My Father worked 2nd or 3rd shift for most of my childhood. A lot of the other time he spent drinking, bartending or hanging out with friends and/or family. My Dad and I were never close when I was growing up. My Sister was his favorite. I don’t just say that; ask her, it’s true. My oldest Brother and my Dad always had a strained relationship, and then there was me. I became the son my Dad never had.
Me, My Dad, and my Sister
Apparently my Dad was too tall for photos back in the 80s.
What I mean by that is that I was tough. Where my sister would use a net to pull minnows from the bucket, I’d reach in barehanded, even in my girly outfits, pull out a minnow and stick a hook through its mouth right then and there. It was entertaining for all of my Dad’s co-workers and friends. To me, it was probably just a delight to be the center of attention by doing things my Sister could not.
My Mother raised us for the most part. She cared for us, nursed us when we were sick, corrected us when we were out of line, shielded us from my Father when he was drunk, drew with us, crafted with us, and hugged and loved us a lot. For the sake of clarity, my Dad was not a violent drunk. They fought, but it was never physical. My Mom always made that clear to me; if my Father were to ever have raised a hand in anger towards her, she’d have taken all of us children and left.
Every Family has its ups and downs. I wouldn’t change anything about my childhood; it made me who I am today and I am stronger for it. But there is no denying that my Mom knew me best.
Three years ago my Mother passed away. It was sudden, it was shocking, and it changed my whole life. She was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and six weeks later I was holding her hand as she took her last breathe. I lost my Mom. I lost my best friend. I lost the one person who will ever love me that much. I think about that a lot, being single and all.
All that to say, it’s almost become humorous the things that my Mom knew about me that my Dad had no clue about! Great Moms are like that though, aren’t they? I mean, I flip through the recipe book that she made for me many years ago and I smile when I read side notes on recipes saying things like “substitute cream of celery soup for cream of mushroom, because Heidi hates mushrooms!” Or “NO ONIONS or Heidi won’t eat it!” My Mom knew everything from my birthmarks to the things I wouldn’t eat in Potato Salad. I secretly am convinced she wore a cape under her everyday clothes.
I’ve come to realize that my Dad knows none of these things about me. Granted, he cannot learn them now because he has short-term memory loss due to sleep-apnea.
I hate fish. Therefore, of course I hate tuna. And having said that, it should be no surprise that I do not eat tuna salad! At least 4 times in the past 3 years my Dad has left me messages that he has made extra tuna salad so that I could come over and get some to bring home. 1.) Gag. 2.) It’s sweet of him to think of me and want to share. Each time I politely decline.
I hate meatloaf. Not the singer, ‘cause lord knows that “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that!” But I do not like the food. I will make it, I will be around it, but I won’t choose to eat the stuff. A few weeks ago I stopped over to see my Sister and my Dad was really excited to tell me that he’d made one of my favorites; meatloaf. Really? REALLY? Were you not there during my childhood when I’d be grounded to the table and crying because I wasn’t allowed to leave it until I ate my meatloaf and finished my milk? *shudders*
My Dad is great. He makes BBQ Ribs like nobodies business, and those are my absolute FAVORITE! So I do honestly laugh about the little things like tuna salad and meatloaf. And then I’m forced to wonder, when is he ever going to make me the one piece of furniture that he promised he’d build me…over 20 years ago? Or, when will he ever hang up those security lights that he thoughtfully (and I mean that) bought for me 2 Christmas’s ago?
There are things that I have never had a Dad to count on for, but then there are other things, like babysitting the cats, that I barely need to mention and he’s there for! It’s amusing at times.
Family values are a little like family vacations -— subject to changeable weather and remembered more fondly with the passage of time. Though it rained all week at the beach, it’s often the momentary rainbows that we remember.
LESLIE DREYFOUS, New York Times, Oct. 25, 1992