Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Meet My Dad

My father was born in 1947 in Eugene, Oregon but the family soon moved around northern California and finally settled in a little town called Benicia. His father worked in contruction and his mom was one of those perfect 50s mom that you hear so much about. She was famous for her cooking and baking, she grew her own fruit and vegetables. As much as he was a boy's boy, he was also a big time Mama's boy as well. He had two older brothers and a younger sister, who nicknamed him 'DD'.

He had one of those childhoods that reminds me of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and he took inspiration from both, sailing down rivers into places he shouldn't go. He ran wild and had adventures. He got into trouble and used up so much energy that he never went to bed but passed out at night mid-activity.

He was loved by teachers and students alike. Smart but a class clown, and at an early age started tutoring younger students and those less capable in maths. He joined the swim team to enormous success. Competitive swimming became a huge part of his life as he won trophies and medals. He worked hard and long to be the best. There was talk of him trying out for the Olympic swim team but an accident beforehand prevented this from happening. (He jumped into what turned out to be an empty swimming pool trying to impress a girl and broke his kneecap.)

Despite having a full-ride sports scholarship to Indiana University, instead, he enlisted in the army. He spent three tours in Vietnam. He could have come home earlier than he did, but he stayed. He was shot down from his helicopter three times. The third time, a bullet went through his calf, all the way up his body. It hit his spinal chord. He had to relearn how to walk and speak and spent a great deal of time in physical therapy.

After the time spent in hospital, he travelled, lost himself. Stories from this period of his life include drugs, alcohol and even the Hell's Angels. More trouble. He spent a great deal of time by himself, trying to recapture something good in himself after the horrors that he witnessed and participated in during Vietnam. To this day, he's still plagued by nightmares, still suffers the affects of the war. He's 33 when he meets my mother. He's living in Seattle, a caretaker for the apartment building she lives in. He falls in love ... with David, my mother's 5 month old son. He'd do anything for this chubby little boy. Two years later, I arrive.

We lived in seclusion in Alaska for 7 years, before my dad felt comfortable living near other people. We moved to Oregon, got our first dog. He stayed at home and looked after us. He was there when we had the chicken pox and poison oak. It was him that fostered my love of reading, encouraged my brother to try out for sports. My dad volunteered as a maths tutor when I was in middle school. He has a great ability to get boys to understand algebra by using sports analogies. He became very active in the wrestling team and became a sort of mentor to most of the team.

Of course there were problems. His relationship with my mother, the divorce, his pent-up anger which stem from his war experiences. He made some bad decisions, but through it all, I've always know that he's loved my brother and me. He was a single father for so long. Drove us to sports practices, took us on holidays. Supported my decision to marry at such an early age and move across the country. He gave me away on my wedding day.

He's led a very interesting life, I'd love to write his biography one day. I bet I wouldn't be able to capture him at all. He has such a loud voice, a personality that people are drawn to. Children everywhere flock to him. He is generous to a fault and gives away most of his possesions every time he moves. The first time he came to visit, he managed to transform a group of strangers on the tube from being stony-faced and unable to look anyone in the eye to laughing and discussing the differences between England and America.

He is a devoted grandparent. He can't see enough pictures of the two boys, he loves every story I tell him about what they're up to. He calls Elliot 'Buddy' and Elliot calls him 'Baba'. The point of my story is this: this time next week, my dad will be here for a three week visit. I am very excited.


  1. What a lovely idea.

    He's very handsome!

  2. what a sweet post! he sounds like a wonderful wonderful man and papa who's had a fascinating life. i think you'd be able to write his biography, because you captured him right here for me. i hope you have a wonderful time!

  3. Christie - aww, thank you for having more faith in me than I do. I'm definately looking forward to the visit.

    Ms Mac - thank you, I'd been stewing over this post for awhile now.

    Caroline - thank you.

  4. Reading this just makes me want to curl up on his lap and love him. What a sweet daddy. :)

  5. Reading this just makes me want to curl up on his lap and love him. What a sweet daddy. :)

  6. Reading this just makes me want to curl up on his lap and love him. What a sweet daddy. :)

  7. i love this post! I do, i do. Your dad sounds great. I love that you balanced... So often people write tributes to someone they love and they paint this imagery that eludes to perfection. No one is perfect, but your dad certainly sounds like a dad who tried and THAT is true success in parenting.

  8. Huurah for your fabulous dad (and for you too). His life does sound interesting...I'm looking forward to your book! xx

  9. It's not often you see a tribute like this for the living. It shows how meaningful your father is to you, despite what some would perceive as flaws. Enjoy your time with him!

  10. What a fantastic post. Your dad sounds a wonderful man. He has his flaws, like the rest of us, which only makes him more human. Beautiful writing. I really enjoyed reading this post.

  11. There's definitely a resemblence between your boys and your dad as a toddler :-) Lovely post!

  12. This was so super sweet!!! I'm not saying a word about my own dad, but your dad seems to be one of the best!!
    I hope you have a great visit with him! :)

  13. Yes, I remember your dad being really loud! I don't really remember anything else about him. I'm glad he was there to give you away!

  14. Yes, I remember your dad being really loud! I don't really remember anything else about him. I'm glad he was there to give you away!

  15. I'm surprised at the response to this post!

    Becca - I'm glad he was there to give me away as well. It's funny, on the wedding video - he gives my hand to N and then steps back and when he does that he lets out this HUGE sigh of relief. He told me later it was the most important moment of his life so far, to not trip or mess this up on my wedding day.

    Kaylen - thanks, I'm sure I will enjoy the visit. Elliot adores him and Joshua is at a great age.

    Hillary - do you think so? He'd love to hear that. He always says how much he thinks Elliot is like him as a child. And it was my dad who passed on the curly hair. Either that or N's dad. Either grandfather is to blame!

    Scrap Girl - thank you. I think his flaws are as important as the rest. It makes us who we are.

    Nilsa - you're right, mostly these things come out after a person is dead. That's sad, we should appreciate what we have in the present.

    Kate - thank you :) I doubt a book would be coming out anytime soon (or ever!) I did enjoy writing this post though. I think it might be the closest I get.

    Misty - you're definately right. It wouldn't have been accurate to not include the bad stuff. That's just not who he is or how I remember it. 10 years ago or even 5 years ago maybe, I wouldn't have been able to write all the good that I did. But both are important.

    Mama Kat - honestly, it surprises me how much other people are tempted to do that very thing. I tell you a story -

    we were sitting in Leicester Square in London once. There's this big Burger King there with large windows to see out onto the square. We're sitting next to this window eating our lunch. I'm completely oblivious until all of a sudden I notice my dad smiling out the window. I turn to look and oh my god, there are 4 children standing at the window smiling and waving at my dad. My dad proceeds to make funny faces at them and they giggle before their mothers drag them off somewhere. I turn to look at my dad and he's acting like it was no big thing. I say what was that about? and he says what? those kids? nothing. that happens sometimes. I'm all, what? kids just come up to you and smile at you? he says, yeah, I guess they think I look like santa clause or a big teddy bear or something.

    And that folks, is my dad.

  16. Wow I'm so glad to read this post! I a way helps me get to know you more.

    You totally should write his biography, if this is anything to go by it'll be one heck of a story.

  17. Amazing, such an amazing man and so well written :) if you did write a biography, I would buy it without a doubt :)

  18. That's sweet. You're very lucky.

    My dad and I have talked once in the last two years, about 6 weeks after Bug was born. He totally brushed me off. He sent me a TEXT for Christmas. Thanks dad. He has not visited me in MY home since 1999.


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