Fathers Day

by Gay Spencer 17. June 2012 23:34

This huge and wise tree shades the graves of my parents. We buried my father last summer, and stood there dressed in black at the graveside late in the afternoon with 105 degrees fahrenheit temperatures. This was the first Fathers Day since his death, and the first time I've gone back to the cemetery since the funeral.

It was a day of thinking.

Folks who knew our family always knew I was Daddy's Girl. But, I suspect that label means something different to most people than it meant in practice in the Spencer family.

First, it meant he saw himself in me and believed I could overcome obstacles that had held him back. It's in the acknowledgements of my dissertation. I did it because of him. His life didn't turn out like he expected. My mother died a decade before him, and I don't think the world ever stabilized for him after she was gone. He made more bad decisions and caused more distress among his loved ones in the last two years of his life than he had in the previous 80. But, we were grown-ups by then, so it shouldn't overshadow our memories of everything else.

A few years before his death WBAP radio did a feature story on his fathering experience. The reporter who did the story (John Pendolino) has known me since I was a teenager and heard plenty from me about my dad. I never did a great job at observing Father's Day, but I don't think it mattered too much. My dad and I loved each other. We saw value in each other. He told me jokes and funny stories when we fixed Volkswagons together. He knew more verses to "Clementine" than you could imagine. And Burma Shave rhymes! We laughed. In high school, there were some cold winter nights when we'd work in the garage till I fell asleep on the cold concrete. The next morning, I'd knock on his door at 5:30 am, and he'd mumble acknowlegement that he was awake and would shortly appear in the living room, ready to do yoga with the early morning TV program.

He was a workaholic, Type-A, overstressed kind of man, but he never rushed me. He always had time to hear me.

When I got old enough to understand there were some things we would never agree on, I avoided the issues by going to school and living over a thousand miles away. I know he felt that I abandoned him, and it's true. I did.

At least hundreds if not thousands of people in the Dallas area are sheltered in a house he built. In parks there are bridges over creeks that he sketched out during church on his Day-Timer. He was a good friend. And, there is a small tribe of us who wouldn't be here or wouldn't be who we are if he hadn't cared to help us become who we are. He taught me many things, but especially, he taught me about love.

Given my experience, I'm going to give advice to anyone who wants to be a great dad. Love your kid. Said another way, value who and what your child is. They may or may not be what you expected, and they may not be as much like you as you hope or think they are. Learn to grow trust between you, and learn to value them for what they are.

Then, learn some good songs to sing with funny verses. Wouldn't you rather be remembered as singing and laughing than othewise?

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