Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day

That's my dad in the plaid, not with the big ears

I was grew up the youngest of three kids. My father was a one of those dads who if you started crying over getting in trouble, who pinched you, or who called you a name, he would say things like, "You wanna' cry? I'll give you something to cry about!"

As the youngest of three, I cried a lot. Knowing it made my dad unhappy, I probably did it more. I was a pretty rotten kid.

I remember when my paternal grandmother passed away. I was in elementary school. We had to go over the mountains to the funeral. The drive over was tense. The trip was understandably sad.

All the drive over I set myself up to not cry. For once I was going to do what my dad would want. I would behave for one day. I would behave this day. I promised myself I wouldn't disappoint my dad.

When we got to the graveside, I looked up and there was my dad crying. I had never seen my father cry. I remember being shocked thinking, "I didn't know he knew how to cry..." I felt I finally had permission to cry and I wanted to cry so bad, but I had blocked it out of my mind for the entire weekend and now couldn't get the tears to fall. I cried for my grandmother when we got home. And for the next few weeks.

In high school, my best friend's mother became terminally ill. My mother became his support system as his mother slowly succumbed to cancer. When she passed away, my parents became his guardian and we were now a family with four kids. At the funeral, my mother told me that she would be riding in the car with my friend and sitting with him during the service. My father would be in charge of sitting with me and driving me to the graveside.

It was always my mother's job to be the emotional support. To be honest, I didn't think of my father as someone who could handle this job. This job being the job of taking care of the certain mess that I was on the verge of becoming at the funeral.

When my father and I got into the car I was very defensive. "I'm gonna' cry you know. I'm really upset, and I'm going to cry. I'm going to cry A LOT. You better be okay with that." And he told me I could do what I needed to do. As we stood there at the graveside, I remember crying and I remember my dad hugging me and telling me I would be okay and letting me cry. It felt weird to be crying on my dad. It was so rare, I remember telling myself as it was happening to take a mental note of this moment. It felt like a very safe place to be.

So to my dad on Father's Day, thank you for teaching me how to cry. Thank you for making me feel safe. I love you.


Rachel said...

Ted's a good guy. And so are you.

The T-Dude said...

When my father died I saw my grandfather cry for the first time. He was a big, strong farmer who seldom had more than a few words to say, but when he spoke those words always seemed important. As we were walking away from spreading my father's ashes he said, "You know boy, it's not supposed to be this way. Your kids are supposed to bury you."

Later on, my grandfather developed alzheimer's disease and he would mistake me for my father and I never corrected him because I hoped it meant he had forgotten what was obviously one of the hardest things he ever experienced.

jay said...

Such a wonderful entry! You've been tagged btw. HeHe.

visit for the details.

Carolyn said...

That was a beautiful memory. It makes me want to drive (because I don't fly well) to California and hug you. (Which is really saying something because I'm not much of a hugger...)
Sounds like, despite the crying deficit, your family was a wonderful enclave in which to grow. I mean, how many families "adopt" motherless children? I hope your dad read this.