The swarm of junior high school students moved en masse from booth to booth speaking with firemen and nurses, pilots and police officers. Off to the side, my dad stood alone and silent in his booth.
That was the kind of dad I had–one who was willing to sacrifice his workday to be ignored by throngs of teenage surfers at a middle school career day. In the late 1970’s, no one really knew what my dad did for a living and his booth was not a popular one, yet he agreed to spend the day at my school, merely because I had asked him to. (Little did we all know back then that one day, Mark Harmon would represent my dad’s occupation on a little show called “NCIS”.)
As I think back to this time, it illustrates the type of man my father was — always there for me, strong and patient, and not just at career day, but every day. Thinking about him brings back a glut of memories from my youth and reminds me of what a special man he was.
When I was little, I remember I used to sit on his knee and he would call me his “Pumpkin Seed”. I vividly recall crawling into my parent’s bed at night and watching “Bonanza” while curled up against my daddy. I remember when he would return from a business trip, he would always bring me something from his travels.
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I am reminded of how patient he was, even under the most trying of circumstances. For instance, when I was very young, I decided one day that bowel movements were disgusting and I vowed never to have one again. Needless to say, I became very sick and it was necessary for my father to maneuver a suppository into a squirming, screaming 7-year old. Not only did my poor dad have to carry out this less-than-glamorous task, but I proceeded to vomit all over his leg in the process. No one ever said that parenting was easy!
Then, there were my trying teen-aged years, when I would see my father’s temper emerge. On one occasion, his fury with me was evident when he bellowed, “Katie-bar-the-door, I will clip your wings so fast…” To this day, I have no idea what he meant by that statement, but I do know he meant business.
My dad also had an amazing sense of humor. We could always count on him to be the first with a wry comment, delivered with an “I’ve-got-a-secret” kind of smirk. His blue eyes would twinkle when he would tell a story. His delivery was dry, just like he liked his martinis. My favorite example of my dad’s humor was when he gave a speech at my wedding reception, many years ago. He started his story with a sweet and sentimental tone, but it quickly took a turn for the humorous. He explained to the guests gathered that since I was the youngest of five children, I was the last to get married and “leave the nest’. He feigned remorse that he and my mother would be without children in the household and concluded with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“Free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
I miss my dad and always try to remember the lessons he taught me. I strive to be as patient with my children as he was with his. I try to remember that even something as small as watching a tv show with my kids might be an indelible memory for them when they grow up. And lastly, not to take myself too seriously. There is humor in every situation, even the trying and terrible ones and how you deal with them defines who you are as a person. There is always an opportunity to laugh, even if it is at your own expense. (See “suppository story”, above…)
So although I don’t get to share any more Father’s Day celebrations with my dad, I will always have our memories. Your “Pumpkin Seed” loves you, Daddy.