Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Daddy's Little Girl

Yep.  That's me.  Isn't that a lovely pair of overalls?  I particularly love that my bangs take up half of my head.  But that was certainly not the worst hairstyle I've had over the years!  I've spared myself some embarassment by only choosing pictures from my younger years.  But this blog is not about me.  It's about my dad, and mostly I'm including these pictures because he took them.  When I was little he was always taking pictures of us and developing them himself.  He converted a small corner of the basement into a darkroom and I loved the times that I could sit on the stool and watch him make pictures magically appear in basin of liquid.  I still remember the smell of the chemicals, the way he had all the different bottles lined up on the shelf, and the glow of the red light that would not ruin the exposures.
I remember him and my brother standing in the backyard during thunderstorms taking pictures of lighting.  I cried hysterically, thinking they would most definitely be killed.  They weren't.
When we were little, my dad worked a lot.  He was a mechanic and he worked long hours in Oakland, then  in Verona; first for someone, and then eventually opening his own garage.
I remember sitting with him in his recliner and watching TV.  When I got too big to smoosh in the chair with him, I would sit on the arm of the chair beside him.  In the winter he would always build a fire in the fireplace and I would sit in front of it after my bath while my hair dried.  It took forever. 
I remember playing games as a family.  We played various card games; UNO was one of my favorites.  But
even though I was little, no one took it easy on me, and I would often have to build myself a wall out of pillows so I could lay my cards on the floor when I had too many to hold.  When I got older we also played Scrabble.  I was so excited the first time I won!  It's no wonder I love spelling so much.
In the summer we would often go to Willow's and play mini-golf and get ice cream.  We also went to "Soft Charlie's" for ice cream, and at either place my dad's order was the same: medium hot fudge sundae with extra hot fudge."  He was not one for variety.  We ate at Eat-N-Park every Friday and his order was the same there too: salad bar and two Superburgers with no lettuce and extra sauce.  Of course, I always had the same thing too: chicken fingers.
My dad loved baseball and I remember listening to the Pirate games on the radio; either on his big stereo at home or in his rumbling black truck.  I never wore a seat belt in the truck.  In fact, because I was so small, he would fold down the center console and let me sit on top of it so I could see out the windshield.  He always listened to 70's rock and would sing along.  Loudly.  Sometimes I'm tempted to turn on WDVE in my car just to hear those songs and him singing them in my head.

These are my great grandparents: Grandpap Pete and Grandma Toots.  And my face is totally Liana.

I learned to cook from my dad.  Every Sunday we had family breakfast at my great grandparens' house.  Grandma Toots (pronounced like tootsie roll.) made meatballs and homemade bread.  My dad was the official cooker of the meatballs.  Every time I make meatballs for my family I remember him standing at her ancient stove in his typical sweatpants.  And no matter how hard I try, I cannot duplicate those meatballs.  Not quite.  But my dad could do more than just fry meatballs.  I get my culinary sense of adventure from him.  He was always trying something new in the kitchen.  If he thought it sounded good in his mind, he made it.  I cook like that often.  And he was a super messy cook!  But I enjoyed almost everything he made.  Except ox tails.  Those were gross.
My dad also taught me to think critically about things.  He always asked questions to make me think and understand what and why I believed.  He wanted me to be a lawyer so he argued with me and made me defend my position, even at a young age.  He taught me to stick to my guns and not back down.  He didn't share my faith in Jesus and he had little tolerance for church.  He often gave me a hard time about my faith and when I was older he would try and get me to swear or drink, just to see if I would.  Those experiences of rejection and ridicule from someone so close to me made it easier to bear from people on the outside.  And if I could say no to my own dad, I could certainly so no to my peers.  Of course, I would have given anything for him to have accepted Christ, but even so I am thankful for what it built in me.  And although he never told me personally, he told my mom that he was glad I spent so much time at church because he didn't have to worry about me like he did my brother, and that he really respected me for not compromising.

It's been 8 years to the day.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about my dad, and miss him.   I know he would be proud of me, of my family.  I wonder what kind of pappy he would have been.  My dad was not much for physical or verbal affection, but I think when it came to his grandchildren, he would've been a great big softy.  I often think about how things might be different if he were here today.  Would I have made all the same choices I've made since then?  Would I have my two beautiful children?  Probably not.  But I am blessed, content, and thankful for my life as it is today.  And I am reminded that "in ALL THINGS, God works for the good of those who love him."

One of the few pictures of us together.  He was always the one behind the camera!

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