For My Father

>> Sunday, June 21, 2009


They say you shouldn't speak ill of the dead and, as I think back on my father, it occurs to me that part of that might be that, once someone is gone, you're more apt to remember what you loved about them, the reasons why your relationship was memorable rather than whatever differences you might have had. Or maybe that's just me.

It's certainly true of my father. There were times when we had many conflicts and difficulties, but they seem so unimportant now. When I think of him, I think of him much like I thought of him when I was a child, when he was my model of what a parent should be. He was patient and generally soft-spoken, absolutely dedicated to his family.

He was a botanist and loved making plants grow, vegetables, flowers, green things - he had a real gift (that I have not inherited). He was logical, painstaking, meticulous and had a way of looking at things critically that I have inherited. He wasn't an imaginative man, happier, I think, in the reflected creativity and fantasy of wife and children, ready to do his all to make them come true if he could. He read nonfiction, and fantasy was as far removed from his personality as gardening is from mine.

He was an excellent photographer and loved to take photos, another gift we don't share. I never got the satisfaction from photography he did, but he gave me my first camera and his cameras took the pictures that provide a catalog of my youth.

He was one of the most feminist men I've ever met with an anti-male bias nearly as pronounced as my husband's. To him, women had all the capability of men without that bad bits. If I think that's simplistic (and inaccurate), if his antagonism toward the men who courted (and won) his daughters was sometimes unrelenting, his faith in what his girls could do was equally unshakable.

But, for all the differences and whatnot, there was no one I loved more than my father growing up. In some ways, he was the key element for me - I was Daddy's girl. We used to walk at night and talk on every subject. If he wasn't interested in science fiction or fantasy, he never had an issue discussing my crazy ideas or discuss history or philosophy or whatever for hours on end. In many ways, he was so grounded and I think I absorbed that sorely needed tendency; I'm sure my writing is better because of it.

I'm sure our differences perplexed and confused him. (His father-daughter speech to me: "Men are jerks. Stay away from them.") I know they distressed him.

I also know he loved me.

I also know I loved him.

Sometimes, I think my siblings grew up with someone else, that this image I have of my father is mine alone. We'll never know, now. He died a couple of years back after a bout with cancer.

Lee, my husband, said he was a like a tree, limited in some ways, but grounded, stable, reliable, sturdy.

I think my dad would have liked that.

9 comments:

  • David
     

    I’m sorry your dad is not around anymore. He sounds very much like my own dad. Seem both our dads liked gardening. And both like to take photos too. Know what? Gardening requires imagination. Not the imagination of the artist, but an inner imagination. I will look at my dad’s garden today and I will see his soul in his effort. He has a rock garden, carefully set up, along with the tomatoes. Maybe he can’t imagine blogging, but I he sees something I don’t. I am not a gardener either. But I love his august tomatoes. Cheers for your father! Happy fathers day.

  • Roy
     

    My Dad was pretty much a feminist of the "you can do anything you set your mind to regardless of gender" type (although without the distrust of other men you describe). He was a microelectronics engineer, designing computers and computer systems for the aerospace industry (there were things on the Apollo spacecraft that were his design), and in general a real, natural mathematician (he could do slide-rule functions in his head!). All three of us kids inherited at least something of that mathematical ability, but my sister inherited it in full. She had such good grades at the undergrad level that IBM was aggressively recruiting her, but she turned it down. She wanted to go on into grad school, and she wanted to be a teacher. Her faculty adviser actually harangued her about rejecting a "sure thing" and told her that she'd never get a better deal, especially as a woman. My sister looked at the woman and said "My Daddy told me I could do anything I wanted, and that just because I'm female doesn't mean I have to 'settle' for the first job that comes along."

    My Dad brought us all up along those kinds of lines. My sister listened well; me, not so much. But that wasn't his fault, that was mine.

  • Stephanie B
     

    David, you may be right that his imagination was different in scope rather than nonexistent. If my father didn't understand me, I'm sure there is also much I didn't understand about him.

    Roy, my father and I were pretty tight and I get the impression from siblings that he wasn't necessarily as encouraging with all of us (I have six younger siblings). But I was also a self-starter and the others varied from painfully shy to reticent. My father was reticent - what I saw as encouragement, someone else could readily have seen as lack of enthusiasm or even discouragement. Or he could have treated differently. Or both. But I could very well have said the same thing as your sister if any teacher had been foolish enough to discourage me.

  • Aron Sora
     

    I can see your father's spirit in you, you are one of the most grounded, logical bloggers I've ever seen. I'm sorry about your loss, but he is still with you, he is still guiding you. I can see it in your writing.

  • Bob Johnson
     

    Beautiful tribute Stephanie. I am lucky to still have my Father with me, he was at my daughter's wedding. he led a good life and was a good example for me to follow. I am my Fathers child, he liked all that I liked and bought me my first telescope that got me interested in astronomy.

  • Anonymous
     

    I hope you had no brothers. It seems like your dad would not have appreciated them very much. I also hope you have no sons as I doubt you could appreciate them as well. You picked a husband with an anti-male bias just like your dad. I very much pity the hate that must permeate your family.

  • Stephanie B
     

    I did have brothers and their life was harder than it could be. His was a reaction from a very very chauvinistic environment.

    I understood where his attitudes came from (as, indeed, I understand my husband's) and I'd defend who they were to you, but I suspect understanding is beyond you.

    You seem quick to judge. Fortunately, I was not and my husband's attitude has improved much since we were married. There's no hatred here. Our son is cherished as are both our daughters.

  • Anonymous
     

    I was not quick to judge but merely read your words. You yourself state that your dad and your husband both possess an anti-male attitude. If your husband is half of your partnership, it is difficult to believe that your son can be as "cherished" as you believe. I have yet to meet a person who does not act in a particular way with regard to their personal bias. Do you really believe that a person with deep personal bias can not fail to act in a particular way with regard to their bias ?

    But I suspect a dialogue with you is unlikely as you (like most people today) only seek agreement with your own point of view or wish to call names and so I will leave you with your own statement that "understanding is beyond you"

  • Stephanie B
     

    Yes, I've seen it.

    I used "understanding" as in take me at my word - and you didn't, though perhaps you could have.

    If you equate that with a personal attack (as opposed to accusing our family of being full of hatred), I don't think I'm the one with the problem.

    Ironically, you probably feel the same about yourself.

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