Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lessons from My Daddy Bear

Daddy had never, ever held a baby before he held me.
My daddy and I have this very odd relationship. I almost worshiped the man when I was young. He was my hero, and in many ways, he still is. He was a difficult man (and in many ways he still is). He was demanding. He was harsh. He was exacting. He had high expectations. He was a strong force. He was funny and physical. He had a great sense of humor. He was powerful. But I never, ever wanted for hugs and kisses and bedtime tuck ins. He loved me and my brother fiercely. It was, and is, an overwhelming relationship. I'm thankful for my father.

  I'm thankful that he tried. I'm thankful that he didn't quit. I'm thankful that he didn't say "I told you so" as often as he could have. I'm thankful that he forgave me. I'm thankful that he told me "no" more than "yes". I'm thankful that he loved my mother. I'm thankful that he still provides for her because he loves me (and her). I'm thankful that he was and is such a strong force, because I was made stronger for standing in his presence and leaning into that wind.

And with that, I want to share some of the most important life lessons I learned from my Daddy Bear:
It's okay to be goofy. In fact, goofy is more enjoyable than serious. You also better stay on your toes, or I'm going to make you look goofy on purpose, and I fully expect you to laugh with me when I'm laughing at you. So, go ahead and laugh at yourself first. (I hope I have given this same gift to my children. Smart people have quick wit. And empathetic people find themselves to be the biggest laugh of all.)

Playing on the "Rock Chiff"
 I remember curling up in the green chair with him, secure in the knowledge that nothing could ever get past my Daddy. (I never, ever turn my children away for a snuggle. One day they won't want to sleep with me or sit with me, and that day is rapidly approaching. And I will protect them and their interests with every breath I take. Nothing will get past this Mother Bear. Nothing.)

I have seen every Western ever made, because that's what we did on Friday nights--we had significant amounts of family time, and he never watched anything we couldn't see also until we were asleep. (To this day, our house revolves around a never-ending family time that we are quick to schedule and guard zealously.)

I read because my father insisted. He handed me the first book I ever loved: Gone With The Wind. He is the very reason that I am passionate about literature. (It's important to teach your children to love reading and to participate in the things that make your life richer.)

Same game "Rock Chiff" with Conrad, my brother.
He taught me to memorize poetry just because you ought to. I still memorize something every single month. (Some things you should do not because they gain you wealth or education or position--you should just do them to improve yourself as a human being. They make your life richer just for doing them.)

I see him bringing me Godiva--For Special. (You should show the people you love with physical gifts.)

I hear him saying the Tucked Up Their Paws, rhyme, his voice hiding laughter right before tickling me silly. My children think that everyone knows Tucked Up Their Paws and Special Kisses. (What? You don't?) (You need to develop your own private language in your family unit. Your own traditions. Your personal folklore bonds you together deeper than any trip or thing you own.)
Raccoon, me, Daddy

In that same voice, I hear him cursing and yelling, but still turning the car around, after only thirty minutes into the 15-hour drive, to go back for Raccoon, my very special bear. (Always go back, go extra for your children, even if it costs you something and you get absolutely no personal gain.)

I smell freshly cut wood and see us stacking it behind the car we washed earlier in the day. (My father taught me that hard work is good for you, and I hope that my babies are learning the same.)

I taste Eggs Benedict on Saturday mornings (and it's still my favorite dish), because after washing the car and cutting and stacking the wood, it was time to get cleaned up and go to brunch.  Just him and me. (Because the most valuable thing you have to spend on your kids is time and shared experiences.)

I know Bear folklore, because I am one by blood and by birthright. (And I'd tell you what that means, but then I'd have to kill you, because some things in a family are private and should be kept that way.)

And I love my Daddy Bear, because he first loved me. Which is the most powerful lesson there is.

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