I am my father’s daughter.
I have his analytical mind, his skin that resists sunburns, his love of peas and his awkward smile in photographs. I also have his asthma, his allergies and his appendicitis at the age of 27. Our eyes both crinkle when we laugh. Just like him, I can save money like nobody’s business. We are both Virgos. Plain yellow mustard is where it is at. I have his nose and his love of snow, although he loves driving in it and I don’t.
I was one of those children who grew up with both of my parents, married for my entire life.
We went camping when I was a kid in the maxi-van that was converted into a camper, seeing Yellowstone and taking the ferry up to Alaska before driving back down to the states. We went to Hawaii when I was 8, and Mexico when I was 9. Like me, he remembers dates. We spent Christmas in a snowstorm in Michigan the year I was 13.
I was an insomniac at an early age, and my dad would lead me through an exercise of tensing up all my muscles in turn, and then shaking it off, so I could relax enough to fall asleep. He would get up in the middle of the night when I had nightmares, and soothe me back to sleep. He let me sit on his lap in that big black Naugahyde chair while he watched the evening news and read the paper.
He taught me to play chess, checkers, Chinese checkers and Score Four.
He shared my love of photography. On a trip to Yellowstone when I was 6 or 7, he let me use the camera to take any picture I wanted. I couldn’t decide until I found the perfect subject. An elk carcass. He never told me no. I still have that picture. In high school, he gave me his old SLR camera and showed me how to use the timed exposure to photograph nighttime landscapes.
He cheered at my swim meets and hauled my horses to horse shows, even after he developed allergies to horses. He caved when I wanted yet another cat, even though we are both allergic to cats. He petted them when we weren’t looking.
We went for bike rides on the weekends. He and my mom grew a garden and dug potatoes and planted beets because I wanted them, even though neither of them like beets. He loved the corn.
He got up at 5:20 am every day of his working life and made fried eggs for breakfast. In middle school my bus came early so we ate breakfast together in the mornings. I wasn’t allowed to come to the dinner table in my pajamas.
The day my horse was so badly injured when I was 16, he cried with me, and never made me feel badly when I vomited all over the floor of his classic 1968 Cougar. He bought that Cougar new in 1968. When I was young we pretended that the map light switch was a turbo thruster. When I flipped it he would gun the engine up the hill towards home.
He needed routine and spontaneity made him uncomfortable. I am my father’s daughter, although I am a bit more flexible. If you needed him to do something, a few days’ notice was ideal. The teenage years drove him nuts, when I wanted him to drive me somewhere on a moment’s notice. He liked to do his Sudoku, read the paper, and watch his shows. Clockwork.
He tried to tutor me on my math homework, even though he could never understand why I just didn’t get how multiplying two imaginary numbers made a real number. He delighted in solving my extra credit algebra problems in college (you could use any and all methods at your disposal), and even cracked the one with ten variables and ten equations. I was the only one who came in with the correct answer. That said, proofreading my English papers was not his thing…
When my mom battled colon cancer 21 years ago, I saw a man who would have been devastated to lose her. It was the second time I ever saw him cry.
He was proud of me when I got my Bachelor’s degree, even though he didn’t really understand what I would do with a degree in Spanish. He was proud of me when I got my Master’s degree in business, and relieved that I had decided on something more practical.
In preschool, I sprouted a chestnut seed, and we planted the seedling in the back yard. When my parents moved away from that house I grew up in when I was 25, and they had to cut down that now big tree, my father had a wood turner make two bowls from its trunk. He gave me those bowls for Christmas.
He and my mom came to all my parties, met all my friends, and were always kind to them all. I had the kind of house growing up that my friends wanted to hang out at.
He always made me laugh in those days before caller ID when I called and said, “Hi Dad,” and he responded with “Who’s this?” I am his only daughter.
When I got divorced, he quietly supported me, listening as I ranted and cried and broke. It was the third time I saw my father cry.
When I told him that I wanted to build a bed in my car and camp in it for several months last summer, he designed a platform bed with legs that swung out of the way to access the storage underneath, and slide out shelves to hold my camp stove. We took the seats out of my car and we built it together.
I am now a fatherless daughter. My dad died unexpectedly on Tuesday morning, February 5. There is no word to define a daughter who has lost a father, but I now join the ranks of all those other daughters who miss their dads.
Our relationship wasn’t perfect, but I am blessed to have had him. It wasn’t enough time. It was too soon.
I feel selfish; I got more from my dad than many daughters will ever receive. But I still wanted more. I am devastated to know that I may very well live more years without my dad than with him.
My heart is broken. I will miss you forever, Dad.