Sunday, June 16, 2013

For My Father...

I know that on Father's Day on my blog about my parenting experiences I should be honoring the guy who made me a mother.  And indeed, Craig is a great father.  Despite all he does for work--all the hours, all the travel--he still manages to find enough energy to attempt to satisfy Jacob's never-ending desire to play...whether it's heading outside for more baseball, lacrosse, soccer, or basketball, or staying inside and building Legos for hours.  He wants nothing more than for his kids to be as happy as possible, and will do whatever he can to make that a reality.  He tries so hard to make a good life for all of us, and I truly appreciate all he does.

But this time around I am going to celebrate my own dad.  After all, up until Jacob was born he was THE father-figure in my life, for all of my first 30 years.  While I'm sure I had my share of "daddy's girl" moments when I was little, I'll be the first to admit we didn't get along particularly well for quite a few years in the middle.  Perhaps it was because we're too much alike.  While I may not have been a "daddy's girl", I was definitely my father's daughter.  We were both hard-headed in our stance on a subject, and neither of us was willing to budge.  He was definitely a disciplinarian, and I probably stayed out of trouble much of the time out of fear of his punishment.  Perhaps there may have been a better way to handle a kid like me--after all, I was a pretty good kid in general--but I know (now more than ever, with my own stubborn child) he was parenting me the only way he knew how.  I remember feeling extra frustrated as a teenager, because when I screwed up I always beat myself up enough and didn't need any further guilt trips.  In addition, I always felt that my parents shouldn't complain, because for all the angst I may have caused them, they still probably got off pretty easy.  I got good grades, didn't go out very much, and generally stayed out of trouble.  Even still, we butted heads all the time during my teenage years.  I'm not sure we had much to chat about civilly during that time, though we could manage to bond over a Sabres game here and there.  But for the most part, most of my memories of us during that time probably involve some sort of argument.  I have no idea what we argued about, aside from clear memories of disagreements over my future career path, but it could have been almost anything.

Years later, I'm sure that so much of that had to do with his concern over my life's direction--he wanted me to be successful and felt (much like his father before him) that discipline was the best way to keep me on the right track.  And if he was anything like I am now, I know much of my frustration with Jacob comes out of a place of guilt and concern that I'm somehow to blame for his difficult traits.  On top of that, I probably overcompensate with more discipline just to try to fix whatever mess I may have already created.  Maybe I'm off-base, but knowing that I'm my father's daughter, I wouldn't be surprised if there was some of that going on.

I don't know when things began to change, but I suppose there were a few things that helped.  First, I graduated from college and got a job.  It was one less thing for him to worry about when I moved out and could generally support myself.  Then I got married, and I suppose I was no longer entirely his responsibility.  I had another guy who could make sure I was well cared for. 
About to give me away, literally and figuratively :)

And then he retired.  I know that his job was terribly stressful, and certainly not as financially rewarding as he would have liked.  But when he retired, that stress lifted off his shoulders and I swear he became a different person.  Suddenly there was a relaxed, jovial side that I'm not sure I had ever seen before. 

When we bought a house, an iffy one at that, I'm sure his stress level rose a bit...but he helped us out where he could and it gave us something else to chat about.  I don't want to say we were more like equals (can you ever truly say that about your parents?), but perhaps instead of feeling like he had to parent me all the time, we could bond over the shared trials of homeownership instead. 

But my true appreciation of my dad came when Jacob was born.  Suddenly he turned into a big softie, and a truly fantastic grandpa.  He derives so much joy from his grandkids (all four of them now, five years later), and doesn't hesitate to just grab them and play.  He's taught Jacob everything he knows about golf, and loves to make Carter laugh.  He tried tirelessly to get a hesitant Kate to warm up to him when she was little, and he took great pride in how one-year-old Max absolutely adored him the last time they visited Portland.  For all the ways that my dad is very much like his father, my dad has one characteristic I never really saw in my grandpa.  While he holds a very special spot in the hearts of all of his grandchildren, my grandfather was never a "get down on the floor and roll around" kind of grandpa.  He was always up for good conversation or a bridge game, and you could always see the pride on his face when he watched the younger kids, but by the time he was in his 60s and life (and emphysema) had taken its toll, getting down on the floor to play wasn't really his thing.  But my dad is right down there so much of the time, and it's a joy to watch.

Retirement is blissful, the stock market is strong, and grandkids are more a source of joy than life is good.  So good, in fact, that a couple months ago, he came home with this:

He's talked about it for years, but after a lifetime of frugality, he's finally able to enjoy the fruits of his labor, at least partially in the form of a little red convertible.  While I still tend to laugh and roll my eyes when I see it, I'm happy it makes him so happy.  He deserves it.

Parenthood has obviously given me a lot of insight into the issues we had a couple decades ago, although my truly rough years haven't even begun yet so I can only imagine what other revelations I will have in the next 10-15 years.  They say that girls marry a guy like their father.  I never in a million years would have thought that I'd fall into that category, and in many ways Craig and my dad couldn't be more different.  But one thing they do share--the most important thing--is a sincere desire to do the best they can for their kids.  While I may not have understood my dad's efforts in that arena when I was a kid, I certainly can appreciate them now.  While I sometimes wish he would have gone about things a little differently, I understand now that he was doing his best and only had my best interests at heart.  And now all these years later I have the benefit of seeing his best side come out in grandparenthood.  I'm so grateful for my kids' sake, and pray that they will have at least as many years with their grandfather as I had with mine.  It'll never be enough, of course, but I hope it's at least long enough for them to know how blessed they are to have him.  God knows it took me long enough to fully appreciate that fact myself, but I'm so thankful that I do.

Thanks, Dad (and Grandpa), for all you've done and all you do.  We love you!  Happy Father's Day!  

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