Fatherhood, Memoir, Stroke Survivor, Unconditional Love, Writing

Fathers, Be Good to Your Daughters…Daughters will Love Like You Do

Father Lighthouse

Father’s Day was just a couple days ago, but when you live 1100 miles from your father the unavoidable consequences are that without taking a couple of days to drive there or spending a small fortune to fly there, you don’t get to spend any part of the day with him…except for a little Skype time!

They were so lucky on Star Trek, they had those awesome transporters! They would change a person or object into an energy pattern, that’s dematerialization, then “beam” it to a target, where it is changed back into matter, the re-materialization process.

I say they were lucky, but I’m not sure how I feel now after checking my transporter knowledge with “Memory Alpha – The Star Trek Wiki”. Not being a Trekkie, by any stretch of the imagination, I had no recollection that the term transporter accident is a catch-all term for when a person or object does not rematerialize correctly.

Hmm, maybe there are good reasons we don’t have those particular gadgets…

As I say that, the first thought that pops into my head is that my dad would probably be willing to transport himself, he’s like that.

But the love of adventure was in father’s blood.

― Buffalo Bill

Truly though, my dad is an adventurer. He has the stories to back it up. He’s wandered around some pretty cool places, in different parts the world, meeting all sorts of characters. He’s seen things I probably can’t even imagine.

Also he settled down, he married my mom, raised two daughters, gave them away at their weddings, and became a grandfather to two grandsons. Different kinds of adventures, that’s to be sure.

The fun didn’t stop there though…I don’t think that it has to for a true adventurer. He drove & still drives motorcycles. He has sailed boats and gone on fishing escapades. He’s taken a long-distance four-wheeler trip across the province of Newfoundland in Canada.

Before I came along he’d hopped trains, hitchhiked and trekked deep down into, and back up and out of the Grand Canyon. And when I was a kid I remember him doing a little hang gliding. He’s gone skydiving…a must for the adventurous type, and taken flying lessons.

I’m sure I’ve left some escapades out.

 I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.

― Umberto Eco

Whenever I see a list titled “Dad Sayings” or “Things Your Dad Says”, or whatever, the very first one that comes to mind is hearing my dad seemingly endlessly saying, “Life’s not fair.” This reminds me that I guess I probably whined, “That’s not fair”, too often.

But also, it’s true. Life can appear to be absurdly unfair at times. Dad always told us, as well, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t true”. Again, there are valid reasons why these sayings become clichés. Actually more truisms, as in the statements are genuine, but they don’t convey new information.

However we were kids, so he actually was either teaching us something or reinforcing something, even if it wasn’t his intention to do so.

Like the time he yanked me out of the ocean when I was a young child; I’d been pulled under by a current. It had happened so quickly I didn’t have time to cry out. He was up on shore chatting with someone. I couldn’t believe it when he grabbed hold and plucked me from the sea. He taught me that I could depend on him, which I’ve done at least a million times.

Only Raina

My dad showed me that at some point it’s okay to let things go. For instance the time I put his car off a snowy road into a much snowier ditch.

I was still living at home and working part time at a clothing store in the mall (Northern Reflections for those of you who enjoy 90’s nostalgia). I was late for work, and at about two miles from home, when I took the corner too quickly and slid my father’s sedan right off the road.

Although I came super close to a barbed wire fence, by some miracle there didn’t appear to be any damage. Of course, I was stuck fast and absolutely could not get back on the road. And remember, this was back before cell phones.

Within minutes a car pulled up, two men got out and started walking over to me. I’m not going to lie…I was scared, but desperate for their help.

Much to my surprise and astonishment both men started using sign language. I shook my head and one of them pulled out a notepad, he wrote down that they were both deaf, and neither spoke.

We communicated with pencil and paper, and they agreed to take me back to the house to get my father. When we got there and Dad saw me, and I was not in his car, I could tell he wasn’t happy. Obviously he knew something was up, but he remained calm.

I introduced him to the two men who shook his hand and showed him a note, saying that they’d take us back to the car. It also said, “Don’t worry”.

Off the four of us went to the car and they helped him get it back onto the “shoulder” (also snow covered, of course), while, as I picture it, he muttered my name, shaking his head, repeatedly. Once out we thanked them profusely, and said goodbye. I’m sure my thanks were a little more profuse.

Afterwards, I’m just certain he turned to me and said, “Only you, Raina. That would only happen to you.”

But he didn’t sweat it. We discussed where I’d gone wrong, and also some defensive driving skills. Then I took him back to the house and he warned me to slow down out there this time.

He didn’t scare me, creating a fear of driving. He didn’t take the car away from me, for being irresponsible. He didn’t shrug it off or make light of it, but he didn’t blow it out of proportion either. In the end he had reminded me what to do differently, and taught me that despite setbacks, life goes on, get back at it.

Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever.

― Author Unknown

From Dad we learned to always take any opportunities to travel: by car, by train, by plane, by boat, if you can go you’ve got to go! And to talk to people while we’re out in the world, because chances are we’ll learn about something new every time.

I mean the man has been all across Canada, all over the US, and down into Mexico. Not to mention across several European countries, as well as New Zealand (much of it with my mom).

Together our parents instilled a deep appreciation of music, both live and recorded. As is typical Dad’s favorites tended to be “a little heavier”. And they both have seen some pretty amazing concerts…I mean amazing, think Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin between them.

In fact it was my dad who took me to my first official concert…Canadian band Honeymoon Suite at the ‘Rebecca Cohn Auditorium’ in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Don’t laugh, they sang the title track to the 1987 movie Lethal Weapon, yeah the one starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Even if it was played during the film’s end credits, without actually being credited. [Sorry Johnnie Dee. That must have stung.]

Without a doubt our father gave us our senses of humor. We all live to make each other laugh!

But Dad taught us various other “lessons”, too. He taught us to ride our bicycles, to ice skate, to set up a campsite and put up a tent.

Back in the day he helped me build a wooden keepsake box with a soldered stained glass lid, all the while he was teaching me pride in craftsmanship.

Worth noting, when he gets good news from us, he’s really excited. Conversely, when he gets bad news, he’s really calm. Both have been invaluable at times.

I imagine what it must have been like to be tasked with calling your father-in-law to inform him that his daughter has just had a stroke, and although she’s in excellent hands she’s lying in an ER awaiting a transfer to the Neurological ICU.

I’m told that he was calm, distressed, but he took the news calmly. My husband remembers him saying, “Ohhhhh noooooo”.

Maybe he tasks himself with keeping everyone else from losing it by not getting “carried away”, perhaps, because it does work well. He kept my mom together.

Now I notice that the younger generations take turns doing this for each other, my husband and me included.

The Sign

All through my childhood there were certain expressions that as far as I was concerned were his and only his. A really big one was that when things weren’t turning out favorably he would always say, “Rats.”

Yes, just as Charlie Brown in Peanuts, but I didn’t put that together. And to this day I’m not certain where he’d gotten it from.

On one of the first times that I went out with the man who I would go on to marry, we went to a restaurant to get something to eat. What he had planned to order was no longer on the menu, and much to my amazement he uttered, “Rats.”

It was a sure sign.

Over two decades later, you could believe that it must have been.

My dad loves my husband. My husband loves my dad. And they both seem to love me. It works.

I know that I can confidently say this about Dad:

My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.

― Jim Valvano

Life still is not always fair, and often things that seem too good to be true are just that. Also, sometimes you can just let things go. But you fight for what you want, you need to pay attention, recognize the signs and never, ever give up.

Thanks to my amazing Dad…

1973
1973

 

 

― Raina K Morton, June 17 2014

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