June 19, 2005

Happy Fathers' Day!

Confession time: I didn’t buy my dad a Father’s Day card. As a matter of fact, I probably won’t buy him one next year, either. Yes, I do love my father. I’m not doing this because I’m snubbing him, but because commercially-produced Father’s Day cards are marketed for fathers on the whole other end of the spectrum from my dad.

My dad doesn’t golf. He doesn’t barbeque (and we thank the Lord for this, each and every day.) He doesn’t fish, hunt, futz around with yard work (willingly or unwillingly), bitch about people using him for an ATM or tend to lounge around in a hammock with his hat over his face. I’m willing to say that the cards aimed at the couch potato variety of father probably come the closest, but they still don’t hit the nail on the head.

My dad loves books. He’s an intelligent, well-read man who took the time and energy to instill his love of reading and learning into his daughter from a very young age. When I think about my dad, one of the main images I have is shelves and shelves and shelves of books. Philosophy, history, political science…hardcover, hard core, screw-Oprah-and-her-book-club Books!

My dad also loves food. He loves to eat it, he loves to read about it and plan out something to cook and feed to his family. He loves to go out and enjoy someone else’s cooking. My dad is the one who taught me to cook. His approach was simple: “Can you read? Can you follow directions? Well then, you can cook. Find yourself a good, basic cookbook, and you’re all set.”

(He probably didn’t expect that line of instruction to be applied to quite so many areas of my life, but I’ve found that it works in more situations than not. I might not know how to do something ahead of doing it, but if there are some basic instructions around, I’m good. You can just move along and leave me to my welding…I’ve got the manual right here.)

My dad will, literally, give you the shirt off his back if you need it…and if he likes you. If he likes you, you’re in for life. But if you get on his shit list, forget it.

Growing up, my father loved to lay proud claim to having a “double standard” regarding how boys and girls were raised, and would declare that if he had sons, they’d be raised differently than how his daughter was raised. My dad was full of crap. As my Pop-Pop always said, you don’t get a poodle out of a collie. I may have been a girl, but I was primarily my father’s child who just happened to be a girl. The things that my father considered important to instill in a child had nothing to do with gender. No child of my father’s was going to be: ignorant, gullible, lacking a sense of humor, devoid of common sense, a pushover, stupid, or dependent on other people. You can’t raise a female with that kind of attitude (especially in tandem with the kind of woman he just happened to marry) and get the sweet young thing he may have had in mind at the beginning of this endeavor. (And all in all, I think my dad’s pretty pleased to have a daughter who would just as soon kick some jerk in the nuts as look at him.)

My father taught me a lot of very good, useful things. A couple are mentioned above, but there are pages and pages worth of others. However, my father also taught me a couple of things that I had to unlearn after I moved out on my own:

The rest of the world does not tend to view ice cream as a staple. Most people don’t automatically add it to their grocery lists as they would bread or milk. And even when they do buy it, they usually don’t buy a quart of each person’s favorite kind to bring home. (Three angioplasties. Dad, do you see the connection?)

A lot of people reserve raised voices for arguments or emergencies. Growing up in our house, that was just how you showed your level of interest and involvement in the conversation. After several years of marriage, my Sweetie and I have reached a bit of a compromise – he doesn’t automatically assume that my yelling means I’m angry with him, and I try to maintain an “indoor voice” during our conversations. He’s done a pretty good job of learning to ignore me when I yell at the cats, the house, the television, other drivers…pretty much the rest of the world.

So, as soon as Hallmark starts printing cards for that kind of a dad, I’ll happily shell out my $2.99 or $3.50 or first-born male child or whatever outrageous price they slap on it. But until then, my dad will just have to deal with card-less Father’s Days.

And lest I overlook anyone, let me just make mention of the other “Dad” in my life: My Sweetie has a Grade-A, Number One Dad himself. My father-in-law is currently hanging out down in New Mexico (along with my mother-in-law), jumping through all the hoops necessary to get their retirement house built. Anybody who would take on building a steel frame house out in the middle of nowhere – all by themselves – is quite definitely a good person to be related to. (For details on all this, visit their website at
And, he gave me a radial arm saw for my last birthday. You have to love a guy who will do that. I wish him lots of cool breezes, honest contractors, cases of cold beer, and a well that puts out enough clean water to flood the entire site to a depth of twenty feet. (But doesn’t.)