wOw’s Question of the Week

 

 

 

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Tell us: what’s your best memory of your dad?

Candice Bergen: We would go riding together. We both loved horses and liked to ride and we’d go to Palm Springs for weekends and go on these fantastic breakfast rides. Well, they were fantastic when you were seven or eight. We’d get up early and let my mom sleep in and we would go and saddle up and ride for an hour in the desert till we got to the chuck wagon where we’d tie up our horses and tuck into pancakes then ride back in our little group. It was always just the two of us and I cherished it.

Judith Martin: I am fortunate enough to have a photograph, now somewhat dim, that captures what I think of as my father’s essence. It was taken in Greece, where we lived when he was on assignment for the United Nations, and where he could indulge his deep lifelong interest in archeology. This was in 1952, and travel within war-ravaged Greece was primitive, but he was determined to see every site on every island, by whatever available means of transportation. In the picture, he is wearing one of his gray suits that complemented his silver hair, of course a tie, and a broad smile. He is sitting astride a donkey.

Cynthia McFadden: My father had a wonderful loving sense of whimsy. Growing up in Maine there was a huge pine tree in our backyard with dense, low-hanging boughs. My father said that to show how much the tree liked me, every year on just one day, my birthday, the tree would produce lollipops. And it did. Every year in May it bloomed with lollipops carefully tied to its branches. He never took credit, always claiming the tree was making the magic. But I can still see his bright blue eyes twinkling with delight on those birthday mornings as the tree greeted me with his bounty.

Joan Juliet Buck: The memories of my dad are endless, but what’s complex and interesting is the realization that I have never bonded with women in the same way that I have with men friends. Upon reflection, these men are each  some kind of version of my father: I just realized that they all make films — produce, write, direct, or make documentaries. Jules Buck started as a photographer, became a cameraman, then a producer. What my friends give me is the same sense of wonder, the same vulnerability, the same curiosity, the same honesty, the same wish to reshape the world according to their eye. As they age they’re hoisted by success and tempered by frustration, doubt,  and  failure. I love them for showing a resilience that my father lost, and through their company I see my father’s life prolonged, played out in others, extended, eternal.

Mary Wells Lawrence: My father drove ambulances during the war and had horrifying memories of picking up pieces of men and their screams.  He had been a gifted painter as a younger man. After he married my mother and they built a house on the edge of a large forest in Ohio he created an escape from his memories in our cellar. He would go there alone most evenings to paint and to be quiet. For a sensitive soul, he got through the wars and the depression by selling mattresses and bedroom furniture to small stores in Pennsylvania — but he lived without humor or relaxation. He was a frustration to my mother, who would lose her charm when he arrived home late evenings. When young, I used to watch for him from the windows and feel relief when his car wound its way to the garage. I would see him stretch himself out of the driver’s seat and feel about for his sales kits. And I would know that when he opened our back door, my mother would not be loving.

I understood that my mother was an outstanding woman and needed loving herself. Like many of us, even when young I had a picture of my family in my heart that beat in a sad, confused way. I have no memories of a happy father. But I do remember his peace in creating gardens like paintings — from the wildflowers in our forests.

I didn’t know how to make him happy then. Maybe someday I will.

16 comments so far.

  1. avatar Linda Myers says:

    My oldest grandson really has never had a true father figure in his life, though he adopted one as a inspiration in choosing the path he is following now from the inspiration of Walt Disney and seeing a Steam Boat Willie short when he was five.

    Since that age he has absorbed everything he could read or find on Walt Disney, his work and has a depth of knowledge in relation to animation which would rival those in the field decades older than he is. He started drawing his own characters in paint when he was small and writing his scripts for the future. At nine, on a visit to Walt Disney World during a tour, one of the animators gave him his 50 year medallion for Disney because of his passion and knowledge for animation. He is now studying animation himself in the e-comm program in high school, along with already having made three full length films of his own and has universities presenting him with perks for attending which would give him junior level status work space if he attends.

    At five, he adopted this father figure inspiration who died almost thirty years before he was born to show him a path in life with such focus it has superseded any distractions or feeling he could not accomplish his dreams in life. For his birthday next year, I am going to attempt to secure a birthday wish from Walt’s daughter which I could frame for him. Might be an impossible task, but if I can do it with a partial focus of what he has done – it can be done.

    Life doesn’t always give a child the father they had hoped for – yet many like Austin find an inspirational father figure who in absentia help them find their way and avoid the pitfalls and triggers in life which could take them another direction.

  2. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Oh I remember mine very well.

    I had had one of those days (of which I had many) when I was being picked on by classmates for being a PK (Preacher’s Kid). I was alway prim and proper, said please and thank you, spoke in proper grammar, while all my contemporaries used slang. I walked with an air of confidence, and at the tender age of 13, that was not the norm. Girls that age were suppose to be insecure and gawky. I was not you’re usual teen.

    I remember it like it was yesterday, I had spent the day being taunted by girls and Belinda being Belinda, ignored them. Yet for some reason when I arrived home after school I broke down. If I close my eyes I can still see my father on the front porch in his blue jean overalls, smoking on his pipe. I can smell his aftershave (Aqua Velva). I sat down next to him and cried. Telling him I was tired of being strong, turning the other cheek. That I just wanted to be liked and understood.    

    And what my father said stayed with me from that moment to this very moment as I type this. I won’t say verbatim what he said, but suffice to say he quoted scripture and reminded me not to focus on what others think of me, but to focus on who I am.   To concentrate on being real and honest. To be a leader and not a follower. To be strong in my beliefs and most importantly to allow others to have their opinion of me and respect that. Whether it be good or bad, I have no control over how I am viewed.  

    That day was so special to me. It wasn’t as if we hadn’t had a million heart to hearts before, but that one was different. I think it was also special because he was the first person (among 3) in my life to tell me to be “the black pearl among a sea of white sand” - to in other words,  try and stand out…be unique.  As much as my confidence over the years has been misunderstood as cockiness and conceit, I wish more mothers and fathers would take the time to have deep conversations about love for self with their teen girls. Maybe if more did we wouldn’t have a sea of insecure and distracted youth. 

    I miss my father so much. As Whoopi said when her mother died…”With her gone, who will tell me I’m special….”  That is how I feel about my dad. I miss being told how special I am, by someone that really meant it. :-(

  3. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    The birthday card he gave me around age 12 (he purchased it separately from the birthday card my mother bought, which they both signed), which read “Some men want sons, but I wouldn’t trade my 2 daughters for all the sons in the world.” :-)

  4. avatar D C says:

    My dad died when I was 18 (he was 45), so all my memories of him are from childhood.  Not a whole lot of them are good.  But there are some.  Daddy did construction, so we always had pick-up trucks.  He rode motorcycles, so we always had those around as well.  I have good memories of him giving me motorcycle rides, and teaching me to ride my own, and of the time when I wanted to quit while trying to back his fully loaded with tools pickup into a small slot and he yelled at me and told me to get my ass back in that truck and DO IT!  I’ve heard that voice a lot over the years, every time the you-can’t-do-its creep in. 

    The best memory I have of my father was when I turned 18.  My dad was not the kind to make a big deal out of surprises.  But that January afternoon he came to pick me up from band practice.  I didn’t ride my motorcycle in the winter — even in Houston some days just were too cold to get out on the bike.  The rare times my father did pick me up at school, usually on a bad weather day when he couldn’t work (rain and construction don’t mix), he would wait in the car.  This particular day, near my birthday, he had come to the bandhall door to meet me.  As we walked out of the building I scanned the circle drive where parents picked up kids, and didn’t see our car.  I asked him where he had parked.  He pointed to a cute little 4-door Ford Maverick and said, “right there.”  I knew it was mine.  I jumped and screamed and hugged him, and he handed me the keys and it was one of the sweetest moments of my life.

    I have been able to surprise my two older kids when they turned 18 the same way, and recreating that kind of surprise has made the original one all the sweeter. 

    My dad made a lot of mistakes in his life and caused a lot of pain, but I’m pretty sure he did the best he could with the tools that he was given.  Most of the time. 

  5. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    Like Joan Juliet Beck, I too have bonded with men - had far more men friends that have been there with me through thick and thin,  Was this because I was often at my father’s business and knew many of his associates in my young years — and therefore, I was comfortable with them?  I am not sure. 

    I remember that the business took so much time . . . but it was the surprises like this: ” Your mother and I think that going to the jungles of the Yucatan in Mexico with a guide and trying to get into unexplored ruins might be fun.  How about it?”  This – and others – were so far from going to an amusement park – and later – not known to him, set me on a path of way-out travel that has never stopped.  He had little free time, but the thought put into it was wonderful.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized that everyone didn’t do that.  When he was around, he lit up my life — and while he did not live to know it, his stirring of the senses was so addictive that both my husband and I often look up and thank my parents for their direction that made our lives so extraordinary.

    My all emcompassing memory though – one I have never gotten over – was his death before I was 14.  Every moment of that time remains indelibly within me , , , but perhaps it has made me even more thankful for the years I did have with him.  He remains in my heart.

  6. avatar Maggie W says:

    I grew up on a farm.  I have distant memories of my dad pulling on his work boots and then lifting me on his shoulders to ” check on the critters”.  Off to the barns we would go.  In my diapers, I was feeding chickens and geese ( no memory but pictures tell the tale).  Later, he taught me to drive his old pick up in the pastures when I was 12.   My love for horses started when I was around two and sat in front of him in the saddle. 

    On a shelf in the garage, I still have the metal lunch box he carried to the field.  My cowboy dad was one of the really good guys, one in a million.   My cowgirl mom was absolutely crazy for him during the 58 years they were married.

  7. avatar Maizie James says:

    Last night I had a nightmare involving my father. I think it was triggered by guilt because before going to bed, I read the moving tributes the staff of wOw shared about their fathers soon after this thread was posted. Countless memories of my father filled my heart, yet I did not know how to write them in words that would convey the honor I felt he deserved. As I lingered thinking about what to write, I decided to wait until night’s slumber. When I logged off, there were no posts.

    My nightmare was vivid. My father was in the hospital following a heart attack. While there he composed letters; his handwriting seemingly labored. All letters were addressed to me. Meanwhile, upon learning of my father’s hospitalization, I was in the midst of the busyness of running my household, and preparing material for the county commission I belonged to. I made excuses for why I was not able to fly out [immediately] to the hospital. Soon after, my father died. I heard myself scream out in my horrid dream upon learning of my father’s death. And, when I flew out to join family, I could not be comforted. My grief was too heavy, surpassed by my guilt. I was emotionally devastated; so much so that I was not able to attend his memorial service. After his burial, the family gave me his letters. And in them were loving words of his gratitude that I was his daughter, yet also words of comfort and reassurance to placate my fragile spirit; words he’d told me throughout my childhood. In my grief and feelings of horror of his death, I wandered on the expansive lawn of my parent’s home. Then, when I thought I could no longer bare the depth of grief, my father came to me – a shadowy figure of his former self, and he wrapped his arms around me and comforted me. Although I felt better, the dream remained nightmarish because I could not reconcile the reality of my father’s passing, forever tangled in a retched web of guilt, loss, and emotional suffering. And like many nightmares, there seemed to be no outlet. Each time I tried to wake there were subplots which extended this terrible dream; subplots which magnified my guilt. Finally, I decided to leave; to break to spell of the nightmare. But first, I needed to find my coat. In the dream it was a beautiful designer Spring coat I’d purchased from Neiman Marcus years ago; a coat which [in reality] was lost when traveling.

    Waking late morning from this nightmare left me with lingering grief of my father’s passing in 1989. It was Spring. He died of a heart attack at home; not in a hospital. There was never any letters written to me. Instead, there was a booklet of our family folklore, history, legends, and whimsical stories, I’d written about life with my father; a booklet he treasured and read over and over again.

    My father was my hero, a man who adored me and coddled me through by awkward childhood.

    How I miss him.

  8. avatar Jean B says:

    Like many here, I have a whole lot of memories of Daddy. I was always, and still am, a Daddy’s girl. I followed him around like a puppy dog. There was no bigger person on this Earth than Daddy, he was larger than life. Having spent so much time with him and his buddies, being treated like their mascot, I also learned how to be one of the boys. As a result I also get along better with men in general than with women.

    Daddy and I used to go fishing all the time. When we lived in New York, it was a small rented boat on the Long Island Sound. That’s where I caught my first fish when I was 6 years old. A flounder (fluke) that was as long as I was tall! I barely remember it but pictures speak a thousand words. I do remember how proud he was of me. After we moved to Florida when I was 11 we started deep sea fishing on “party boats”. They were always so crowded but we didn’t care, we had a blast. I was the only one who could untangle the lines when they got all wrapped around each other, Daddy always found that so amazing. I remember one time everyone on the boat, including me and the entire crew, got sick as dogs. Not Daddy! He was the only one on the boat not tossing his cookies. The water was SO rough that day. MANY years later he insisted we take my daughter out when we visited and she was 15. He found a place that limited to 10 people so it was much nicer than the boats we used to go on. My daughter, with her typical teenager attitude, thought it was going to “suck buckets”. We were not 5 minutes out and there was this smile on her face bigger than the ocean itself. The look of pleasure on Daddy’s face was incredible. I am so glad I remembered and used my video camera that day. He was gone 6 months later. He had been sick for a very long time, prostate cancer, so we knew it was only a matter of time. We were all at his bedside; me, my daughter, my sister, my brother, and my brother-in-law. Only my nephew wasn’t there, he was too young for such a thing. Two nights before he died, the night before he slipped into the coma he wouldn’t wake from, he called my daughter into his bedroom for a talk. They had a good heart-to-heart about her future that I know she carries with her to this day. Most of it she has kept to herself but that’s OK, it was a private conversation between her and her beloved Papa.

    Daddy was always my sounding board when I had a problem. I walked around in a fog for almost 3 years after he passed. I still feel lost without him after 5.5 years. Every time life starts to become too much my first thought is to call Daddy, he will help me make sense of it all, or laugh about it because it’s not the big deal I’m making it out to be. It really hurts when I realize I can’t just pick up the phone and call him.

    Since 2006 Father’s Day has been very hard for me. As well as his birthday and the date of his death, which happened to be right after my birthday (talk about adding salt to the wound) AND on Super Bowl Sunday (he always did hate American Football). It does get a smidge better each year but I suppose none of these dates or events will ever be the same.

  9. avatar mary burdt says:

    My dad was the light of my life. He loved me unconditionally. I was his little girl and he was so proud of me. He would so enjoy introducing me to all of his friends at his cleaners. He worked so hard, but loved every minute of it. One of many fine moments was walking to the cleaners from school every day at lunchtime and he would let me press a pair of pants or take a spot out of a dress, then we would get in his car and go home for lunch. This happened day after day throughout elementary school.

    When I moved to Ca. my mom and dad would visit every year at Christmas. He always wanted to help out and would often cut the lawn or trim the flowers. My neighbors used to kid me that I was the only one with a gardener who wore a white dress shirt and tie. He was, oh, so special, and I miss him every day.

  10. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    My father was military and expected his children to be strong. He was never emotional but we knew he loved us. One day I was out playing when I was in grade school when I climbed an old fence. It collapsed with me on it and one of the metal spikes went through my calf. My father saw me coming home bleeding and ran to carry me to the car for a trip to the emergency room. He sat with me through stitches crying because I couldn’t. I’d never seen him cry before and it made me realize that I was precious to him.

  11. avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

    Of the many wonderful, sweet memories I have of my Dad, the earliest is of being on a stage at our church singing with him. I was about 6 and we were singing at the annual church show. We sang “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”. My Dad had a beautiful voice and I started singing as soon as I could speak according to my parents. I have been singing ever since but that first little performance with my precious Dad is still such a wonderful memory among many. He was a lovely, kind, funny, special man who loved our Mom beyond measure and all of us nearly as much! I miss him every day.

  12. avatar Mary says:

    When I was a little girl my Daddy was everything to me.  He was away a lot on business and each time he would come home I would race to him and then the second he set his suitcase down I would open it and find the surprises he would bring home.  We lived in Florida for a bit and my favorite memory of him in my childhood days is how he would carry me out into the ocean.  I would hang on to him with my arms wrapped around his neck and we would bob up and down over the waves.  I was alway amazed at how he could swim with me like this. I always felt protected with him and knew that while I was with my Daddy nothing would hurt me.

    When I got a bit older there was a distance between us that was brought about by one of my brothers.  It took me many years to understand the distance and can only say that the problems that this brother brought took all of my Dad’s attention and he became very difficult to be around.  I feel like those years were very sad for us all as a family because we seem to have lost each other. 

    Suddenly in my late 40′s it seemed that time had forgotten the years I lost my dad and we all made sincere attempts to become a close family again.  My dad had always been a somewhat private person who never shared too much emotion became open and wanted to share his life with us.  Just 5 years ago on Christmas Eve. my sister called to tell me my Dad was in the hospital in Florida and may not survive.  I called him immediately and for 3 hours we talked.  I told him I was packing a bag and would be there soon and he would have nothing of it.  He said he knew things would not go well and that he was ok with that.  We talked about his life and his family and all those things we missed out on during the distant years.  When we hung up we both were at the place of peace.  He passed away Christmas morning before I could get to him.

    A few months passed and I received a large box containing journal after journal of my fathers that he began when he married my mother.  He expressed so many emotions and thoughts in that journal that finally I understood his love for us all.    I am so blessed to have had him in my life. 

  13. avatar Lonnie Stump says:

    My Dad never raised me and I never saw him much but I know that he loved me, and I loved him with all my heart. My favorite memory was when when we gave each other a gigantic bear hug. He died before I could get to him. And I too miss him every day, I don’t know if it will ever stop.

  14. avatar Linda Myers says:

    For myself, I miss the touch. The hugs that can never be duplicated and the love he showed by example many times rather than just being remembered as individual acts of love. I wish I had been lucky enough to have a Dad in my adult life, though it just was not meant to be. I see people all the time with elderly parents who talk to them as if they are still taking their mom or dad for granted as being alive and sometimes not very nicely. Those times I do not have any history of and just wonder if they really realize the gift which is seen as being an interruption in the flow of life, or the time given to cherish what does not last forever.

  15. avatar Laurie Deer says:

    I miss my dad more around this time and loved him dearly. There are so many things that I fondly recalled about him. Today, I remembered his love of the great outdoors as I sat and watched his grandson fish on the mighty banks of the St. Lawrence, he would be so proud to see one of his grandsons fishing.
    This evening, at dinner when my little one joked around and giggled, my husband said he would record the “Johnathanism” and we got to talking about things people say. Of course, I mentioned some of my dad’s, a family favorite “Whatchamacalledit” is how he referred to his companion of 25 years. And the curse words, I cannot remember my dad without them, it was his flare.
    My best memory is of him just being my dad, simply put “Daddy” Happy Father’s Day.

  16. avatar Reva says:

    On Valentine’s Day my mom would get a box of chocolates and I would always get a little heart-shaped box with about 5 candies in it.  Sometimes ‘not a big deal’ is a very big deal, and a lovely memory.