My thoughts aren’t very cohesive…just bits and pieces of my childhood and our long life together.
When I was very young we went to concerts together. As the symphony lulled me to sleep I would be overcome with the urge to lie down. I would rest my head on my father’s leg, the music moving in and out of my consciousness. When it was time to wake up and walk to the car, my legs wouldn’t work for me. I would sit back down until finally he carried me, resting against his shoulder.
I have a vivid mental picture of him by my bedside. I suffered with earaches and sore throats as a child, and since we didn’t go to doctors, there were nights of fitfulness and fever. He would sit in a straight chair in his pajamas, his slender body hunching over with either weariness or cold. Then it was a comfort. Now I see it as loving vigil.
We took early morning walks together along the irrigation ditch and over the dry manzanita studded hills. I learned the lyrical names of wildflowers like Filaree and Fritillaria. In retrospect I believe he was trying to stay in touch with a prea-dolescent who was growing up and away. .
When I was in high school I would be embarrassed to look up and see my father at the back door of the auditorium, watching my part in the school assembly.
He seemed to have infinite patience for me although I remember spankings: the time we went to church in our pajamas covered by long winter coats only to be ratted on by a house guest from the Midwest (I remember her name); or hiding in the closet with books in our pants on a Sunday afternoon, knowing we had crossed to the wrong side of the line of appropriate behavior.
I preferred a spanking to a “talking to”. My mother practiced the “wait ‘til your father gets home” style of parenting, so there was many a day spent in the gloom of dire expectation. No gloom was so thick as that of hearing Dad’s voice from the pulpit when we were “acting up” in church. “Go sit with your mother,” I would hear over my whispers and giggles. My head would hang in shame as I sidled into the pew. I waited through church, through Sunday dinner with friends, and sometimes through a visit to the convalescent home, knowing that punishment was coming.
But he didn’t punish me when I waited below the porch one morning and sprayed him with the hose as he was leaving for work. Or when, practicing my driving, I backed the car out and laid it onto the log that defined the driveway from the deep canyon. Or after lights out when we moved our bedding to the top shelf of our long closet and terrified our parents with our empty beds.
There were many other facets to my relationship with my father. I have memories of resentment and frustration. I could list characteristics and behaviors that sometimes enraged me and other times exhausted me. Until the day he died he believed that he knew best for me and that I should do as he said. He never left the realm of the “parent”.
And he loved me.