Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dad and me

"So you must be daddy's little girl, then?"

This is what people inevitably say when I tell them I'm the oldest girl and close to my dad.

But they're wrong.

I was NEVER Daddy's little girl. Neither was my sister. The thing about my dad is that he never treats us like we're "little."

Memory: I'm in 11th grade and completely stuck on my math homework. This is the year that math finally catches up to me, and my supposed aptitude in math turns out to be very limited. I'm sitting at the dining room table with my bathrobe over my clothes (Dad always kept the house cold in those days of the "energy crisis"), and my dad comes over. "Hey, hey. That's enough of that." He hands me his handkerchief (I think my dad is the last person on the planet to always have a handkerchief in his pocket.) "Now what are you working on?" I wipe my eyes and tell him, in a shakey voice, about the math problem. He sits down beside me and looks at the problem. "OK now. Let's start with what you know . . . "

Memory: I'm 25, I've just bought my first car, and it's a lemon, a 15-year-old Volkswagen Beetle with a rusted floor and unreliable engine. I've driven it home from grad school somehow, and my dad has looked it over. He lists the problems that need to be corrected. I lie back on the living room floor with my hands over my face. "What do you want to do?" he asks. "Work on it, or junk it?" I can't cry or feel sorry for myself now: I have to make a decision. I breathe and think. Then sit up. "I want to work on it," I say. "OK," says Dad.

There are lots of ways that I would hope to be like my Dad. Dad always thinks of problems as opportunities--not roadblocks. He has boundless energy--physical, mental, emotional. He's optimistic even in the face of terrible odds (like his cancer diagnosis). He wants others to enjoy life the way he does, and his enthusiasm is contagious. He respects and reaches out to people, from the LPN who changes his sheets at the hospital these days to his oldest friends, and they love him for it.

If any of that has rubbed off on me, I've gotten it from him. If I can be a bit like dad, I'll be a better martial artist. I'll be a better person.

1 comment:

PW said...

That's a wonderful tribute, Jane. Thanks for sharing.