Last month, after a somewhat spontaneous pitch to an online outlet, (translation: merlot and a panicky feeling of my stalled out writing career inspired me) anyone with an internet connection was able to access my extremely personal story about my father. That was definitely a strange week for me. It turns out that some of the closest people to me had never heard that story. Actually, I think I figured out that I had never shared that story with anyone.
Of course, before I sent it off into the ether, I ran it by the people who would also be most affected: my siblings and my parents who raised me. I wanted to make sure they were okay with it being out there as well. I inadvertently caused some guilt in some people, and unavoidably inspired some tears. My mom also shared that it was a hard read for my dad, which makes sense, since it was about his baby brother. It seems that even when you’re nearly 80, you remain fiercely protective of your siblings.
It couldn’t have been easy for my dad to raise someone else’s children, particularly those of your brother, and while he was still living. And while my twin brothers were itty-bitty babies when he became their father, I was not. I was a damaged and precocious five and a half year old, not a sweet-smelling newborn that slept 18 hours a day.
We are almost nothing alike – I am impulsive, I tend to speak loudly and exhaustively, while he has very few words he wishes to share. I can usually see when my chatter is starting to annoy him by the way he either retreats to the back yard for puttering or turns up the television. If someone were to start a word counter app, I would conservatively guess for every one of his words, I have spoken a hundred. I am extremely opinionated and not at all shy about sharing my opinions with anyone. (I really am working on it, I am!) If you ask me a question, be prepared for an honest answer. In contrast, it took my dad thirty-two years of marriage to break down and tell my mom that he wasn’t a fan of meat sauce and perhaps she could make meatballs instead. Thirty-two years.
When I call my parents’ house, no matter what I say, if my dad answers, he will reply, “Okay, here’s your mother.” Even if I have called to say, “Happy Father’s Day.” Sometimes I even ask him a direct question, to which he might mutter an answer. But it is always followed by, “Here’s your mother.” Without fail.
Growing up, my dad wasn’t the “squish you in a tearful hug” kinda guy we often see portrayed on sitcoms. Like his father before him, my dad has perfected the “Morson Pat.” This is a quick hug that includes three slaps on the back, meant to convey any number of emotions we Morsons are uncomfortable conveying, up to and including I’ll miss you, I’m proud of you, I’m sorry, and yes, even, I love you.
What I didn’t understand at the time, but have come to realize is this: My dad had very few words, but expressed his love through his actions.
He provided for me my entire young life, even when I was being a dufus and didn’t appreciate it. He was always there with a spare twenty and sometimes a great deal more.
He went to every piano recital I performed in, and sat through every plunked out sour note without dragging along a flask.
He assembled bicycles, tire swings, furniture, and various accoutrements related to my hobbies of the moment, including sewing machines. He may have cursed a lot, but he never complained.
He listened patiently to my mother as she relayed whatever my boy drama may have been at the time, and only once did he consider investing in a firearm.
Now that my dad is Grandfather to my children, I see him hugging on my babies, tickling them, chasing them around the floor, perhaps now more relaxed in retirement and able to focus on the little moments of joy that previously escaped him while he was working hard to provide for all six of his children, three of us unexpected and not really his responsibility.
I absolutely love seeing my kiddos make my dad smile. It helps me realize just how much he loves his family, even if words aren’t his area of expertise.
And many times after I have called him with a to-do list, my dad swings by my house wearing his dungarees, toolbox in hand, and puts together shelves, hangs pictures, replaces the disposal, and essentially any other household repair my husband and I can’t manage. (read: 99% of them) Muttering a little under his breath, never much for conversation, just ready to work and hit the road.
The other day, my four year-old noticed that the curtain rod had become bent, probably because she had bent it herself, and came running to tell me. As I stood underneath the bent metal, trying to figure out how on earth someone who is twenty-eight pounds managed to warp wrought iron, my mischievous little bunny had a plan.
“Mama! You need to call Grandfather! He’s a good fixer!”
Yes. That is exactly what my dad is. Without him, so much and so many would have remained broken.
Happy Birthday to You, Dad. Thank you for fixing everything.