Saturday, March 10, 2012

Comparing Them to my Father?

Shoup Park, Los Altos. I think my father was about 85 when this photo was taken.

I've mentioned that I think about my father quite a bit in March, as this is the month he died, two years ago. It was so difficult--seeing him approach the end, and feeling so helpless. The last food he ate was some ice cream I scrounged for him at the nursing home, just before he fell into a coma. "Yum yum," he said softly, "that's good."

Such an appropriate last meal for Dad. Next to pancakes, ice cream was his favorite food.

I can't even write these words without crying. But I am much better than I was the first year after his death.  I had to carry a hankie around everywhere and everyone was very annoyed with me.

I'm more used to it all now.

I have had several male friends--married, and wondering what the heck I am doing on my own--tell me that they believe no man will ever measure up, in my eyes, to my father.

That's simplistic.

My father was a terrific guy in many ways, but I'm very aware of his faults. People love the cliche of the doting Dad. But, alas, my father never doted on me.  I don't think he ever said to anyone: "That's my daughter and I'm so proud of her." I longed for it, but I never heard it.

He was, indeed, movie star handsome. He was intellectually gifted and curious. He had enormous energy and loved to laugh. He couldn't go anywhere without attracting a crowd of children and dogs.

But he was also very tough, and very critical. He had a hot temper. He could be cruel. More often he was distant and difficult to know. He was driven. And, he was so mean spirited in his thriftiness that I found this so-called virtue one I was unable to emulate

And yet, his core values--honesty, honor, faith in God, service to country, fidelity to family, doing one's best, working hard--these values are the most powerful inheritance he gave me.

Neither of my parents was a particularly good or reliable source of warmth. But of the two, my father the warmer.  He was also the most transparent. 

I've never held him up as a paragon. Much of my life I spent struggling to like him. I didn't even realize I loved him until I was no longer a young woman. I certainly don't think my feelings for him are the reason I'm unmarried today. I did marry a man I loved, long ago, who was charismatic and gifted. Unfortunately, he had a very short attention span.

If my elderly father were here and the grown-up me could speak with him, I would talk to him about this and the poor choices I have too often made. But he is not here and we cannot talk. I'm afraid I learned too late in life that in spite of his many flaws, he was the one person in the world I could trust.

But God did give me the chance to be with him for that last year. And as difficult as that was, it was also a blessing. A strange and bittersweet blessing.

I'm hoping my father can now help clear the path for me to the next world. Since he got there ahead of me, and heaven wouldn't be heaven without him, I look forward to seeing him there one day. If he's holding out a Hermes scarf, in one of those orange boxes with a brown bow, I'll know I've really made it.

If anyone can pester the Almighty to let me in, it would be my irascible father. 

With my father at Moffett Field. He wasn't well, but he enjoyed the World War II planes on display there. He was 90 and this was the last year of his life.

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