Friday, October 21, 2011

October 20

Yesterday would have been my dad's 94th birthday. He died years ago, though, so there was no birthday celebration, just the thought in my head, the telling of the fact to my kids, and the answering of a couple of questions about him. I miss my dad sometimes, but not in the visceral way that the Corey girls miss theirs.

My father died in the summer of 1988. That was quite a while ago, and as the platitude goes, time heals. Or rubs smooth the rough edges anyway. I've lived more of my life without my dad than with, so it's in no way new, or raw. But I do firmly believe that no man will ever love you as much as your father, even the best of husbands, which does bring on a selfish sense of loss. And of course I wish my girls would have known him. He was a gentle soul who thought sugar sandwiches before bed were a good idea, and leaned out the back door, yelling, "caw, caw, caw" to the crows while throwing scraps of bread for them. (Who does that?)

He was also a product of the depression era, a WWII vet, and quite old (50) when he had his first child -- me. Although the norm now, it was unusual at the time, and more than once people mistook him for my grandfather.

My college admission essay about my dad's influence on me, written in a senior high school English class and submitted anonymously, earned me an A+ (the only one I got from that teacher). And it probably did help me get into 4 of the 5 schools I applied to. (I really didn't want to go to Wake Forest anyway, thankyouverymuch.)

It examined how having an older father, who was born in 1917 and a whole generation older than almost all of my friends' fathers, shaped my own views and gave me a natural interest in history.

Although I changed my major from history to anthropology my junior year, much of my dad's teachings have stuck with me.

I'm thrifty. There is no way around it. Although I do spend much more lavishly than he ever would have, and do sometimes find myself getting caught up in 'the material world,' I can't stand overpaying for things. I adore thrift stores, and hand-me-downs. At times I wonder if I should be embarrassed by the amount of people who drop off bags of their used stuff to me and my kids. But I don't. I just feel lucky. It feels like Christmas.

The depression hit my dad's generation hard. It left marks and habits that lasted a lifetime. My dad would use the same napkin all week to set his coffee on, the brown rings creating a Ven diagram by Wednesday or Thursday. He saved aluminium cans long before it was convenient to do so. He stashed hundred dollar bills in cook books, which we found when we cleaning out his house after he died. Poverty was a real thing to my dad. He was (consequently) obsessive about money. Don't even try talking during reports about the Dow Jones' daily performance. That information was vital. He required my mom submit all her receipts to him. It must have been oppressive.

But I do not have any debt, and know the value of a dollar, and that it's important to have some savings. I can't fathom the mortgage payments of some of my friends. It's simply too risky. But of course that is just my view, shaped by his.

I have an appreciation for veterans, helping my dad, as I did, place miniature flags on the graves of dead ex-soldiers on memorial day in the Catholic graveyard of our home town. But I also know, deep down, on some never really discussed level, that war is hell, and not for humans, and can be so altering that you can't even talk about it or ever again get on a plane. Even if it means driving from New York to California and back to get married. Nope, you call it your honeymoon instead, because those flying memories are just too painful to face.

Yep, I miss my dad, his generosity of spirit, his thrift of dollar. I miss his unconditional love; his view that I am the most special of all daugthers; his humility, his humor. But he passed a lot on to me, as all parents do. And now it's my turn to pass the right things down to my very own daughters.

Happy belated, Dad! I love you.


Me, You, or Ellie said...

What a lovely tribute. sniff. How great that you've pinpointed his legacy by writing about it. Another page in the archives!

I'm sorry that you lost your dad. We should all have our dads, and our kids should have their grandfathers.

love you


Pat said...

Wow, Beth...that is beautiful. Can't wait to remind Hap to check it out.
Love, Mom

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Oh Elizabeth, this is absolutely beautiful! And just so gorgeously written.

I'm kind of more in the *sob* than the *sniff* state of mind here . . .

How wonderful to have these visceral memories -- Jacquie and I discovered last year just how vital and fortunate it is to add to the "official" record.

Happy Birthday to your Dad. And thanks for sharing such loveliness.


Springer Kneeblood said...

What a wonderful way to remember your father and his influence on who you have become. I, too, am the child of older parents (mom was 45, dad was 50) and am quite conscious of how their experiences shaped me. I really appreciate the fact that you've taken the time to consider and record your perspective, Beth. I admire you for it.

Noelle McElaney said...


We've never met but reading your writing I feel a connection to you. I am a friend of Ellie's (back to 5th grade.) I, too, am a daughter who lost her dad 3 years ago...I too, like Ellie, am captured so skillfully the true nature of passing it on through generations and your insight into his story from your vantage point is truly beautiful. I am so glad to have had the privilege to read this tribute. Thanks.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Wow, thanks to all of you for your kind words.

Death is a funny thing, taking as it does our most dear and leaving us to then learn how to navigate the world without them... but that we do the best we know how, as they of course would want us to....


choked up in Central PA said...

thanks for the tear stained cheeks.

your dad was everything I wanted my dad to be (and, of course, I paid no attention to anything you might complain about) but wasn't.

funny how I never questioned how he was already retired when no one else's parents were. he was just always home and always packed the *BEST* lunches *EVER*.

beautiful tribute to a great dad! Happy 94th Birthday!

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid it's just not true for everyone "that no man will ever love you as much as your father, even the best of husbands". In fact, many of us didn't have fathers like yours, or even fathers who loved us much at all, which makes your experience with your father all the more precious. It is so nice that you appreciate it! Nice post.

Mom C said...

Such a lovely tribute Beth, and so beautifully written. love, Mom C

Anonymous said...

Great tribute!

Unconditional love is what always comes to my mind when thinking about my dad.

I hope they know how much we miss them.

Anonymous said...

Your dad is smiling down on you. What a beautiful tribute. A man we would all want to know. How wonderful you have captured so many of his memories in this writing. Thank you. Ellen