Monday, June 16, 2008

My Daddy (My belated Father's Day Tribute to My Dad)

I grew up with a wonderful Father. In fact, I have never thought of him as "Father," as in the 50's version of harsh and demanding, but as my "daddy." He was strict, and he definitely demanded my best (sometimes I was quite sure that what he wanted was more than I could do, but I knew his motives were for my success, and I always tried to live up to his expectations), but he also enjoyed me and above all, he "got" me. Do you know what I mean when I say that? Let me try to explain.

My mom was home all the time. That alone is a gift from both of my parents. Plus, she was the sweet mom who would surprise my brother and me with ice cream cones from Thrifty's after school and drop us off at Magic Mountain for a few hours during the summer so we could go on all the water rides. She drove me from practice, to my coaching bit, to after school clubs, and community service projects, came to every soccer game, and helped me raise 2 seeing eye dogs. She threw creative birthday parties at home that were fun, memorable and cheap (one time every one brought their favorite doll and they all got awards she made), and she drove us to Oregon to spend summers with the grandparents. We traveled the US looking at colleges together and went on girls only vacations (even after I was married!). She was definitely the rock and the glue of the family. I can count our arguments during my teenage years on one hand.

My dad was not home all the time. His job had him traveling quite a bit. When he was home life was a mix of work and fun. We did the yard work and fixed things around the house--and then he would need to get something from the hardware store and...what do you know? 31 Flavors Ice Cream was right there and we would pop in for World Class Chocolate Shakes. He drove a fast motorcycle (not the Harleys he has now--we called his motorcycle the Rice Rocket) and he would take me for long drives up windy mountain roads. Dad and I stuck with a YMCA group that was for Dad's and their kids until after my sophomore year of high school. Every year from 2nd grade until 10th grade Dad and I went to meetings and did service projects, and then we went on the coolest trips: 11 mile canoe trips up the Grand Canyon with all out camping (as in no toilet) and all our stuff in our own canoe; Houseboating on Lake Havasu over Memorial Day Weekend; Camping on the Beach and riding bikes into town; Trips to Catalina Island. No hotels or amenities, we really camped, Dad really cooked(!) over a campfire, and we definitely bonded.

I would need to borrow some fingers and toes to count our fights during my teenage years. Dad and I are a whole lot alike. Stubborn, opinionated, loud and confident (cocky?), we have no problem telling each other what we think and why we are sure the other one is wrong. I was not really into just trusting that he was right, and that got me in trouble sometimes. What I really appreciated as a teenager is that when he made a rule, for the most part he would explain his reasoning, and if I had a valid reason why I thought it should be altered, he would listen. That served me well my first years of college, because when I was choosing to live a little differently away from home than Dad would have expected me to at home (think no curfew, little sleep, less studying), I really had to think through why I was doing it and make a choice. Because he trusted me at home, I learned to be trustworthy, and I kept good habits later in life. 

I appreciate so many things about my dad now that as a kid I probably was a little annoyed by. For instance, he made me learn about everything that was under the hood of my car (the 1987 Jeep Cherokee he bought for my 16th birthday--I LOVED that car), and I changed my own oil and rotated my own tires. I am not afraid to get dirty working on a car. In fact, the first time I had to pay someone to change my oil because I was living in a dorm in Illinois, I was traumatized--I had always done it myself!  My dad loves history and geography. He is the kind of guy that knows a lot about a lot of things. As a kid having to say at the dinner table:

"I live in a house on a street in a community in a city in a county in a state in a country on a continent in a hemisphere on a planet in a solar system,"

and having to know the names of all those things, well I was less than appreciative. But now as I am teaching my kids the same things I see the benefit in knowing your place in the world and having a sense of something greater than yourself. 

Something else I got from my dad--for better and for worse--is a taste for finer things. It's not intentional, it's just that when we pick something from a group, we ALWAYS choose the most expensive, even when we have no idea what the prices are. What can I say? Also for better and worse, I inherited his overactive brain and legs. Yep, that's right. So many nights we can't sleep because we try to solve the world's problems in our heads. On those nights and many others, we battle Restless Leg Syndrome. His is much worse than mine, but basically our feet and ankles and legs twitch and move and we don't mean to do it. Poor mom, she hates it when we share her footrest--she gets motion sick from it. :o)

My dad still spoils me, and we still argue. I must say though, now it's just more like heated talking, that gets loud, because we see eye to eye on a lot more things; we simply like to discuss the details at a high volume. Poor Dan, he really had to get used to that part of life with my dad and me. But, there are times when Dan and I are discussing something at home and we both decide to call Dad just to get his take. When there was a lot of hurt for us in Arrowhead, Dad often could give us a business answer that helped remove a lot of the emotion from the situation and gave us some clarity on the practical side. 

Most importantly, he loves being a grandpa and he loves to enjoy my kids. At his request, my dad's most recent birthday gift was a baseball bat and wiffle ball so he could teach the kids baseball. He was super excited that Gabe is a natural.  Mckenna has been christened into the world of motorcycles, and she is hooked. He has taken her on a couple short rides and has plans to buy her the right helmet so that they can leave the neighborhood. I have ridden motorcycles with Dad countless times (and for the record, I have NEVER once ridden with anyone else) and am excited for Mckenna to get the same experience.

I love you dad. You got your first father's day celebration a couple weeks early, and now here's to you, a few days late. Nothing like stretching a holiday!

1 comment:

Amy Smith said...

Thank you, Carlee, for the wonderful post about your dad. It was fun to read and remember you two together.