Father's Day

I have kind of ambivalent feelings about Father's Day and Mother's Day, partly because they have become more about cards and obligation than recognition and partly because my own parents were not easy people. But this morning I have been thinking about my dad.

He was quite the dashing guy in his time. Here he is sitting on the beach in 1933 or so, not even a year after he and my mother got married.


He was 19 in this photo, already married and his first child on the way.

My dad was a complicated man, spoiled by being the only boy with 3 sisters and a doting mother. He was smart and funny and a bit of  con man. Think of Milo Minderbinder in Catch 22 and you will have a sense of my dad. He did not graduate from college. The Depression combined with a wife and, by 1935, 2 sons made staying in college impossible. He had a radio repair business, worked for a company that made radios, and then spent most of my childhood in the Army, most of that time as a nuclear weapons inspector. When I was a little girl, we had a strong mutual admiration  thing going on and I was definitely a daddy's girl.

But as can happen, when I grew up, I began to see a darker and far less appealing side of my father and his bravado and trickster qualities became problematic. When he died 10 years ago, we had been estranged for two years. As time has passed, I have become better able to carry him in my heart and memory as the Daddy of my childhood, who read me stories, played games with me, carried me on his shoulders, took me with him when he went to work, and wrote me letters when he was away. 

Taking a walk with my son

He was a difficult man and he gave me something priceless. Because he told me over and over again that I could be anything I wanted to be and that I could learn anything I needed to know from books -- neither of which was exactly true of course -- he gave me confidence in myself, the belief that if I want something badly enough, I can do it. That was a priceless gift and for that alone I will always love him.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2007. All  rights reserved.