Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day Meditation 2018

I love the Google doodle for Father's Day 2018.

This young woman dedicated "Father of Night" to her father.

Hmmmm.  When I checked my blog reading list this Father's Day morning, the first new post was "About books."

My father (perhaps in rebellion against his own father or from a feeling of inadequacy in connection with his own father's ability to not only read all the great books of his time and become a lawyer as well as write a few books of his own) was not a reader, although he did read Moby Dick after I gave him a copy in the early 1980s, hoping that he would not miss the profound experience I had of reading that book.  There was something about the book that I thought might speak to him.  It seems that it did. He was proud of my ability, something like his father's, to read extensively and write well.  It was only in his last years that he bought books that he enjoyed and wanted to share with me.  I bristled at his choice of books for me.  They were all books about a form of television Christianity that he had embraced in the last ten years of his life.  I couldn't read them, but I could begin to accept the love with which they were given.

In the last years of his life, my father wrote a book, an extensive autobiography, and dedicated it to his only grandson.

He included a wealth of photographs and memorabilia from his long life, including the bill for his home birth in Minneapolis in 1914 and a sweet photo of him as a baby.  It has been healing for me to look at that photo of him in the first year of life in the years after he died at age 89 in 2003.  I am grateful for all he shared about how important his work was to him and what he shared about his life growing up in Minnesota and what he shared about the rest of his life in California, beginning in the late 1930s.

I can't be absolutely sure but my best guess is that it was my father who took that photo of me looking at a book when I was about two years old.  I must have been about that old when I was playing on the carpet of our apartment and heard him say proudly to someone, "Listen to her, she is going to be a lawyer."  Rebellious in the same way he was, my two-year-old self thought but did not say, "No, I won't.  I will NOT be a lawyer."

Ha!  I am grateful that my father didn't say, "Look at her.  She is going to love books and learn to write well."

My earliest visual memory of my father is in 1954, when I was three or perhaps four years old and he was 40 years old, when he had the nearly full head of dark hair that he had when the Navy photo was taken around 1945.  By the time I was in grade school, he was balding and greying.  Due to his work for Standard Oil (later Chevron), he was only at home in the evenings and on weekends, when not away on frequent business trips.  I learned to accept his absence and not to expect closeness with him.  I learned to distance myself from him the way my mother did.  It has occurred to me in recent years that he may have been on the Asperger's side of the autism spectrum.  He loved us in his way and worked hard to support our family, working as a systems analyst.  It was work that he thoroughly enjoyed.  His autobiography's main focus was his work.  He didn't mention his love of flowers and gardening and baseball and archaeology and woodcarving.  When I tend my porch garden, I think of my father.  When my attention is drawn to baseball in any way, I think of my father.  The same thing happens with anything to do with archaeology or woodcarving.

Here is my porch garden in the first few moments after the sun began to shine on my porch this early morning.  The first golden Day Lily opened a few days ago.  Blooming along with them are Sweet William (my father took the name William as a young man, using "Carl" -- the name chosen for him by his parents -- as a middle name, for the rest of his life).  I didn't intentionally plant Sweet William.  They were simply part of a seed mix I planted years ago.  Of all the seeds in that mixture, the Sweet William have been the hardiest.  You can also see some yellow Coreopsis, a red Begonia, and some orange Wallflowers.  Next to bloom will be Shasta daisies and Crocosmia and deep pink Chrysanthemums.  Not so visible in the photo but blooming nonetheless is Salvia microphylla, also known as Hot Lips Sage, with its wonderfully fragrant tiny leaves.

Father's Day is a bittersweet day for many of us.  Each year I write about my distant father he becomes more real and human and close to me, and I feel safer in allowing myself to love him and be loved by him.


Tara said...

"safer in allowing myself to love him" is a most powerful and profound statement. As the years go by and experience and wisdom take the place of childhood hurt, we can identify with our parents. See them for the flawed but lovable beings they were. I love that you have sweet associations with everyday things and your father.

And your little garden looks lovely and lush.

Sabine said...

I find that as someone's child I need the distances (such as age and experience and finally death) to actually *see* the person in a parent. And even then it's a slow process.
Your memoried here are in that line. At least this is how I read them.

37paddington said...

Your father clearly admired and loved you, unknowable as he was to you as a child. My own father was a lawyer, and the absolute most brilliant writer I ever encountered. But he put all his gifts toward the writing of legal decisions once he became a judge. What compelling reading they were, yet how I wish he'd written an autobiography, or that I had thought to interview him closely enough to do it in his voice. I often can't believe he has been gone 22 years now. Our fathers leave their imprint.