I wasn’t the daughter my father would have chosen. My first memory of him is the disapproval in his face as my mother tried to rock me to sleep as a young toddler — I remember the squeaking of the old rocking chair, my sweat and my mothers mingling in her neck as I tried so desperately to go to sleep, but couldn’t, and my father looking on with stern eyes, shaking his head as he walked past.
I knew I often annoyed him with my endless chatter and my need to please. Even as I grew into a young woman, I was aware that he felt a stronger bond with my much quieter, more introspective younger sister, who didn’t demand as much attention.
My father was a good man. He was a WWII veteran who, like most vets, was unwilling to share many of his war experiences. He worked extremely long hours at a physically demanding job to support his family. I will always remember him for his honesty, strict moral values, his strength of character and his smile. He loved my mother deeply — as he suffered through the last years of his life with emphysema, they often sat side by side, holding hands as they watched TV together. I grew up with a feeling of complete safety when my father was home — he was my rock.
When I reached adulthood and started my own family, he was proud of his first grandson, and enjoyed spending time with him. However, as my family grew, he didn’t have the energy left for three busy grandchildren. We drifted apart — me struggling in a difficult marriage, with no one to lean on for help, and he unable to help. However, my father had passed on his strength to me, and I managed to hold my life together and rely on my own inner resources.
Shortly after he retired, my father began having serious problems with his emphysema. By the time he was in his mid 60’s, he needed more care than my mother was able to provide, so I spent time with him in those brief years — time which I think of as “mending” time. He was grateful for the meals I cooked, and I like to think I helped to ease his way a bit by dealing with doctors and breathing equipment and making him as comfortable as possible. As always, he was not much of a talker, so we never really discussed our feelings together, but we did finally form a bond in those last months, as I watched him slowly pass from my life.
I see much of my father in myself — my emotional strength, my love of nature and solitude, my inner peace, my pleasure in my gardens, and my ability to smile in the midst of adversity. I remember him today with love, and with thankfulness for the gifts he gave me in his own quiet way.