Monday, June 22, 2015

Patio Daddio

I have a great Dad and I went to the Northern Neck to visit him today.

He's not great because he was ahead of his time, helping my Mom with parental responsibilities and daily care of me and my five sisters. There was a time when he used to mention nonchalantly that he'd never once changed a diaper. By today's standards, he was a negligent parent.

He's not great because he fawned over me (or any of us) or told me I was his little princess. But at the dinner table, he would seek out our opinions or ask what we were reading currently and really listen when we answered.

He's not great because he gave me a car when I was of age (he didn't) or paid for my college education (I did) but because he taught me to play beach volleyball, croquet and badminton, all things I wouldn't have tried without his invitation.

Where he's truly great is in his devotion to and love for my Mom, whom he refers to as "my sweet" and "love of my life" as if these were normal terms of endearment after almost 60 years. The flip side of that is how utterly frustrating it is to grow up with that kind of relationship as the role modeling set by your parents because it's a rarity to find, much less maintain in the real world.

But he's also day-to-day great in that he refuses to be any less industrious, gallant or helpful just because he's 83 with a hip replacement. He's still out there cutting multiple acres of grass, going to the wood yard to dump off a load of fallen branches and stopping by the store to pick up some cherries after my Mom casually mentions she's been craving them.

He gives blood regularly at the Red Cross and the old lady volunteers flirt shamelessly with him. Funny part is, it barely registers with him because women have been flirting with him since he was a teenager in Highland Park. And if he hadn't been used to female attention before he had six daughters, he definitely got used to it once we all showed up.

I'm not saying he's perfect - what child wants to wake up and see her naked father delivering tooth fairy money? - and I've no doubt my mother has some anecdotes that would curl my hair (although honestly, I'd like that), but all in all, for a guy who would have probably gotten voted least like to stay married for over a half century, he's done all right.

Today's Father's Day lunch involved two of my sisters, grilling burgers for lunch (because that's one thing he doesn't do anymore), drinking Rose and grapefruit juice with him (his first) and sitting with him while he watched part of the Nationals game and ate the lemon/chocolate cake I'd made for him (because it's one of his favorite combinations and no one else will make it, much less eat it).

And like the father that he's always been, when he finished with his cake plate and fork, he instinctively turned to hand it off to one of the womenfolk, namely me, to rinse and put in the dishwasher.

"Thank you, daughter," he says. Thank you, Dad, for everything else.

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