’ve encouraged me specifically in writing and photography. You’ve let me go on solo retreats and to writers’ conferences. You’ve given me a vehicle to make it easy to travel in a city where the summers are beastly hot, urban sprawl is real, and public transportation isn’t reliable. You’ve given me the freedom to travel solo to California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oregon. You’ve helped pay vet bills for the cats who moved home with me. You’ve also kept me updated on all my technology (computers, cell phones, cameras, scanners, and so on).
But things and adventures are not love. Love is in the time we spend together on hikes and sunset photoshoots, reading out loud and playing Scrabble. Love is in the prayers we lift up to God for each other. Love is in the kindness we share with one another. If there is one thing I cherish far more than anything you could give me, it’s your love.
You’re not a perfect dad. But you’re the best I could hope for and I’m so glad you’re my dad.
Happy Fathers Day.