Thursday, 11 November 2010

Just Daddy...

It is a wise child that knows its own father, and an unusual one that unreservedly approves of him. ---Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927

This has been the hardest thing for me to write--ever. No, no. Not because grief consumed me and I couldn’t bring myself to think about it. Oh, sure. I’ve grieved. I still grieve. But the obstacles in the path of my thought process haven’t been emotional. Really.

My problem with writing about my Daddy? I just couldn’t think what to say. That’s all. In the big scheme of things, he was just…Daddy. My Daddy. Just because he was the leading man at the house I grew up in wouldn’t really make him a figure of interest to anybody who didn’t know him.

We buried my father on February 2, 2009. When the lid to the casket closed, panic swooped over me. I would never, ever see him again on this earth. Never. And with the closing of that lid, everything I could have, would have, should have asked him about himself was sealed forever. No more chances to “get to know him better.” I had my chance and all I could do was hope I had learned enough.

I grew up in an era when so many dads were---well---just dads. They married our mothers which made them husbands and then they became fathers. Simple. Having kids was just part of being married for so many men in this era. Part of the job---just went with the territory. Well, that’s how it seemed to me. So, to me as a kid growing up, he was just plain ol’ Daddy. Nothing special. Just a guy doing his job.

Oh, sure. There were the other fathers, the exceptions. And sometimes, as a little girl, I seethed with jealousy toward my friends whose fathers were the exceptions. The dads who called their daughters “Princess”. I honestly convinced myself that my dad would have been a better dad if he would have only called me “Princess.” But my father, plain ol’ Daddy, didn’t anoint me with that coveted name. Oh, well, I survived the beastly abuse of not being the little princess of my daddy’s eye. I somehow managed to shoot to adulthood as a fully functional, well adjusted woman in spite of this atrocity.

The beauty of it all? I learned he couldn’t have been a better father. Even considering the fact that he never had a pet name for me, that he didn’t take me fishing, that he didn’t play games with me---he still couldn’t have been a better father.

He supported his family on $2.15 an hour with his Post Office job (before it was union and before it was called Postal Union) and pushed a broom at a junior high school (in the days before they were called ‘middle school’) after work to make extra money.
Times were hard, money was short. Suppers consisted often of pinto beans and cornbread or, on Sundays we ate scrambled eggs (never knew the Sunday egg connection---have made a mental note to find out from my mother). But we ate. We didn’t want. We were happy. We were a family and our house was a warm sanctuary.

I thought I knew my daddy as well as I needed to. He wasn’t my best friend. He was my father. The man who raised me. In the world I lived in (this is the world before time-outs replaced spankings), your daddy was just your daddy, and that was all he was supposed to be. What more did you need to know?

Well, I had a startling revelation that he might be a little more than that when I got married. The morning I was scheduled to leave my girlhood home to move to Alabama as a married woman, I got up early to say ‘good-bye’ to my daddy before he left for work. He hugged me so tight that I couldn’t break his hold. When he finally let go, he’d been crying. Tears were in his eyes. How dare he? This man who was supposed to be as indifferent as I was? Crying? Yes.

From then on I realized he was more than just my father, but was a man with feelings and a personality I hadn’t gotten to know. He was a man who had a whole life before I came along, a man I never knew.

Thank God for revealing this to me while he was still alive. For letting me learn about my father---the man who served his country in World War II in the Eleventh Airborne and earned a Purple Heart. The man who did double duty and served in the Navy on The U.S.S. Wasp. The man who sort of looked like a combination of William Holden and Paul Newman when he was young. The good looking man who married my mother and conceived me and my siblings.

The man who, as it turns out, actually had a fascinating life, but who to me was still just Daddy.


Jambrea said...

You made me tear up. What a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing. :)

C. Zampa said...

Thank you for visiting, Jambrea!
It's an emotional day for so many people.

Nice to see you!

Natalie Dae said...

Damn, you made me cry again. God bless Daddy.


C. Zampa said...

Aw, thank you, Nat. Not thank you for thank you for your beautful heart!

And thank you for visiting.

Scarlett Knight said...

A beautiful tribute. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Lisa Alexander Griffin said...

Guess I'm crying along with the rest of em. lol. But, I can so related, CZ. Dad's are dad's. But if we're lucky enough to ever get to know them, they are people with hopes and dreams just like us. Sad thing is, my dad never wanted us to see any weaknesses or flaws. But I've learned as life goes on...that he really does have them. :)But still, although I love my dad dearly, he'll never let go enough for me to see the true man beneath.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

These people, dads, moms, really strangers, come into our lives and we trust and love them. That's always puzzled me but we do. Thanks for telling us about your dad, your mom and your family really. There isn't anything like them in the world. I know, I had a dad, a mom, a brother and a sister with kids of their own. Funny how it goes round and round and round... Eternally....

C. Zampa said...

Scarlett, thank you so much for visiting!

C. Zampa said...

Hello, Lisa!

Most Dads, I figure, do want their flaws to remain invisible to us. We do know they have them, and maybe it's best not to know those weak spots.

I wonder if we're even supposed to know our parents so deeply. I will never know, as far as Daddy is concerned. Even as much as I WAS able to learn about him, it still seems so little. I've learned to know my mother better through the years, but there will always be things about her that will remain mysteries.

Maybe that's how it should be. I don't know.

Thanks for stopping by, lady!

C. Zampa said...

Welcome, Mick, my friend!
It IS a circle, isn't it?
'Eternally.' I like that, Mick.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Shish, now I'm bawling like a baby. What an absolutely beautiful tribute to your father, Carol. And on Remembrance Day. He sounds lovely. A hero. The Purple Heart -- Wow! I'm so glad you are able to write such an extraordinary blog about such a wonderful man. I bet he's so proud of you.

Thank you for making me cry and for reminding me how lucky I was to have my ordinary daddy too.

C. Zampa said...

Well, Joylene Nowell Butler, now you've made ME cry! LOL.

It's so funny how our parents had these totally unfamliar lives and experiences before we came along, isn't it?

Like two separate people: Pre-us people and post-us.

Well, I hope, before he passed, he was proud. He seemed to be. I hope I showed him enough how proud I was of HIM, too.

Thank you for visiting!

Unknown said...

It's funny, Carol, but the dad I remember at the supper tables of my youth and teh one I sit accross from these days...not the same person. Silly. Of course he is. I suppose it's my perception that's changed. Maybe he's opened his Life Before Kids up to us more than he ever did when we actually were kids. Either way, I can understand what you mean about getting to know him. He's revealed he isn't perfect, he's flawed and has made mistakes. Somehow, that just makes him better in my eyes. He's still me Daddy.

Thanks for a great post

C. Zampa said...

Oh, hello, Jaime!

That is exactly how it is! Two different people. When you see they are this person you don't know, then you want so much to KNOW them. And that's such a wonderful experience.

Thanks for visiting!

Debbie Gould said...

What a beautiful post, Carol. It was just me and my mother growing up, but I ahd my Gramps, and I wouldn't change a thing.
Thanks for making me remember that.

Sarah Ballance said...

Such a powerful, beautiful post. I'm sure you've touched a few hearts with this one ... definitely my own! He must have been a special man, indeed. He raised an amazing daughter!

C. Zampa said...

Thank you for visiting, Debbie!
Sounds like your grandfather was pretty special to you. And he must have been an awesome influence, because you're an awesome lady.


C. Zampa said...

Thank you, Sarah!
I'm really glad I was able to see just how special he was while he was alive.