It's rainy and grey this morning and I have lots of work to do, and how grateful am I that I get to do it from the comfort of my home. I am sitting here at my desk looking out at the rain brushed trees, the light inside my room cozy and warm.
Yesterday would have been my dad's ninety-first birthday. He died in 1996 when he was 72. For some reason, the memory that played in my heart all day was of him calling me all manner of nicknames. He was famous for bestowing nicknames on everyone, their inspiration mostly defied knowing, or maybe you suspected the origin, but it never had any sting. I had the most nicknames of anyone. My brother and I were Box and Pan. One cousin was Mummy Dumpel; she called me yesterday to tell me how fondly she remembers my Dad calling her that. Another cousin was Pieface. And so on. Among my other names, Patty Pan, Digger (I was always rooting through his things), and my favorite, Maria, from The Sound of Music song "How do you solve a problem like Maria." My dad heard that song and immediately decided it was talking about his daughter, and I loved that, loved the idea of being a problem, especially one who was beloved. I enjoyed the notion that I could be elusive and difficult and wild and disobedient and my father would love me anyway.
Many a thing you know you'd like to tell her
Many a thing she ought to understand
But how do you make her stay and listen to all you say
How do you keep a wave upon the sand?
Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?
My father was a judge, but he could have made his living as a writer, such a brilliant wordsmith he was. His judgments were compelling reading, and his use of language in every day life was thrilling. Continuing in the vein of wayward children, I remember once he scolded me for something, I don't remember what, I just remember that I was soaking wet because the day had been rainy and bits of dirt and leaves clung to my bare feet and even my cheek, and my sense in the moment was of complete and utter freedom. But I must have done something untoward, because my father scolded me, and I talked back, trying to explain my position, and the whole point of this story is what he said next. "Good God, child, why must you be so dogmatic and pugnacious?" he exclaimed in exasperation. I didn't know those words, I think I was eight or nine at the time, but I looked at him quizzically, deciding I loved the sound of the words and the idea that I was them. My father's discipline completely went over my head, so enthralled was I with the words he used, so distracted was I in my eagerness to get inside the house and find the dictionary and look them up.
So the memory of my dad that was with me yesterday was that he loved me no matter what. No matter that I was chubby and unruly and smart mouthed. No matter that I dug through his dresser looking for treasures. No matter that I talked back when disciplined, and couldn't be pinned down. My father loved me through all of that, and the feeling he left me with in life is that I was worthy of his love. No matter how the world might view me, I was loved. I feel as if he spun a cocoon around me when I wasn't even looking, and now here I am, protected. Not that there aren't some problems, some hard things coming up for me and mine. But I've got good perspective this morning, and a strange comforting feeling that my dad has my back, and always will.