Yesterday was Father’s Day, and it was not until a friend ask to switch our brunch plans to later in the day that I remembered what day it was. Often Mother’s Day and Father’s Day tend to fly by without much thought. My dad has been gone for 15 years as of this year, and it gets harder and harder to think about what my life would be life if he were here.
Recently we were talking about fishing at work. A few co-workers are fishing fans, and I was remembering a time when we stayed at a lake near our house in Indiana. I believe the cottage was owned by a friend of my grandma’s and every once in a while we got to go and stay with her, which meant playing in the lake and fishing. Something tells me what felt like a big lake at the time would probably look a lot like a pond to me now, but it always felt special and kind of a big deal to me.
I remember one weekend we visited, on the Saturday morning for some reason I slept really late, when I went outside to see what everyone was up to, I found my sister and brother were out fishing with my dad (this photo shows me standing on the pier, my brother is next to me, then my sister, then my dad). For as long as they had been out fishing, no one had caught a single fish. I asked my dad if I could use the bamboo fishing rod, that for some reason I thought was so special. My sister and brother were using real fishing rods. I did not like putting the bait on the end, so I left that up to my dad, and I doubt I even put the line in, but what I did do (which is completely against my nature) was sit and hold that bamboo rod, and eventually I caught a fish, and then another and another. My brother and sister eventually got bored, and most likely annoyed that I was having such luck. They went inside or off somewhere else to play.
It was just me and my dad and my happy success. I do not remember if we kept the fish and had them for dinner or if we put them back. What I remember was that I thought there was something special with that bamboo fishing rod, and that I got to spend some time fishing with my dad.
You can see all the fish I caught in this photo. I wish the photographer had not cut me out of the photo. I would love to see the look on my face showing my bounty. I know I have been fishing a few more times since then, probably while camping, maybe even with my dad, but that Saturday morning was the one I will never forget. He was happy, relaxed, and content to just sit on the side of the dock with his feet in the water, and watch us have fun with the process. Life was not usually that good to him (or so he thought) and so this year, Dad, I hope whatever you are doing, you are happy, relaxed and content. Wish we could go fishing again.
“Do it right the first time.” My dad ingrained this into my thought. At times he was a bit of an asshole, and I hated him for it. Looking back I sort of understand what he was trying to teach us. He definitely left an impact on me (and most likely my sister and brother). Not always in a positive way. Yet, I find myself responding to issues and feel as though my dad is yelling through me. There are times with work projects that I think “do it right the first time.” I have words form in my brain, that feel like something he would say (I have just enough of a filter to not say it out loud).
He adamantly cared about looking at a task and thinking about your approach. His response to our sometimes half-ass focus to the task was often asinine. I can remember once when my sister and I were asked to clean our shared room. We did. Or so we thought. We came home to find that all of our dresser and desk drawers where dumped in the middle of the room, our closet contents were on top. When I saw the mess I freaked out a bit, and honestly so did he. His comment to us was: “If you cleaned it the first time you would not have to start from scratch.” His actions were definitely extreme, but his point was made. I have never forgotten what it felt like to see every one of my possessions and my sister’s spewed out all over our bedroom floor. I was also pissed. How could he?
That was his style. That was his way. He made memorable (not always positive) moments. He wanted you to have a reaction so that you would not do it again. Dan and Chip Heath potentially would have appreciated his style, if only it was a tad bit more on the positive side.
Sunday is Father’s Day, and I hope that as my dad watches over me he is seeing my life and thinking: “Tami is doing it right the first time.” I taught her well. Or, “one day she will learn.” Dad’s do their best to teach us what they know. Sometimes they are still learning and growing and we have to take their feedback, comments, and instructions with a grain of salt. Either way, they love us to pieces.
“Do it right the first time.” My dad ingrained that into me. Whenever we were asked to do something around the house, my dad would inspect our work. If it was done half ass, we would get the: “Do it again” rant, followed by: “Next time, do it right the first time.” Now I think about that all the time at work and in my personal life.
On Friday someone mentioned Father’s Day, and I thought: “Oh right, Father’s Day is Sunday. I guess I should think about that.” On Sunday we did what my dad probably did many, many Sundays: yard work. My dad was a contractor, he fixed, remodeled, and built homes. What that often meant for his family? We were like the cobbler’s kids without shoes, our house was often run down, at least the interior. I remember rips in carpets, a floor infested with termites, a leak in a ceiling in the dining room, walls that needed to be painted, the list goes on. I think my dad was exhausted from fixing other people’s homes. Or, maybe it was too costly to fix the different areas that needed repairs.
You might think, wow, Tami, this is a post about your dad, and Father’s Day was yesterday. You suck as a daughter, but let me tell you, life with a father has its good days and its bad days. While I have many memories of the inside of our home, our yard was my dad (and mom’s) pride and joy. It was always in tip-top shape. My parents worked for hours and hours each week to weed, water, plant flowers, and keep a vegetable garden in the back. They landscaped, arranged rocked, and pruned trees. If you drove by our house, you might think what a nice looking yard, and it was.
Now that I have a yard of my own, I understand how exhausting it is to keep it up, (and I do not have 3 kids to help either). I also know how rewarding it is, to sit outside and enjoy the fruits of the many hours of labor. There is an appreciation for all you have done. I hope my dad felt the same way, and looked at our yard with pride. Looking back I can see how “doing it right the first time” has weaved its way into the inside and outside of my house. I often approach a project with Chris and plan out how we might do something so we do not cut corners and have to do it again. It is not always flawless, but we try.
Last night, Chris and I sat outside with a drink, put our feet up, and admired the landscape. Miss you, Dad.
This Sunday is Father’s Day. I always am a bit nostalgic around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. In some ways it is just another day that passes, but it also always reminds me of all that I miss about my mom and dad. My father and I did not always have the best relationship. In what would be his final years, he struggled a lot and I often felt like the parent in the relationship. There are, however, some good things I do remember about him.
He liked motorcycles, dogs, and peanut butter. He also liked to play.
We played board games together as a family quite often. I think what I loved about playing games most was that I had his undivided attention. Maybe that is a clue into why I tried so hard to learn the rules to the adult games (my brother and sister were older) so I could play any game in our closet and thus not ever be left out. I also remember when I would find him relaxing in his recliner in the family room. He was usually reading National Geographic, or a book or magazine about cars. Growing up his father at one point had a used car lot, and after being exposed to different kinds of cars, he fell in love. When I was in elementary school, I would come bug him, and he would pull out circle word searches, or other word mind games to play together. I would lean over his shoulder while he sat in the recliner to help with finding words. I loved having that 1:1 time with him.
While we did not go on family vacations (because we could not afford it) we did often go camping. My dad was involved in Boy Scouts because of my brother, and we many times went on family campouts with other Boy Scout families. Even though my sister and I were often the only girls, we always had fun and learned a lot. I miss those days. My dad also liked to go on motorcycle rides. Somehow my sister got to go more often. Maybe it was because she was older, or maybe because she was more relaxed on the bike. (I often would forget which way you were supposed to lean and I think that would sometimes freak him out). He loved being out on his bike.
What I miss most about my dad was when he laughed. If he thought something was funny enough, his entire body would shake and his eyes would start to water. Once he started laughing like this, he usually could not stop. I loved seeing his entire body experience the joy of what he found funny. The last movie I saw with him was the Cameron Diaz movie, “There’s Something about Mary.” I had been visiting him over Christmas and we watched it the night before I headed back to college. I remember how hard he was laughing and thus how often the tears were coming out. He died a few weeks later. I never knew that would be the last time I would see him.
Thank you, dad, for the motorcycle rides, and the reminder that I need to play more. It is not always easy, but it is important. We all need to laugh so hard we cry.