So many times I’ve started to write about my Dad and what he means to me, only to find myself unable to fully express how much I love him – and what a huge part he played in my childhood. Today, on Father’s Day, I’ll try. As you will soon see, I have no ordinary Dad.
I suppose I have to start with my very early childhood. Thanks to the nature of my Dad’s business and my Mom’s teaching career, my Dad hauled me everywhere as an infant, especially the first nine months of my life, while my Mom taught and before I had a babysitter. At the time, in 1981, it was still very unusual for a Dad to be seen around town, alone, with his infant daughter. I made my debut in the business world as an infant, happily sitting in my baby-seat while my Dad conducted business at the local newspaper/printer. A good friend of my Grandpa B. (my Mom’s Dad), Ed, the old editor at the paper, couldn’t get over the fact that my Dad brought me to the newspaper office with him. He told and retold that story well into my teenage years. I still find it funny that men of the 50s found it so unusual as to comment on it. Why shouldn’t a Dad care for his baby daughter?
Even after I had a babysitter, my Dad was always around, and I loved spending time with him. For whatever reason, many of my preschool memories revolve around my Dad. I remember heading out to my Grandma’s deer camp, Camp Russell, with my Dad in his old blue Ford truck. In fact, the picture above is taken right in front of camp. That black/white bulk on the other side of my Dad is one of his first bears.
My Dad has always spent a lot of time on his hobbies, especially hunting and fishing. When I was very young, he even trapped. It was nothing for me to watch my Dad filet fish, skin a muskrat, or cut wood. For many years I took it for granted that most people’s Dads hunted. Deer season was almost a holiday in my family, and one of my favorite times of year.
Early in elementary school, maybe even in kindergarten, my friend Lois came home from school with me. We were going to go play, but I wanted to check in with my Dad first. Lois and I headed downstairs to my parents’ furnished basement. My Dad’s workroom is immediately at the bottom of stairs, to the left. Sure enough, that is exactly where we found him. He was skinning a muskrat. I thought nothing of just barging in, talking to him, probably giving him a hug and kiss. Lois, of course, remained at the bottom of the stairs, not quite sure what to think.
Later, at age six, after my parents took my little sister and me to see Bambi, I remember seriously asking my Dad why he hunted deer. Much to his credit, he gave his six year old a serious answer; an answer I still remember to this day. He told me that if people didn’t hunt deer, they would likely become overpopulated and starve to death. It still impresses me that he gave me such a serious answer at age six.
And then there were sports. As a preschooler, I spent many hours watching my Dad play on a men’s softball team and a men’s basketball team. Of course, as his daughter, I thought he was the best baseball and basketball player ever, even if I didn’t always pay attention to the game. I write extensively about my Dad and baseball here.
As I sit here and write about my Dad, I keep thinking of just one more thing I remember or want to say. Another infamous memory involves my Dad taking my little sister and me out in our pajamas to watch fireworks in my parents’ campground one 4th of July. I could even tell you exactly which pajamas I wore. The entire memory is just beautiful. As E, Dad, and I sat on the hill overlooking the campground, it was almost if the fireworks were just for us.
Of course, as my parents own a canoe livery and campgrounds, there were too many canoeing and tubing trips to count. After the first overnight canoe trip, my Mom decided she wasn’t much of a camper. After that, it became tradition for my Dad to take my brother, sister, and me on overnight canoe trips. I can only aspire to be half as good of a storyteller as my Dad.
As I grew up, as with many daughters, I just wasn’t quite as close to my Dad. Yet I still have so many wonderful memories. While my Dad didn’t teach me how to drive (it was my Dad’s Mom, my Grandma R., who taught me), he did make me feel better about my skills behind the wheel. When I came home devastated that my drivers’ ed teacher recommended additional formal instruction, making it likely I wouldn’t get my license on time, a serious social taboo where I grew up, my Dad didn’t miss a beat. He somehow knew exactly what to say. He saw how upset I was and simply said it didn’t matter. Due to family circumstances as a young teenager, my Dad ended up getting his license at age 15. If I didn’t get my license on time, it wasn’t the end of the world. Our experiences would cancel each other out. As it turned out, I did get my license on time, and it was my Dad who took me to the Secretary of State’s Office to get my license, a solemn occasion for any 16 year-old. He even let me pick out a license plate for my car.
Oh, and my car. You see, as a teenager, I had an agreement with my parents. I would run errands and drive my little sister to school. They paid for the insurance and upkeep on my car, my Mom’s old Grand Prix. One summer the alternator decided to give out. I knew my car wasn’t running properly and told my Dad so. He didn’t quite believe me. Now that I’m older, I’m not sure if I’d trust the opinion of a new driver either. In the end, I was vindicated. He took my car for a spin and it almost left him on the side of the road on US 23. Fortunately he was able to pull into the local garage just before it died.
As my Dad was also my boss, my coworkers didn’t let me forget just how lucky I am. At the time, we had a simple tab system at the canoe livery. If any of the canoe jockeys wanted pop or chips from the store, we simply made a note of it, and it was taken out of their next check. Once the story of my alternator became common knowledge, some wise-guy wrote “Lindsey – 1 Alternator” on the tab sheet. Many kids I grew up with didn’t have a car, much less parents who would pay for repairs.
I’m fortunate to have had my Dad as my first boss too. We used to conspire to get my Grandma, his Mom, to take at least one day off every week. I loved it: Just me and my Dad against Grandma, for her own good. It was through my experiences working at the canoe livery that I learned just how much my Dad loves and respects his Mom, and vice versa. My Dad and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye, especially the summer before I headed off to Michigan State, but I couldn’t have asked for a better boss, even if he did have to chew me out for being a minute or two late from time to time.
There is still so much to say, but as you can see, my Dad is one of a kind. I’m so fortunate to have had him as such a prominent part of my childhood. I know how lucky I am. I’m glad my childhood wasn’t exactly typical and that my Dad didn’t have a 9-to-5 job. I would not have nearly as many memories. I love you Dad, even if I don’t always show it as I should.
Below are a few very funny and very touching Father’s Day posts:
Father’s Day Gifts for My Favorite TV Dads « Childhood Relived – Her Little House on the Prairie reference is just priceless. Her gift-giving guide is spot-on.
My Dad Saved My Life. And Then We Went to Burger King. | Go Jules Go – A very sweet post! Love the picture.
A Dad Story | The Middlest Sister – So good, as usual, I’m going to reblog it too.
Do not be surprised if I continue writing about my Dad in the days ahead. This post stirred up a lot of great memories, most of them pretty funny.
Now for an appropriate music video. So many choices… This takes a little explanation. Most kids would choose a sweet song that reminds them of their Dad. Nope, not me. I’m choosing “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys for an entirely different reason. As a child, I travelled to Aruba with my parents. My Dad knew that I hated the song “Kokomo,” which was pretty popular at the time. So, as you never give my Dad ammunition with which to tease, all my Dad had to do was start to sing the very first words of the song, “Aruba, Jamaica…,” making me wish I wasn’t cornered 30,000 feet above the ground. It was one long flight.