Friday, May 21, 2010

A Soft Spot for my Dad

Yesterday Tawna Fenske, comedic blogster extraordinaire, wrote a post about how her recent girls night out was a little bit different from the norm, since one of her pals was now packing offspring. Tawna expressed a certain trepidation about the baby's soft spot, and whether or not the baby's brain could be dented by accidental mishandling.

As I read the post I was flooded with memories of my father--I'll tell you why in a minute.

My dad died when I was twelve years old, and a lot has faded in the intervening [*cough* more than ten *cough*] years since then. The pain has long since been buffered by time, and when a memory bubbles up it more often than not contains only a nostalgic joy that he still exists in my head and heart.

I'm older now than he was when he died, which is kind of hard to wrap my mind around sometimes, but as I'm mostly still stuck at twelve in my memories when I think about him, it doesn't really bother me too much.

I get my love of words and writing from my dad. He was the seventh of eight children (no, not Catholic; just prolific), born into what some might call a poor family, but really it was just normal life in Missouri at the time. After high school he would've loved to have gone to college, but couldn't afford not to work. So he enlisted in the Army, and after his time was up, switched to the Air Force, which apparently suited him better.

While stationed in Sweden, he met my mom and swept her off her feet. He always claimed she was blinded enough by his brilliant wit to ignore his looks. (She always claimed it was because he had access to Hershey bars through the embassy. So I guess we know where I get my love of chocolate.)

Whatever the reason, they married and eventually produced four children--my three brothers and me. My youngest brother was a bit of an afterthought (that sounds better than "accident," right?), and a source of great pride to my dad.

Yessirree, he still had it in him! Even after the brain tumor that nearly killed him the year after I was born, and the subsequent heart disease that was aggravated by the medicine he had to take daily after his surgery.

Dad was superb at relating to all of his sons. He played chess with my oldest brother, the genius. He tossed the ball around with my middle brother, the athlete. And he played a mean game of patty-cake with my baby brother, never failing to to make him laugh and give my mother a break at the same time.

With me, he seemed less certain of himself, but he gamely constructed dollhouses out of cardboard boxes, and listened to me talk endlessly about my favorite subject: horses. I was tall and gawky, with knobby knees and bony elbows, but he called me his long-stemmed American beauty and made me feel pretty anyway.

But enough of that. Here's the part where I stop crying and tell you why Tawna's post reminded me so sharply of my dad:

My baby brother was freshly home from the hospital, and finally asleep in his bassinet. Mom (after tackling five loads of laundry that had accumulated while she was giving birth--hey, I never claimed Dad was perfect) was resting with a well-deserved glass of iced tea and a magazine, doing a bang-up job of pretending to ignore the mess around her.

I was in the kitchen, doing my nine-year-old best to make myself lunch (no, I didn't like food prep any better then than I do now) when Dad came in, got the bottle of ketchup out of the fridge, poured some over his thumb, and walked back out. Curious, I followed.

When he got the living room he held his thumb up and said to my mother, "Hey, honey, you know that soft spot on top of the baby's head..."

My mother, used to Dad's sense of humor by then, only paled for a second or two before she threw her magazine at him.

(Yes, it's possible I got my sense of humor from Dad, too.)


Unknown said...

hahahahaha! great post! your dad sounds like he was a hoot!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

And why aren't you writing a memoir???? I would buy this in a second! I want MORE!!!


OMG, that is hysterical! Your dad sounds like a riot! I'm sorry for your loss, but so glad you have these great memories (and your wonderful sense of humor) to remind you of him.


Linda G. said...

Karla -- Dad really was a hoot. Strict as all get-out, but in such a funny way it was almost painless.

Karen G -- Gosh, thanks so much. But, really, I'm much better at making shi--er, stuff--up than recounting the occasional memory. :)

Tawna -- Thanks! I do have good memories of Dad. Wish there'd been time to make more, but the ones I have are quality. :)

Cynthia Reese said...

You would SO pull a stunt like this ... and your dad sounds like a great fellow. Thanks for sharing.

Linda G. said...

Cynthia -- Yeah, I probably would. But I would be ever so apologetic afterward. ;)

Patty Blount said...

*sobs* That was great, Linda. I'm so glad you have happy memories of your dad.

Neil John Buchanan said...

I'm a father of two small ones and these kind of tales always tug at my heart. I love the fact you're writing spirngs from your dad. (wipes away small tear)

Thanks for sharing.

Linda G. said...

Patty -- Aw, sorry if I made you cry. Hope they're good tears! :)

Hi, Neil! Thanks for reading. I sometimes think dads don't give themselves enough credit for their importance in their kids' lives. I'll bet you're a great one. :)

Hanna said...

*delurking for just a little bit*

Hilarious! And such a lovely story, thank you for sharing. :)
But now I've got to ask, does this mean your mom is swedish? I only ask because I am, and to find a random writer-y blog with a little bit of, well, connection would be to push it I guess. But still! Just curious. :)

Linda G. said...

Hej, Hanna! Ja, min mor är svensk.:) My dad was stationed in Stockholm, and met my mom at a party there. She lives in Texas now, which she claims is a very odd place for a transplanted Swede to wind up. Hope you delurk more often!

Hanna said...

Vad roligt! Tack för ditt svar. Jag tror att jag håller med din mamma, men hoppas att hon trivs.
(Yeah, couldn't resist, sorry. ;))

Linda G. said...

Mamma mår ganska bra, tack. :) And no need to apologize. It's fun to read a little Swedish now and then, though I'm afraid I'm horribly out of practice. You'll have to forgive my mistakes.