From the Chip to the Old Block

Daddy final

Daddy was a man of few words. But the words spoken by quiet men often go deeper and have a wider effect than those rolled out by the more effusive. I was reminded of this once when I asked my psychology students to make a list of their family myths–those truths we learn as children that over time become the personal litanies which direct our adult lives. In response to my own assignment I was struck by how deeply Daddy’s succinct yet oft-repeated adages had sunk in.

“We’ll manage,” was Daddy’s singular response to adversity. I now realize the phrase more likely was uttered as much for self reassurance as a statement of fact. But at the time I believed that no matter how dire the situation, he knew we would get through it. And we did. We never failed to navigate the rough spots in the road—intact and the stronger for it. Over the decades, as in the James Taylor classic, “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain.” And during those dark times, no hymn could have brought greater peace of mind and no self-help book could have aided me in gathering strength better than “we’ll manage.” Thanks to Daddy, I did manage.

What didn’t lay so sweetly on my ears was “we’ll see,” Daddy’s all-too-often response to my requests. Unlike his impetuous daughter, Daddy thought things through before he made a decision as to how money, time, energy and effort should be directed. Over time, I came to understand that “we’ll see” was the kiss of death to my request. Yet, “we’ll see” has stood the test of time for me. Gone are the days when all my ideas seemed like good ones. Skinned knees and broken hearts caused by rash decisions finally took a toll. I’ve come to accept caution as a blessing. “We’ll see,” wells up from my unconscious repeatedly as I rounded the bend toward the second half of my career, as retirement loomed, and as Bud and I made the decisions about how we want to grow our marriage over the past 36 years.

On a broad scale, as a society whose fascination with life in the fast lane has ground millions of us to a screeching physical, emotional, financial and spiritual halt, we hear a lot about the need for balance, pacing, prudence, and looking before we leap. Perhaps we would all profit by adopting Daddy’s “we’ll see” attitude.

Daddy called me “the Kid.” Although as a child I seethed silently when he’d quip “here’s looking at you Kid” at the dinner table,  I knew the nickname was no pejorative. “Kid” summed up in three letters a universe of love for and pride in his only offspring. In the 50’s and 60’s we didn’t have pop psychologists to tell us how necessary parental support is for children’s well being. Daddy instinctively supported his kid, whether it was helping me sell Girl Scout cookies or get a Ph.D. Even during my teens, when the parent/child relationship ebbs lowest, I knew that I was loved.

It’s not just little kids and errant teens who need their fathers’ love. Even though Daddy passed on in 2009 I still thrive on memories of Daddy’s support. In the wee hours of the morning I’m comforted knowing that he was there for me. Realizing his presence in this way, this sixty something kid soaks up his love across the universe, and I am grateful for the father whose few words impacted my life so richly.

So, here’s looking at you, Daddy.

 

 

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