After swimming in a big ol' pool of angst, I had an epiphany. I was telling a client about my worries and frustrations with my newfound responsibilities. But then I told her that The D loves to check the mail, water the pansies, bring the garbage cans and recycling bins back from the curb. That he makes his bed and puts away his clothes (I don't even do that!). Thinking of that reminded me that I really do love him. Lots. I've lost sight of that lately.
When I was a kid, he was impossible to please. Critical. Emotionally distant. Even though he loved all four of his kids, he wasn't able to show it. For some reason, I was the only one who worked hard to win his approval.
I loved to go fishing with him. Hard to believe, since I never shut up and texting wasn't an option, but back then, I was really shy and quiet. I even had notes from my teachers saying I needed to speak up in class. Ok, no one who knows me believes this, but that's ok. Back to Daddy.
There was something so comforting about sitting with him on the bank of a lake, watching and waiting for the bob to move. The contrast of the stillness of the water and the excitement of seeing that little red and white ball suddenly disappear beneath the surface and bounce back up, and feeling the tug on the line, hearing the spinning of the rod, was like nothing else. Nothing was sure, though. Sometimes the fish got away. Or turned out to be a log hooked by the current. But once and a while, it turned out to be a real fish. Big enough to eat. Catfish, crappie and bream – they were treasures.
There was an element of danger and that added to the adrenaline rush. Had to watch the catfish – they’d fin you – flip that tail up and cut your hand. Daddy taught me how to grab them in just the right spot so they wouldn’t get away or fin me.
Like life, though, the anticipation was sometimes better than the actual experience. There’d be some small but feisty fish on the end of the line. Felt like a ten pounder, but maybe weighed 4 ounces. So disappointing to throw it back.
But if there were enough small catches, it could add up to an impressive string of fish. More often than not, though, there was the empty feeling of having nothing to take home.
I’m squeamish, but there was something visceral and satisfying about handling the poor, desperate fish and the bait used to catch them. Daddy showed me how to put minnows, worms and crickets on the hook. Worms were pretty easy. Minnows were yucky if your hook came out of their eye. Same with crickets if you pierced their abdomen and creamy gunk oozed out. But it was worth it. I knew my Daddy was proud of me even if he never said so.
I guess I was a tomboy. I’ve always been proud of not being the stereotypical, delicate southern lady. It causes me problems sometimes, but mostly, I don’t give a shit.
My mother was not a southern lady, either. She was born and raised in Covington, KY – just across the river from Cincinnati. Fiercely independent. She joined the Air Force when she was 19. She loved hardware stores. She hated fabric stores (the dyes made her break out in hives). She was a terrible cook, except for her great spaghetti sauce which she learned to make from Mary Ann, her good (Italian) friend at Whiteman AFB, Missouri. She taught me how to make it, and now I fix it for The D. Real meatballs and everything. Talk about visceral. If you’ve never squeezed a canned whole tomato and felt it explode in your fist, you haven’t lived. And mixing the ground beef, sausage, garlic, cracker crumbs and eggs with your hands to make the meatballs. Somehow, it's so therapeutic.
Back to The D. We gardened together. He started his tomato plants in the window in my bedroom. I gorged myself on those unbelievable things when they finally got ripe. We picked strawberries. Funny story is that he had an apple tree at the end of our driveway. I was in college and every afternoon when I got home, I’d pick a little green apple and eat it. I loved how sour they were. One day I heard him telling Mother that the squirrels must’ve gotten another one of his apples. He had been counting them. I fessed up and we had a good laugh.
We fed the horses at my Aunt Elaine’s. And then went fishing with her. We went down to Senatobia to feed Taffy, our cow. Little sis refused to eat Taffy after we had her slaughtered. Didn’t bother me. I love red meat. The bloodier the better. But that’s another post.
As an adult, it became so clear to me that The D had been an incredible dad, even though he couldn't express his affection. When I thought about how awful his childhood had been, I understood. His family was dirt poor. His father was an ironworker. Always away, working on the latest bridge but never sending much money home. The D dropped out of school in 8th grade to go to work. He was the oldest of seven. It’s funny – all his siblings love to tell funny stories about growing up, but Daddy doesn’t talk about it. I guess because he never had a chance to be a kid. I found a notebook of my grandmother’s, and she never called him by his name. He was “Good Son.” You gotta love that.
So tonight, I’m not cynical or swimming in a pool of angst. I’m blissful. Loving The D. He’s a gift. And I can feel my mother’s love.
Welcome to my world!
My life's been crazy since my Daddy moved in with me immediately after my mother's death in October 2010. My one and only kiddo headed to college at Carolina at the end of August. So...I lived on my own, for the first time in my life, for a total of a blissful six weeks. Then, I started the parenting gig with my dad. He's a combination of a grouchy old man, a surly teenager and a temperamental toddler. Needless to say, I get very close to the brink of insanity sometimes. I get through life by finding the humor in difficult circumstances. And for some reason, I wind up in the weirdest situations. I couldn't make this stuff up. So I wind up having lots and lots crazy adventures which make great stories to share with my friends. Writing about my life is so therapeutic. My ramblings range from funny to sad to angry (full of cuss words) to sweet. While my focus is dealing with the trials and tribulations of being a parent to my Daddy, I have lots of random, totally unrelated posts. Whatever's on my mind. I love to make people laugh, and I'm happy to think my readers will get my strange sense of humor. And maybe, people who are in my situation will be encouraged. That's all I can hope for...