I’m an avid online shopper and so most of this month, I’ve opened my early morning email to find subject lines like these:
“Treat Dads and Grads!, Celebrate with Dad, Travel Cheaper with Dad, Top Picks for Dads and Grads, Save on Dad’s Day Breakfast, Kindle Fire for Father’s Day, Top 10 Gifts for Dads, 75 Spectacular Summer Finds for Fathers.”
Don’t even get me started on the Facebook Ads, which I have repeatedly told FB are offensive to me and yet they keep popping up. And ok, “offensive” may be a bit stronger language than how I really feel. Because what I’m really experiencing is an absence and a bit of pain from remembering.
At first, after my father’s death in 1999, June was one of the hardest months for me. Not only is it the month where around every corner one is reminded that dad needs this thing or that thing, June was also his birthday month. And what I found as a child to be completely unfair because of the double gifting he would receive, as an adult too soon without her father, I found it heart wrenching. For a few years, instead of experiencing the joys of June, I felt tortured by his absence. And then I started writing and remembering and each passing year became easier. Until this one.
I think there are a number of reasons for this: I turned 40 this year; had my own brief health scare which led to genetic testing for heart disease precursors (of which I have none); and to be honest, I’d stopped remembering.
And now that I am remembering again, I’m amused by the fact that my father would have hated every last one of the gifts suggested in these emails. Some of them he may have smiled appreciatively about; others, he would have been “what the hell am I supposed to do with this?” Because these suggestions are based on some algorithm that tracks my shopping preferences and while in many ways I am definitely my father’s daughter, there are so many ways in which I am not. I’d label myself the “black sheep” of the family, but I prefer the “wild sheep,” the one who keeps breaking out of even the tiniest hole in the fence for just the briefest chance to run free. And while I truly believe my father admired that quality in me, I dare say he was puzzled by it just as equally. And yet, in his own way he encouraged it — silently, his own quiet rebellion perhaps.
Dad had a big heart, a mischievous smile (of which I gladly claim inheritance), and an uproarious laugh. I remember him being mostly quiet, except in a room full of family around the card table. I like to think of him as contemplative: a thoughtful, deep thinker (though probably mostly about the turn of a crop or the price on a head of cattle). Like all humans, he wasn’t perfect. But he liked simple things: like a solid down vest to keep him warm in the Nebraska blizzards (yes, a vest – sans sleeves); a can of Skoal in his shirt pocket (and a case in the freezer); a warm summer day out in the pasture checking the herd; John Wayne movies; trucker music; and steak so rare you wouldn’t have thought it even touched the heat. He disliked (among many things), breakfast for dinner — one of my all time favorite things.
And he, along with my mother, raised a precocious, free-thinking, wildly independent daughter in one the most uptight, conservative, right-minded areas of our country. How much of that was happenstance, can never be known? But when I remember the stories my father would tell of “riding the rails” and other grand adventures that turned out to be tall tales, I like to think that given the chance, in a different time and place, he would have grabbed on to the opportunities life has offered me, held on with both hands and rode them hard into the sunset.
Thanks Dad (and Mom) for instilling that same free-spirit in me!
Happy Father’s Day!