Saturday, May 9, 2009

For Dad on Mother's Day

My dad is passionate, emotional, conflicted, engaging and connected. He's kind of a big hairy unpredictable female, but he hates to shop and he won't ask for directions when he gets lost, which is all the time.

My dad is a giver, too. A fantastic giver. Each October of my college years, he'd call me up to tell me my package was on its way, and I'd know that he'd been gathering.

I can still remember opening my little college mailbox and seeing the padded envelope with my dad's familiar chickenscratch ballpoint pen handwriting on it. I'd free it from the walls of Box 766, clutch it under my arm and head to the library to find a spot by myself. Between the stacks, I'd tear it open and release the contents: a flattened, foggy ziplock bag packed with his love for me and my love for nature and seasons and home and him. I'd do as he said, and stick my nose right in there.

He'd been out to the woods behind our house and collected a handful of the most brilliantly hued maple leaves from the forest floor to send to me. Usually he'd throw in some pine cones, acorns, ferns, speckled birch bark, and even a mushroom or two. Often, a confused spider would emerge from the still damp pile of autumn splendor.

"Open the bag, put your nose in, and take a big long breath in. Since you can't be here to experience it in person, I'm sending you Vermont fall."

I'd be instantly transported to home and to a younger, less confusing state of being. The leaves smelled of my tree swing, rock walls, woolybear caterpillars and dew. I could hear the trees creaking in the wind behind my house. I could see the charcoal grey sky. I was suddenly there, picking apples from the low arching tree in the meadow.

And he did that for me every year until we moved back to New England three years ago.

My dad was adopted as an infant, and then re-orphaned at 23. He is imperfect, without a doubt. His temper flairs used to leave me trembling under my covers when I was young. He has a hard time sharing his stuff. He can be an unbearable snob. His father, a narcissistic public figure, dropped dead of a heart attack in their front lawn when my dad was twelve. His mom was an overwhelmed, somewhat weak figure who hired people to do most everything.

When my sister was born, she was the very first blood relative my dad had ever seen, and he wept.

All those times he packaged up fall for me, he was loving me imperfectly, in a dew-covered and fungus-riddled way, but also openly.


Kate Coveny Hood said...

This wasn't just a tribute to your wonderful, imperfect father - it was also an incredibly interesting view into a the unseen side of a family. One with history and traditions and damage and accepted flaws. It was beautiful. If it was a novel I'd hole up for several days doing nothing but reading it. Or that's what I'd do if I didn't have a four year old and two year old twins - but you theory...

Andrea said...

Oh my, your Dad sounds so much like mine. When I lived in Florida I would complain about missing the season - especially fall. One October he sent me packaged filled with the most beautiful autumn leaves. My dad too was the parent with the gushy heart. I miss him dearly!

Kari said...

My husband was adopted, and had the same reaction when our first child was born.

What a lovely view of your Father's "motherly" love.

Zip n Tizzy said...

Such a tender post.

I understand about creating the childhood for your children that you yourself longed for. We're all human and have our weaknesses, but it sounds like you were, or have since, been able to see how hard he was working to make up for lost time. Sometimes we have to live it through our children.

Your writing always fills me up.

Zip n Tizzy said...

p.s. Happy Mother's Day!

Hit 40 said...

A post to your dad !!! What a fun twist on the day. Excellent. He sounds fabulous!!

Happy Mothers Day!!!!

Dana's Brain said...

Loved this - of course! Also sharing a special relationship with my Dad, I get a bit of what you are talking about here. Such a lovely tribute!

Pop and Ice said...

A wonderful post about how Moms and Dads should not be stereotyped. Everyone brings something to the game and neither Moms nor Dads should have to follow some "unwritten" rules as to what a Mom or Dad should be.

Of course, I'm more like your Mom so I'm probably getting all defensive here! Give us *aloof* Moms a break!

bernthis said...

how incredibly touching. I would be honored to meet your dad. My dad was more like your mom but with your father's temper and difficulty at sharing his stuff but other than that, nada. totally different

Ms Picket To You said...

and he knew ALL ALONG that Annie's ankle was not sprained from falling of a curb but in fact from falling off... your roof. i love the senor.

Jen W said...

How amazing. I always ache a little bit when I hear about fathers and daughters who are close and loving. It's something I've always wished for, and am hopeful my daughter will have.

anymommy said...

Like all your posts, it's not just what it says, which is lovely, but also the way you write it. I know him, I have insight into his character, I care about him.

You rock.

I loved this and I'm frightened that my daughter will feel like this some day.

"When my sister was born, she was the very first blood relative my dad had ever seen, and he wept."

Lilly said...

Oh that was brilliant. Loved it so. Sounds so, so similar to my parents. Isnt it funny?

Laggin said...

Sorry I haven't visited recently. This is lovely. What a wonderful man.

P.S. Thanks for all your hugs. I've accepted and used each one of them.