Originally published Friday, June 16, 2017 at 10:25a.m.
Those who read my blogs have probably figured out that my dad had a unique sense of humor. From pretending to make a sandwich with our parakeet, Elmer, to leaving our kitchen ceiling half painted in three different colors for over two years. In any case, I was thinking of a time that my dad surprised me with his sensitivity.
I think I was about 10 years old. Back then, we still made gifts for our fathers at school for Father's Day. Our teacher decided we should all make a paperweight. I believe the assumption was that our dad's all worked in an office and had a desk to display it on. In any case, we all got busy making these gifts. I recall that it had a clay base that hardened and was eventually painted bright green. It had a large nail sticking out of it and could hold pieces of paper that would be pushed through it. It was kind of heavy and not very attractive.
I remember looking at it a lot while I walked home from school and wondered whether or not I should just dump it into a trash can. I knew, after all, my dad had no desk, and what would he do with it anyway. When I turned it over, I remember I had scratched Happy Father's Day into the clay before it hardened. I felt guilty that I wanted to just toss it into someone's trash can. It was ugly, but if I dumped it I would have nothing to give my dad. Of course, I took it home.
My mother found something to wrap it in to make it look a little nicer. Even she remarked, "I am not sure what he will do with it, but I know he will like it."
Well, of course, Dad made a big production out of my gift and even mentioned how heavy it was. He put it on top of his dresser and said, "This is just what I wanted, and this is where I will keep it."
I remember thinking that maybe I was wrong, and it was a good present after all. I was glad I did not throw it away.
The paperweight sat on my dad’s dresser for a while, and then it was gone. I did not go into my parent’s room very often, so I don't know for sure just how long Dad displayed it before it got tossed.
A few years down the road when I was about 14, I happened to be putting away some handkerchiefs in my dad’s drawer. I felt something odd in the drawer that did not belong. I reached under all the hankies and found a broken piece of the paper weight. I moved my hand to the back of the drawer, and there was the other half. I took the two pieces to show to my mother, as I did not understand why these pieces would be in his drawer so many years later. It was still ugly, and now it was broken into two hunks of clay with the nail sticking out of one piece.
When I showed this find to my mother, she smiled. She said, "It fell off the dresser and broke down the middle about a week after you gave it to Daddy. He loved it so much because you made it for him, so he would not let me throw it away. Every time he put his hankies into that drawer, he remembered you being 10 years old again, and it made him happy.”
Being the youngest of four kids, I think perhaps my dad would have liked me to stay a little girl a bit longer than the others. During the ‘50s, it was not always acceptable for a man to show too much sensitivity. It was considered to be unmanly. My dad could often be quite gruff on the outside, but on the inside I think he was a real softy.
Sometimes we just expect our parents to react to things a certain way, when in reality that just isn't who they are. Sadly, for some of us, we do not appreciate the small moments in our lives when they were there for us.
When I think about all of the changes we have gone through in the last 25 years, I have to wonder what dad would make of things. I wish he would have lived long enough to appreciate some of the wonderful advances we have made, but at the same time I am often glad he is not here for the disappointments.
I can just imagine my dad sitting in front of a computer and watching an old film of a Kentucky Derby, an old boxing match, or even a final game of a World Series. And, of course, those old Edward G. Robinson movies he so loved to watch. Now those are things that would surely bring a smile to his face. Just thinking about that brings a smile to my own face.
The good ole days of growing up were certainly not all good. But as the years pass, we tend to remember more of the truly good days and much less of the bad ones. Just as it should be. When dad passed at 65, I thought he was old.
I miss you, Dad.