A Photo & Prose Tribute in Gratitude to My Father
I share a piece I’ve written honoring my father, whom I am most grateful for. He has been a wonderful loving father to me for many years, a blessing, a gift from God.
I went through our family photo albums, in addition to recalling memories from my childhood, writing this piece for him and have invited him to visit my blog. I have received comments from a few saying my recollections about my father raising me could easily be crafted into a book. I don’t know, but I do know that as I wrote this, many more events and experiences came to mind. Whenever I’ve mentioned memories, he seems surprised I can remember my childhood so well, and I always say “Of course, I do!” So, I look forward to his reading and viewing this special tribute I write in gratitude to him:
The most influential person in my life has been my father.
A single father to a little girl (he raised me from the age of 3), I likely would not be who I am – character, integrity, love of truth – if not for his loving guidance and support throughout my life. Intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically – the priorities I focus upon developing in my life have all been deeply influenced by him. I know true love can exist because of him.
I wouldn’t possess the strength and fortitude I have if not for him. For unlike other little girls, I was raised with a competitive spirit. Whether a physical sport such as volleyball or basketball – or an intellectually challenging activity such as chess – I wanted to win!
I always felt different from other girls growing up because from an early age they acted so much different from me. I can remember being in pre-school, after nap time, we’d all run to the play stations trying to get the one we wanted. I’d run to the vehicles and building toys, other girls ran off to the more play house toys. I didn’t want to play house, I wanted to have adventures!
I was used to my father communicating with me all the time, and when he spoke with me he would explain the reasons behind things. He never spoke to me any differently than he did to anyone else. When I was little, he didn’t change his voice or condescend to me. He was always willing to logically speak with me so I could understand the world around me. Because of this, I didn’t like it when other adults (usually women) would change their voice to some high pitched false sounding voice when they talked to me. I found it to be patronizing and strange. I became a child who would frown and say nothing to anyone who didn’t talk to me in a normal voice. I still remember clerks in grocery stores trying to talk to me in their false voices, and I would just stare them in the face with a pout, thinking to myself “What is wrong with that woman?!”
My father would explain to me it was the way many adults talked to children, assuming they had to be spoken to like a cartoon voice. And I remember telling my father, “Well, I don’t like it. If they can’t talk to me normal, then I will not talk to them.”
At home, my yard became the playground of the neighborhood. My father built all sorts of games and playthings, giving children of all ages great activities to do. We had a jogging track (my father would have us compete against one another and ourselves, keeping track of our times with his stopwatch) which was lit at night by lights he installed, a volleyball court, badminton, and lots of other creative inventions we could play on. One such we called “The Boards.” It was made of wood (lumber my father had arranged and built together between trees creating a huge climbing paradise) and became the place we played tag on as it was far more exciting and challenging being up in the air playing the game.
Another of his creations we called “The Tires.” Yes, it’s just what you guessed – a huge expanse of precisely placed tires (the huge ones from big trucks!), painted with colorful polka dots, on which we jumped from one to one – again playing tag.
So many wanted to play at our yard, that it became impractical to telephone all my friends. So my father got me a cow bell which was so very loud! I’d ring it, and everyone would come a running over. Hot days meant “Polar Water” for everyone (iced water which my father had added a drop or two of blue food coloring to). Somehow it tasted more refreshing!
The competitive spirit amongst the whole suburban neighborhood was brought out when it was a day my father would join us with his bag of prizes – giving winners a choice of treats such as sealed snack cakes and candy bars. When I was littler, there were plenty of activities for those of my age, as well as sporting competitions for the older children and teens who were often the siblings of my best friends.
Ever since I remember, my father had made physical fitness a priority, always telling me that if one’s body was strong, it made one that much more capable of feeling well to most effectively use their mind. He would put his favorite music on, and lift his barbells and ride his stationary cycle in the front yard when weather was favorable. By his example of regular exercise, I developed a desire to stay physically fit and he gave me my own equipment. Granted, all my playing kept me very healthy, but as I grew into my teen years, I began a regular exercise regimen not only of jogging and other aerobic exercise, but also weightlifting.
My father instilled in me a deep appreciation for intellectual pursuits just by him being him. He loved chess and was an avid reader of world history, spirituality and faith. Some of my fondest memories from my earliest years are of visiting the library which became (and still is) one of my favorite places.
But life wasn’t just about games and competition, it was about genuine empathy that to this day when I see evidenced by a parent to a child I am filled with joyful appreciation. Take for instance the time my baby doll’s eye came out. As a toddler, I was very rough with my baby doll. Thus the reason the spirit of this baby doll had to every few years enter a new body come Christmas time; same name and same spirit but a new body as the old one worn out. My father assured me it was still the baby I loved and knew even if it looked different. But one time, months away from Christmas, my doll’s eye was just gone! I was franticly upset. Father took my little one for a short time, and returned it bandaged with tape, saying healing would take place but I must be patient and not worry. Within a few weeks, I awoke one morning to my “healed” child sitting on a chair in front of my bed. Not only a new eye, but a new body.
While a child, on my birthday, I’d come home from school to find all my dolls and stuffed animals crowded around the table waiting for me to open my gifts.
My father also did all the cooking. I grew up on macaroni and cheese I’ve often said (an exaggeration, of course, but it was my favorite!). I still remember his excellent home baked cornbread with mustard greens. He never read a cookbook, but learned by trial and error. In all my years, I’ve never been able to duplicate his cheese cornbread. It was the tastiest I’ve ever had. I remember only a few “errors” such as the time he purchased mushrooms and boiled them turning them into rubber. Or the time he mistakenly added way too much red pepper flakes to a pot of macaroni and cheese; it was so hot neither of us could eat it (he offered it to Princess, our German Shepherd, and she took one bite and immediately jumped back from it!)
But as I grew, I taught myself to cook (with some encouragement from my visiting grandma). Now he reaped the rewards of all his cooking, as I had grown into a young chef capable of preparing meals with several foods on the plate and always followed by dessert. My specialties included homemade lemon meringue pie, cream puffs, deep dish pizza, casseroles, scalloped potatoes, many main dishes cooking vegetables and meats in ways we never had unless in a restaurant (including sauteed mushrooms). I loved cooking and did it well. From that point onward, Father never entered the kitchen! But still I remember the time I boiled my first pot of water. Father was sitting in the living room watching television, interrupted constantly by me as I literally got worried whether it would ever boil.
I attribute my political interest and aptitude with my early experiences of watching and participating in local campaigns. It’s not too many fourteen year-olds who stage a small teen political rally for a candidate. Throughout my teens, I went door to door with campaign literature and began writing letters to the editor. My father emphasized I think for myself. Research, then take action, for politics affects our lives. Anything that troubled me going on in the world, I learned to analyze and decide what could I do that would make a difference. If I ever complained about something, my father would suggest I think of something I can do about it rather than just talk. That stuck with me!
No matter what interests became a part of my life from a menagerie of animal companions, to my environmental concerns, my father blessed me with assistance so I could pursue them. Gifts such as a magazine subscription about my environmental concern and wanting to lean to be an activist, to a gift of a bale of hay for the cavys (the guinea pigs I bred), everything he did showed he wanted me to be happy. Interests such as acting and singing were supported, as I began to share my aptitudes with the world through talent shows and even being invited to appear on a local tv show. A phrase I heard repeatedly from him over the years: “Practice is the price of proficiency.”
Throughout my life, and what I value most, is my father always being willing to communicate with me. Truth has become my highest priority in life, because I know firsthand that when any two are dedicated to the truth, peace will come of any situation. No matter if it were trials in my life growing up, the teenage years :), or early adulthood, the one person I could always talk to was my father. He did not judge me, condemn me, or ridicule the matters which were so important to me. He used all my experiences to help me understand the bigger life lessons which stay with me now. I think his wisdom and being someone I could discuss anything with, including peers and their activities, helped me avoid the serious mistakes some acquaintances and friends of mine made. Likewise, he was unafraid to share his deepest feelings and memories with me, even having the strength to admit mistakes and to cry. I became wiser beyond my years for which I am grateful, avoiding major mistakes, and learning correct lessons from ones I did make.
An iconoclast, he did what pleased him. He never was a conformist, and neither am I.
In spite of the difficulties he must have faced being a single father, he ensured I was well cared for, providing for a good nurturing home for me to grow up in. As an adult, I look back on how he made sure I was educated well, among others who could provide a safe environment whenever he couldn’t be there, and instilled a ‘you can do anything you want to do in life’ attitude in me.
Frankly, and as objective as I can try to be, I am still mighty different from other women; others often underestimate me due to my petite appearance and cheerful personality.
I’m feminine yet very strong in spirit and mind – capable of fighting worthy battles when need be. Courage I value, and I most admire those whose righteous indignation guide their mind into actions which help others. In every battle I’ve been involved in (humanitarian work nationwide & politically), I always recall my father’s encouraging me to follow my heart and to never let what others think stand in the way of doing what is right. He assured me from the youngest age that no matter what I chose to do in life, his love would be there. Never did I feel like I had to please a parent in any choice I made. I’ve always known I can follow my dreams, and his love will be there with me.
Even when we differed on matters, I knew I could be me. If I was being true to myself, his support was there. What is most wonderful, too, is his reflection to me that he has learned much from me, and that he continues to do so – from politics to discussions of our spiritual beliefs – we share with one another what we have learned, contemplate, and believe. Knowing that we have been a teacher to one another means much to me, in view of the deep appreciation I have for his years of teaching and guiding me so that I could grow up to be the individual I am.
This acceptance of the unique individual I am extends to today; I know that no matter what I choose to do in life, as long as I’m happy, he is happy.
And I am happy. I have always been happy. I live in the present moment, taking no thought for where my life path will take me. I pray for guidance; I possess a deep desire to help; and feel strong and confident in life. Whatever or whomever God may bring into my life, I’ve learned the most important thing in life: True love is possible. Love is the answer. In all situations, love is the answer. It simply requires a commitment to truth, peace will come, all else such as communication and understanding will follow. And I’ve learned important character traits I need to cultivate for my life (and the traits of character I most value in another) as exemplified from the most important man in my life: my father.
My father is a mountain man. Quiet, soft spoken, contemplative, a recluse. He appreciates classical music, a whiskey after dinner, reading, and most of all living in solitude in the mountains. (He is an avid mountain climber and backpacker.) As he has gotten older, he has become more reclusive, happy in his mountain cabin, content to have nothing (or as minimally as possible) to do with the outside world.
A daughter couldn’t have had a better father. I have been blessed, and I am grateful.
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