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.