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Location: Midwest, United States

I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Had a Dad, Part II

I had the best dad. When my dad took me out for ice cream, he always let me get two scoops. He never spanked me or even yelled at me. He brushed my long hair, starting at the bottom and working his way up so it wouldn’t snarl or tug. He let me pick out my own clothes when I was four, even if I picked crazy combinations. When I got older, he took me to the movies all the time, and we got popcorn and milk duds. When we saw Meatballs with Bill Murray, we both liked it so much that my dad suggested we stay in the theater and watch it a second time. We sat in our dimly lit plush seats and talked ‘til the next show started. That’s the kind of dad I had. He didn’t have somewhere to get to, things he needed to do; he was content to spend his whole day off with me.

He encouraged me. I don’t think I ever remember him saying anything critical of me. He told me I was the prettiest girl in the whole world. He insisted that red hair was the prettiest color of hair. He always reminded me how smart I was, saying that I could do anything I wanted to. “You could be a ballerina and the president of the United States if you want to.” I don’t recall him ever adding, “if you work hard enough” or “if you really really try.” He seemed to feel that I would do wonders, just by virtue of being me. And believing in myself as much as he believed in me.

He did yell sometimes. I remember now. Not often. And almost never when I was little little. But as I got older, sometimes he’d yell. And when he yelled, it was scary. His face would turn red and his lower jaw would jut out and he’d grit his teeth. Sometimes he’d shake his finger in my face, and that scared me. He never struck me, but he’d shake that finger so close to my nose, it seemed like he was about to thwack me. And then, I guess, he did say things that were critical, when he was really mad. He’d sometimes call me a “little shit,” I remember, and I knew even then that it wasn’t right for a father to call his kid that. And sometimes he’d say “why don’t you use your head for something besides growing red hair?”

But that was rare, the exception. When he wasn’t apoplectic, he was gentle and smiling. Even when he was annoyed with me or I’d done something wrong, he was usually patient and he’d smile as he gently explained what I’d done wrong or how I could do better. He gave me time outs (though we never called them “time outs” – it was just “sitting on a chair” – “Now you need to go sit on a chair for ten minutes”) and he talked to me for a minute first and then said, “While you sit here, I want you to think about what you did.” My dad had a lot of patience and talked to me like I was a person, not a pet or a baby. He had patience and patience and patience, and then when his patience ran out, he lost his shit. I’m a lot like that myself.

So, he was human, but he was still the best.


Blogger Feral Mom said...

I think I've heard each of these memories as individual anecdotes, but to read them as one piece is really powerful. You guys clearly were crazy in love with each other in that sweet Dad/Daughter way that just kills me when it pops up in my own family.

Which makes what's coming all the more heartbreaking. Day-um, you've got guts, woman!

My word verification is, no shit, "in gin" which is where I hope to be once these mfin papers are finally graded. A whole TUB of gin, preferably.

4:55 PM  

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