Happy Father’s Day! My Dad is not available for his annual soap-on-a-rope alternated with a tie of some kind gift anymore, but I can still remember him on this day. My Dad was one fine Dad. Not just because when I was a skinny kid he would give me extra ice cream, either. And not just because he helped us build go-carts to ride down our hill in. Also not just because he, like Bill Cosby, was able to pretend that soap-on-a-rope or a seriously ugly tie was just exactly what he had hoped to get for Father’s Day. For all of that, yes, but for lots more, my Dad was one fine Dad.
Dad loved his gardens. When we were little, he built a patio with a little pond and lots of flowers behind our house. He also put in fruit trees and a vegetable and berry garden back there. And, he let us help him! Even when he had to do over everything we had done. Dad had a garden everywhere we lived and spent his weekends either there, or in the winter, in his shop. I remember digging potatoes with Dad. And picking blackberries and raspberries. Apples and plums and maybe apricots? And weeding. And enjoying every single minute working with him and learning from him.
Dad had been a fire lookout when he was in college studying forestry. He would spend summers up in the lookout, alone. I remember always wanting to do that (still do want to, sometimes!). But Dad was also a natural-born salesman, so the loner life was not really for him as long as he could be outside as much as possible tending his gardens. Dad made people feel comfortable; he could yak it up with anyone. He seemed to take what life gave him, if not always with joy, at least with a sense that he could find a way to make it work. He made good, life-long friends. I do not recall him complaining about anything at all.
I remember the day that Dad and Mom called me into the kitchen for a talk. It was one of the very few times I ever saw Dad really upset. He told me that day that he had lost his job and would no longer be able to pay my tuition for college. He was close to tears, believing that he was letting me down. I later found out what had really happened, and I was so proud of Dad! He and my grandpa worked for the same company, as manufacturer representatives. But grandpa had just turned 55, and the company fired him to avoid the pension payments. So my Dad quit his job too, in support of grandpa. What a lesson that was for me! Maybe that day taught me the importance of supporting people when they have been treated unfairly, of doing the right thing even at cost to self or others you hold dear. I am not sure I ever told Dad that I knew the truth or how proud I was of his choice; I hope I did. I did go on to earn a doctorate, with no help and no debt, and it was his turn to be proud!
But of course, he always was proud of us. He may at times have been disappointed in the choices we made, but he never stopped loving us and beaming at us when we had our big (or even quite small) triumphs. His smile of welcome and love is something I hope I never forget. It was a no-matter-what-you-did-I love-you smile and usually came with a hug.
Dad gave us our love of the outdoors and nature. He gave us the example of trying to overcome whatever needs to be overcome. He tried very hard (but failed, in my case anyway) to teach us to not spend it if we don’t have it. He found ways to let us know he was overflowing with pride and love for us. He taught us the importance of never turning your back on a camera. He was the epitome of keep calm and carry on. He smiled. He loved.
Happy Father’s Day to my wonderful Dad.