ORIGINALLY WRITTEN SHELLEY PLETT
It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was. -Anne Sexton
“My daddy can pick up six cars with his pinky.”
“Well…my daddy can pick up Jupiter with one finger.”
My daughter and a friend were having an impassioned discussion about whose Dad is stronger until they were offered a chocolate malt and their minds wandered toward the ice cream, which is, I believe, a natural progression. The subject was quickly dropped and a winner was never declared.
The girls were on a post-Father’s Day high and their daddies were foremost on their minds. That’s the value of Father’s Day. It reminds us to remember, because on the off days that we’re not pitting our own family members against someone else’s, it’s likely that we’ll overlook them.
The same goes for other holidays like Mother’s Day, Grandparents’ Day, and even the king of take-it-or-leave-it holidays, Valentine’s Day.
(Which, by the way, I take. I know, I know, it’s a conspiracy by FTD and Russell Stover to take our money. We’re going to spend it anyway, and if it weren’t for the guilt-based holidays, we would just blow it on ourselves. So, instead of taking a stand against “the man” by boycotting commercialization, buy the $1.99 card. It might just go a long way.)
This month, Father’s Day came and went with a quick barbecue. We spent a couple of hours with my husband’s family. Taylor sent her dad on a scavenger hunt for his gift and his dad got a homemade Grandpa card. It was time we wanted to set aside for the dads.
Except mine. I didn’t think about my own Dad.
It was late into the night before I realized it. What kind of daughter did that make me?
I hadn’t looked at his picture, displayed right in my line of sight in the dining room, as I carried ketchup and napkins to the table.
The handcrafted clock he made for our wedding gift, the one I use all day, every day, didn’t spark a thought.
I was oblivious to the calendar I walked by a dozen times, which would have reminded me that this is the seventh Father’s Day spent without him.
After beating myself with a guilt-stick all night for forgetting, I put it into perspective: Yes, it was Father’s Day, but it was just one day.
I’m the youngest of eight and if we were asked to name three things that remind us of Dad, we would have 24 different answers. He was a father to us all, but a dad to each one of us.
By the time I was a 13, the age gap basically made me an “only child.” The others were out on their own, leaving just me at home. Mom worked second shift and Dad set one main rule: get home before your mother does. And I did-most of the time.
As a typical daughter, about half of the things he told me actually registered. I heard everything he said, but gave attention to what was relevant at the time. The other half would come to me eventually. Just not necessarily on Father’s Day, which I proved this year. Instead, they come randomly in their own time.
Things like gumbo, Louis Rukeyser, and hot-dog-ketchup techniques: three things that remind me of my dad.
My dad spent a lot of time concocting things on the stove, most often some sort of revolutionary gumbo. As a rule, I wasn’t brave enough to try them. But for the Super Bowl last February, I made my first big pot of Cajun gumbo, loaded with spicy sausage and cayenne pepper. Dad would have loved it.
As for Louis Rukeyser, all I knew was that Dad had his books and a tendency to drop his name in conversations often. A few weeks ago, I googled Louis Rukeyser. He was an expert in investing and finances. I read his bio and skimmed through his website. Dad would have said, “It’s about time.”
I recently overheard my husband explaining-once again-Dad’s method of putting ketchup on a hot dog in a certain way to keep it from dripping. He saw Dad do it once and has sworn by this technique ever since. On that one, I have a feeling Dad would just scratch his head.
My dad was a good person, a great dad and doting grandpa. But unless you’re under age 10, it’s not about winning the world’s best-dad contest.
Well, maybe it’s a little about that.
My dad is so strong that even seven years after his passing, his actions become relevant over and over again.