>They say life experiences change us, makes us stronger, makes us more empathetic. I think this is true of most people. At least I’d like to think it is. But it’s not only life experiences that shape and mold us, it’s our environment, our genetics and that internal essence, that spirit residing in us that some refer to as our soul.
When it comes to parents, we shape the environment that molds our children. My parents did that for me. Today is the 20th anniversary of my Dad’s death. It no longer hurts like it used too, although there is always a bittersweet sensation when my daughters do something really cool, or I see one of them exhibit a mannerism that is SOOOO my Dad. I see it more in the youngest than the older one.
I think I was surprised to actually wake up this morning. I know that sounds odd, but because I truly believe that my Dad died of Long QT3, I’ve been equating my timeline to his. He came home with Mom from a 2nd honeymoon trip – so did I. He was in San Francisco the week before he died –I was there not quite a month ago. He was X age – so am I –almost (did you really think I was going to spill the beans on that one???)
I didn’t expect to, but this morning I found myself sobbing on the way to work. Of course, that made for some blurry vision, not good in heavy duty traffic, but I survived. I didn’t cry for any one specific reason, but I did note that the time was incredibly close to that moment when my sister called from the hospital. I also noticed how beautiful a day it was. Just like the beauty of that day 20 years ago and how I wondered how God could make a day so beautiful on a day that was so dark and bleak for me.
Seeing that time on the clock really brought back all the heartache of those first initial hours. I’d never known heartache until the moment of that phone call. It changed my life forever. Filled with joys, sorrows, what ifs and regrets. Wow the regrets. The knowledge that I disappointed my Dad so many times, and then the moments when I think he was really proud of me. I just wish he could have lived long enough to see that despite my rough, immature, wild years as a teen and into my early thirties, I managed to turn out to be a pretty decent person.
My Dad taught me a lot of things, and like most people, my Dad was far from perfect. Like the Fonz, he could never say the word, “wrr…wrrrr….wrrroo…..wrrrrooonnng.” Growing up I used to get so mad when he refused to give way on something and just refused to admit that he might be wrong. And when he was proven wrong by one of us kids, he wasn’t a happy camper, and I don’t recall him ever apologizing. He just wasn’t wrong. So naturally, despite the humbling, and vastly humiliating nature of it, I make special efforts to apologize and admit when I’m wrong about things. I mean Dad taught me well in that respect. Unfortunately, I have to do it a lot. *sigh*
Why is it I had to get the bad genes (my Long QT 3 experience, poor eyesight, arrogance) from my Dad and not the good math genes? My Dad was brilliant when it came to math. It’s why he was so good at chess, which he taught me how to play. I HATED to play against him because he always beat the hell out of me. He NEVER let me win. When I did win, it was because I played well and truly earned that win. In all of that, he taught me to be a good sport. So why did I hate to play with him? Because that board kept drawing me back. I had to try and beat him because it meant I’d done a good job.
The only problem Dad ever had with math was trying to understand why I didn’t get it. For him it was so easy and for me, it was like having nails raking down a black board. We were cut from the same stubborn cloth. He insisted I needed Algebra II to get into college. I knew I didn’t (I read the requirements – there’s that inability to say wrong again! LOL).
He insisted and I resisted.
He won, and I had to take the class.
I had the last laugh though (sort of). I deliberately flunked the class, and to this day I still vividly remember getting that fabulous grade of 2 points on one of my tests. Dad REALLY didn’t understand that one. LOL
Alpha’s Don’t Cry
My Dad was an Alpha male, and they just don’t cry. I mean they just DON’T. I saw my Dad cry four times in my life, all during times of high joy and sorrow. The last time I saw Daddy cry was in the early summer of 1988. My grandparents had come for a visit and my grandfather had given my Dad a family heirloom. It was my grandfather’s pocket watch, which I think had come from his father. My Dad cried then and as he said goodbye to his parents. Later I asked him why. He said it was because he didn’t think he’d ever see his father again. He was right, my Dad died a few months later, and it destroyed my grandfather who died almost six months to the day my Dad did. Oddly enough, the night he died, he told my mother that he was going to bed because “ALL the kids will be here tomorrow.” I was living in Richmond at the time and wouldn’t have seen my parents on that Sunday. It’s always made me wonder if Dad’s soul knew something his mind didn’t.
Dad loved to pick on you. Sometimes it wasn’t always pleasant, but I don’t think he meant it to be mean. It was one of the ways he showed his love. I mean I don’t pick on people I don’t like. I just ignore them. Dad taught me how to look at my kids and say things like…”Oldest, you need to buy some shoulder pads before your hurt your head.” Unfortunately, that old Blonde joke is WAY over her head. LOL
I know Daddy would have LOVED the night I looked at the DH and said “she has your genes.” Oldest shook her head (dead serious, mind you) and replied. “Nun unh, I’m not wearing Daddy’s jeans.” She will never live that one down, and if my Dad were alive today, I’m sure he’d be asking her about her jeans every time he saw her. LOL
One of Dad’s favorite things to do was scare the hell out of me when I was watching the Saturday afternoon horror matinee on TV. The door to the family room was just to the right of the couch and Daddy would sneak downstairs to where he could watch the movie without me seeing him. Then at just the right point in the movie, he’d come up over the arm of the couch like Dracula, his false teeth pushed out in a scary way. I’d be screaming like a banshee as I bounced clear to the opposite side of the couch in two bounces. Van Helsing didn’t have a thing on me when it came to evading the king of vampires!
My Dad taught me the annual Christmas letter tradition. I carried on that tradition when I married. I’ve gotten many compliments over the years on my letters and I know it’s because of my Dad that I write them.
My Dad taught me to love camping. Actually Mom introduced us to it, but Dad reveled in it. He enjoyed that “man” thing where he could go out into the woods and drag out large trees to saw up for free firewood (don’t think you can do that now). He’d stoke the fire, and he even cooked. The only time my Dad ever cooked (aside from BBQ) was when we camped and he got up early, and fixed breakfast. I can still see him standing in front of a smoky fire wearing his blue hoodie (sweatshirts we used to call them!) waiting for the skillet to warm up so he could make fried biscuits. If you need to know what they are—ask. Camping was how Dad managed to get the whole family into every state east of the Mississippi except for the states of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. We also got to Canada. Not many kids were as well traveled as I was.
I have lots of regrets with my Dad.
I wish we could have said I Love You to each other more often. He was German and it was tough for him to show affection or at least when I was older. I was a rebel child (black sheep of the family) and I knew I’d disappointed my Dad in many ways. Because of that I wondered out loud to my Mom the night after his death if he’d loved me. Mom reassured me that he did, but guilt (particularly if you have a Catholic mother) can blind you to some things.
I wish we’d known about Long QT 20 years ago, because I think Dad would have lived a lot longer. Enough to see all his grandchildren born at aleast.
I regret being lazy and staying home instead of going to that wedding for a family friend four weeks before he died. I regret that a lot.
I believe in them. When we were distributing Christmas ornaments after my Mom’s death, we came across a blue round ornament that when you pulled the string played a German Christmas carol. I’d bought it for Dad at the Krist Kindel mart in Nuremberg. Dad pulled the cord one time a little while after getting the ornament and it got stuck and wouldn’t retract. It took some doing, but he finally got the string to go back inside the ornament, but the family was under threat of severe punishment if anyone pulled that damn string. So there we were (the four siblings) looking at these ornaments and I picked up the blue ornament and I immediately pulled the string without thinking. That damn thing played the entire song and while it played the cord retracted exactly like it was supposed too. I looked at one of my sisters who was staring at me with one of those GET OUT! expressions. We were both convinced that Dad had just paid us a call. I haven’t pulled that string since.
I’ve NO idea what Dad would think about my writing. I’m not sure he’d understand the sex part, and I’m certain he’d think the romance was silly, but I would like to think he’d be proud enough to say his daughter was a published author. Ah, hell, I know he would. He’d tell other people, but he wouldn’t tell me because that’s not how we do things in our family. But then aren’t most parents proud of their kids, despite their foibles? And be forewarned. You’ll have to endure another diatribe December 19th which is the anniversary of my Mom’s death. I’ll reflect on her.