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.