Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thoughts of my dad on a rainy morning

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 attempt at 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 to 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.


  1. Oh you've made me cry this morning over the beauty in the world. Thank you.

  2. I'm crying, too. What an incredibly moving tribute to your father and his love for you. What good fortune to have had one another. There's a whole book here, a children's book about a father and daughter, his nicknames and her understanding of them, her search for who she is, what she means, through the use of his words for her, the cocoon of his love, a child's sense of safety in the world because of him watching over her. Gosh this is beautiful. Wonderful writing. I really don't like it when people tell me what books I can write based on stories I tell or writings I post on my blog, so I hope you'll forgive me if you happen to feel the same way. It's just perfect in the form it's in and really and truly, thank you for this.

  3. I wish more men who are fathers understood the importance of that sense of worthiness and being beloved that they should bring to their daughter's lives. The world and its men and women would be better for that. This is a beautiful tribute to your dad, and you obviously share his talent with language.

  4. Love this post about the power of parental love. And the photo is simply gorgeous!

  5. That photo.
    Your daddy.
    He loved you right. That lasts forever.

  6. Love this post! Your dad was a great father and yes he always has your back.