Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hey papa....I'm doin' OK!

I no longer have men to honor on Father's Day. Big sigh! I am incredibly grateful to my mom who had to step up way too early to fill both roles when my dad was killed in 1986. She is awesome! I spent the weekend with friends and strangely, my dad and both of my grandfathers have been very close to me today. Note to's probably because I finally slowed down a bit so that I could hear their wisdom! It's the end of the day and I've actually been feeling a little sorry for myself. Boo hoo...pity party's over!

A short history! I'm the oldest of three and my father's (and mom's) first daughter. I was the first grandchild for my mom's parents and the first girl for my dad's parents. In sales, this is called the "sweet spot!" My sister-in-law Flo reminded me tonight that I was truly blessed to have a dad who told me (as did hers!) that I could be and do anything I wanted. Both of my grandfathers spoiled and shaped me with equal parts of love and discipline. Over the years, I've spent countless hours crafting a card or saving money to purchase just the right card and gifts to honor the great men in my life. Tonight I realize that I honor each of them with the gift of the woman I have become, complete with a little tiny spark from each of them. Here are a few of the many lessons I have learned from three great men.
At two (ish), I was a surprise to those that know me, but in this case it's not a personality trait... I really thought I was a driver! I was left unattended for a split second, crawled up into the driver's seat of my grandfather's car, pulled the gear shift into reverse and gleefully rode backwards, down the driveway into the street of a very quiet suburban neighborhood in Van Nuys, CA. My Grandpa Bernie was a fair, but stern disciplinarian and as soon as I was pulled safely from the driver's seat, he administered a single, very firm swat to the seat of my too young to drive bottom. Tears ensued. I went to the judge of my favorite dad...knowing that through my tears, justice would be served! "Grampy spanked me!" My father, an equally fair man heard both sides of the story, held me in his arms and decided in favor of the defendant "You probably earned it!" Case dismissed. I learned very early that there will always be consequences for my actions, but that I could always count on my dad to hear my side of any story. I love this photo of my sister "J" and me which was on my grandfather's dresser for as long as I can remember.
I moved away from home when I was about 23. My parents were equally supportive and helped with the move, but it was my dad who drove with me from Concord to Petaluma with the last load of my belongings. We talked about a lot of things that day, but I remember asking if he was going to miss me once I moved out. I had the cool parents growing up! After a long pause, he said no, that he was going to miss my friends. I was crushed and could not hold back the big aligator tears of my disappointment. He pulled me close and said that I would always be in his heart, so he would never actually miss me. It was a small consolation at the time, but over the years, I've come to understand this single moment in time from his perspective. As a parent, you pray that your children will make good choices when selecting their friends and associates. My parents believed that your character is measured by the company you keep. I am truly blessed and always have been, with some extraordinary friends. I have friends today, that never knew my dad, but I know in my heart that he would have loved them and would be proud of my choices!

From my grandpa Mac, I learned grace, quiet dignity and the fine art of entertaining seven young grandchildren at a formal dinner table. You can see from the photo there was a certain twinkle in his eyes that drew everyone in and made them feel special. My grandmother Gladys was certain that it was her sole responsibility to ensure that we were instilled with civility and table manners. She did a great job, but kids are kids and sometimes you just have to "bust out"...even if you're a big kid!! My grandfather would never defy or challenge my grandmother openly...that could only lead to the woodshed! However, he was a kid at heart and would slip us a piece of forbidden candy, whisper something funny to one of us and ask us to pass the "secret" to one of our parents, or some equally mild mischief. To which, my grandmother would often raise an eyebrow, give us all "the look" and order would once again be restored to her beautifully set table. At one holiday meal, with 15 or so of us seated around a very long table, my father (seated at one end) asked his father (seated at the opposite end) "hey pop, can you toss me a roll?" Without hesitation, my grandpa Mac selected a roll from the linen napkin lined basket and launched a perfect pitch to my dad, who was equally quick to raise his hands and form a two handed catcher's mitt. Thud! All eyes turned to my grandmother who had moved to the kitched for something. Not one single breath, peep, twitch, blink, or other movement came from 7 awestruck grandchildren and 2 nervous mothers, for a full 30 seconds. You could have heard a pin drop on the carpet!!! A (very, faintly) fleeting smile accompanied her trademark raised eyebrow and everyone let out a collective breath. I can only imagine the conversation my grandmother had with my grandpa that night after we were all safely in our respective beds!! The lesson I learned was that good table manners matter, sometimes you need to be serious, but when it gets too serious, it's a good practice to toss a roll!

My dad was and will always be a super-hero. This is one of my favorite photos from when I was in Job's Daughters. The final lesson learned from my dad that I will share tonight is this. It is not the job of parents to just hand things to children or to do all their thinking. My dad told me regularly that his official job was to teach me to think for myself. He and my mom believed that parents are responsible for raising children who can operate independently in the world. His job was to think for himself and just stay a little ahead of me so he would always seem to be wise!
If you think about it, it's really too much work to think for two people. My gift to my dad tonight is to acknowledge the following exchange between us... the coolest gift my dad ever gave me. "Dad...I'm doing/planning to do XYZ". "Are you sure you want to do that?" "yeah dad...I'm sure". "Are you SURE, you're sure?" "Absolutely!" "OK. I have band-aids and bactine ready on the sidelines. The next time we talk, I'm gonna patch you up, pat you on the behind and send you back into the" "OK dad...what is it that I'm not seeing?" "I raised a very wise and beautiful daughter!"

To my dad and rock! I miss you so much, but know that I am a living tribute to each of you. I am grateful for your love and strength. To all the dads out there....EVERY SINGLE DAY is Father's Day. Hug your daughters tight and tell them you love and respect them. Remind them daily they can do or be anything they choose. Tell them you are honored they carry your name and that you are their #1 cheering section. Tell them you will always be on the sidelines with bandaids and bactine. Love them as you patch them up and send them back into "the game" of life. Tell them you pray they will marry men who will respect and honor them. Teach them to hold out for those honorable men. It is the single best gift you can give us.
"It gets a whole lot more complicated when you have kids...The most terrifying day of your life is the day the first one is born...Your life as you know it is gone. Never to return. But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk...and you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life." Bob Harris, Lost in Translation


Anonymous said...

You are with dads/grandfathers like I am with mothers/grandmothers. You can inlcude my aunt in that mix. Now I'm the grown up (gosh, I have to admit that). As i raise my own kids, I do hear the wisdom from both, and have even developed my own. And my husband didn't gorw up with mothers, so he took to mine. so to our parents, cheers. They were wonderful people in life and they fill a part of us always.


Anonymous said...

Kathy, this is wonderful and brought a small tear to my eyes. I also am without dad/grandfathers but I have my brother, nephews, son and husband so that helps. We are all made up of so many "things" and to be able to state it as eloquently as you have is more than worth the time and effort. Thank you for sharing!


kklichtig said...

It's so helpful to receive encouragement and I truly appreciate the friends who have taken the time to read and comment on my posts. I carry your kind spirits with me!