“I learned much later – after he was dead, in fact, the time when we so often learn fundamental things about our parents…” – from One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty
Why is it it takes so long sometimes for us to understand each other? Why didn’t I understand as a teenager that everything Dad threatened was not actually what he would do? I didn’t appreciate what a challenging task he faced in trying to parent when he barely remembered his own father. I didn’t appreciate how difficult it must have been to be a good father when he’d been brought up without one. It must have been especially hard to know what to do with me, his only girl. I can’t remember him saying “I love you,” until after I started college.
I didn’t realize how much he wanted me to succeed. He supported my desire to go to college and I wanted to follow in his footsteps, so I majored in marketing. He didn’t say a lot when I got engaged after two years, and got married instead of returning to school. Except for right before he walked me down the aisle. My hand was in the crook of his arm when he turned to me and asked, “Are you sure?”
He always seemed to struggle with showing his concern. Sometimes he was too hard on me. Sometimes, because he worried, he didn’t say anything at all. He didn’t show excitement when I got pregnant, but then he would warm up to the idea over time, or maybe he became resigned to the fact that there was nothing he could do about it. By the third pregnancy I decided I wouldn’t care what he thought, and by the fourth I think he realized we were going to be okay. But, no matter what, he was there or on his way to the hospital with each birth. He was happy to be a grandpa.
I missed him so much when, after having four kids, I finally walked across the stage to receive my degree in Elementary Education. I wish my children had been able to spend more time with him; to grow into the special nickname he had for each one of them. My oldest was 15 when Dad died. He wasn’t there for any graduations, or the wedding of that oldest, or the birth of his two great grandchildren.
I tell my husband and my son “Happy Father’s Day” , but I wish I could still say it to Dad.