A father’s impact is substantial in the life of his daughter. Like most dads, mine offered pieces of advice over the years. Things like:
“Never discuss Religion or Politics.”
“You won’t have the same friends your entire life.”
“Don’t settle on only one career; do everything you want.”
But in my day-to-day life, what my father showed me was far more beneficial than those words he shared.
Growing up my mother was in and out of hospitals leaving me in my father’s care the majority of the time. Tall, dark and handsome, you would never have guessed he was 21 years her senior. A generally quiet man until he had a Gin Martini or two and then he liked to entertain me with songs from his youth and corny jokes. He was an Art Director for a magazine and at the age of 48 when I was born, he probably thought he was done having children.
My mother’s erratic absences caused me unbearable anguish at times. I’m sure this led to a little girl who acted out in more ways than one.
This is where my dad not only stepped in, but he stepped up. He was empathetic to my fleeting emotions and did his best to (not only) care for me, but comfort and cheer me up. Oddly enough, I would learn a lot about mothering from him.
With my mother in the hospital, my dad was forced to get me off to school before his 30 minute commute to his office in Hollywood. But even with the extra parenting duties, or no matter how crabby I woke up, my dad greeted me cheerfully every morning. Looking back, I appreciated his positive energy in starting our day off on the right foot. As a parent, this taught me to wake up in plenty of time before my children, so that I could greet them in the same upbeat manner.
When I was about 4, my dad had built a custom bar in our den. At the time, I doubt he knew, his maroon leather bar stools would double as barber shop chairs for me. I loved my “Jan Brady” hair (even though it was brown) and asked for a new ‘do every morning. At the age of 54, when most men are perfecting their golf game, mine was perfecting his French Braid. When my daughter was little, no matter how rushed we were in the morning, I made the time to style her hair. This 15 minute ritual was therapeutic for us both. There is a certain peace to brushing a loved one’s hair and making them feel good about their appearance.
After a home-made dinner and bath, it was bedtime. My dad would give me a piggy-back ride to my room and tuck me in. But the quiet mixed with the darkness of night made me miss my mom even more.
I found a sense of bravery in myself as I knocked lightly on the closed wooden door of my parents room. Instead of shoeing me back to bed, my dad would let me sleep on my mom’s side of theirs. It brought me comfort to see her books and jewelry on the nightstand and smell the scent of perfume on her pillow. As a single mother, I give my youngest son the option of sleeping in my room or his. Since we aren’t together every day, I feel it brings us both a sense of connection and security as we fall asleep.
Sadly, I never got to share with my father all that I learned from him. He passed away unexpectedly when I was 30. But I find comfort in the fact, he may have seen some of his traits in me during our last visit together.
I clearly remember our goodbye on that last visit . I hugged him and was surprised to feel how soft his cheek felt against mine. Then I smiled…as it was this unexpected softness in him, I so adored.