Janet Sheridan: Remembering my father
June 16, 2016
When I look in the mirror, I see Dad's eyes looking back at me. I also have his height, frame, ears and hand gestures. I like the physical features I share with my dad, but I'm surprised when I display his behaviors — especially those I vowed to avoid when I was young, smug and critical.
My dad's unrestrained emotions, colorful language, and lack of guile wreaked havoc with my youthful notions of appropriate behavior. I remember refusing to go into the local bakery with him because he invariably asked for stale bread rather than day-old, which I thought proper.
Then a giggling granddaughter told me I shouldn't ask if she wanted a soda. "Coke or 7-Up or Dr. Pepper just sounds better," she explained, before adding, "At least you didn't say pop."
Dad also embarrassed me by bursting into song at odd moments. I liked his melodious voice, but no one should sing "Blood on the Saddle," while shopping at the supermarket. He crooned at will, oblivious to my disapproval, and I pretended I didn't know him.
Years later, I received a note from one of my fourth-grade students when I was home with my annual bout of bronchitis: "I hope you get better. I miss the way you walk around singing and humming all the time."
My stomach knotted with anxiety, and I judged Dad harshly when he flared into frustrated anger at things that didn't work: cars, cows, the IRS. Then, as an adult, I found myself muttering profanities at disobedient objects such as vacuums, sewing machines, my hair. And sometimes, I thumped them.
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Dad's indifference to the appearance of our family cars also troubled my teenage sensibilities. When young, I didn't mind bouncing around in neglected vehicles, startling folks as we clanked, rattled, and shimmied past. But as a teenager, I slumped below window level, which blessed me with a touchy back and poor posture for years.
Then I married, and my husband and I bought our first car: a 1963 Dodge Dart sedan with a passenger-side front door that wouldn't open, one red fender on an otherwise gray body, and a drooping front bumper. Bill then attached a rack to the car's top to carry his battered aluminum fishing boat and secured it with a yellow nylon cord running from the boat's bow to the car's grill. The same fluorescent rope bound two wooden oars to the useless passenger-side door. He kept his oil-leaking outboard motor in the trunk along with his gear and an occasional dead fish.
It smelled like a bass pond and looked more disreputable than any of my dad's cars, but I don't remember caring.
Even when a judgmental teenager, however, I knew my father also had positive attributes of import: He loved and admired my mother and focused his life on taking care of his family. We always knew where he was and when he would be home. Until the day he died, we were secure in the knowledge that if we needed his help, he'd be there.
I don't remember my father saying, "I love you," but I carried within me, every day I lived and every place I went, the certainty that he did so.
At a recent class reunion, a former classmate and neighbor, David, told me how much he enjoyed knowing my dad. He told me he had worked with Dad for several days putting up hay for an injured neighbor.
"I was lucky to be paired with him. He worked harder than anyone, even those much younger, and sang or told stories the entire time. He treated me like I was worthwhile and a good worker. I liked and respected him."
Oh, so did I, David. And I loved him with all my heart.
Hug your fathers on June 19.
Sheridan's book, "A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns," is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.comhttp://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays on Tuesdayshttp://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays