Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Gifts My Father Gave Me

My Dad died 21 years ago.

I miss him.

There's something special about a father/daughter relationship at it's best, and ours was that. Even though Dad was 51-years-old when I was born, he never seemed older than my friends fathers.

When I was pre-school age, he would come during the work day and pick me up in his monster truck, lifting me high into the seat. I felt like we were driving closer to the sky than the earth. He always had time for a game of badminton in our back yard but his favorite passtime was to roughhouse with me. I soon learned to use my gender to my advantage. There were times I would cry out as if I was hurt (think of the World Cup soccer players grasping their shins when they were barely touched). My Mom would invariably call out,"Not so rough, Henry, she's a girl you know." Then I'd grin and really attack him while he would try to find a gentle way of keeping me at bay.

As I reflect on his life and our relationship, here are some of the most important gifts he gave me:
  • a sense of humor. Dad was always pulling practical jokes or telling jokes at work and home. One April Fools Day when I was young, he woke me up and told me to come see the baby deer in our front yard. I raced to the window looking frantically for the fawn. Although Dad was chuckling I didn't see the humor in this as my disappointment was huge. He often told jokes in low German and though I never understood them, they made my Mom laugh.

  • confidence. When I got my learner's license and my Mom refused to drive with me, Dad took over. He would take me out every Sunday afternoon near the Abbotsford airport where there were criss-crossing roads with virtually no traffic (this was quite a few years ago :). He taught me to parallel park by pounding in two wooden poles the proper distance apart. If I knocked one of them down, I did it again...and again... Once I got my license (on the first try) he made me change all the car tires and showed me how to check the oil and transmission fluid. He gave me the confidence I needed to handle car problems and flat tires when there was no one to help me.

  • love of animals. This was our special secret. Mom didn't want pets. The only reason we had a number of cats (all living entirely outdoors) was because of the mice on our property. Dad was my animal ally. If he caught a mouse and it wasn't dead, he gave it to me to nurse back to health. Once it was better I had to take it into our neighbour's woods and release it there. When I rescued a wild rabbit that had been mauled by dogs, he took shifts with me feeding and caring for it. Dad and I often found baby birds stranded out of their nests and he would show me how to put them back. He was the one who talked Mom into allowing us to have a dog. Unfortunately "Tiny," our golden lab puppy, only stayed tiny for a few weeks. With a penchant for chasing airplanes, and with us being right on the flight path for the Abbotsford Airshow, Tiny was soon moved to a farm.

  • spiritual integrity. Dad and his whole family had to flee Russia because of spiritual persecution. Dad was only 16 years old at the time. Though he told me few stories about that time, he showed me that his faith was real. We had family devotions every day and often the stories Dad read moved him emotionally. He was not ashamed to cry, even though I was sometimes ashamed that he did it. But as I grew older, I saw how deep his relationship with God was. I became to appreciate his ability to show his feelings when so many men bottled theirs in. He helped give me the freedom to express my own emotions and live a spiritual life that is meaningful and deep.

  • expressing love. I was Daddy's 'little girl' and he told me he loved me often, even when I grew taller than him. Fathers usually have a harder time expressing their love for their sons than their daughters and I think that was true with me and my older brother. Maybe because I was much more demonstrative of my love, Dad found it easier to respond in kind. In my mid-20s, when I got really sick, he didn't know how to help me. One evening he sat on my bed and told me how he had loved me when I was born and how that love had grown. It was the best thing he could have done. When I moved to Calgary, I knew he missed me very much. Whenever I flew home I would spend as much time as I could just being with him, a companionship where words were seldom used. When his kidneys failed and he knew he was dying, he asked me all sorts of questions about my car, my boyfriend (soon to be husband) and my he was just making sure I would be okay. The last words he said to my Mom (and my brother and me) were, "I love you."  Because of him, I never miss an opportunity to say those words to someone else.

I wish my Dad were still alive, but I'm so thankful for all the things he taught me. What did you learn from your Father? What gifts did he give you?


  1. My dad didn't leave me much, I often say, except an ear wax problem :)

    Really, I too see so much that he enabled me to appreciate and pursue - a hard days work, truth to self, dedication to family, and strong sense of self reliance and confidence. He died 22 years ago this week, and although we weren't very close, we had a respect for each other that not all fathers and sons have.

    I often longed to have the same kind of relationship with him that you had with your dad, but thankfully, I was able to have it with my dad. A friend of mine once said studies show that between father and daughter, between ages 1-5, little girls belong to their mothers. Then, 6-12 they become daddies little girls. And after that, they return to their mothers. Great to see that you were always his little treat, and he your's.

    Words are not what last, but actions do.

  2. Hey, my ear wax problem came from my Dad too :) I never knew that our fathers died in the same week, Methodius, and close to the same number of years ago. Father/son relationships can be tough but I am glad that you two had a mutual respect for each other. Your self-reliance and confidence are positive characteristics you carry with you today. Sometimes it's only by reflecting on someone's life that you can see the positive impact they have had on you.

  3. My Dad just celebrated his 75th birthday last Saturday. He looks 60 in the pics,and still works like he's 30, although I know the ailments of older age are catching up to him.

    Dad taught me the value of hard work, of being steadfast, honest and dependable and of always doing a good job.

    A special moment I'll always remember...when I was 13 I wanted a makeup kit for Christmas. I wasn't "allowed" to wear makeup in public until I was 16, so I knew I'd never get it. But, when Dad and I were Christmas shopping for my mom (a special tradition of ours for years), I pointed it out.

    On Christmas was under the tree. A special gift just from him, and without my mom's knowledge. That Christmas he made me feel like a very special young lady. (I'm getting choked up just writing about it!)

    Special guy, my dad. :)

  4. I was getting choked up while writing this blog post so I know how you feel, Kelly. Your dad sounds like a really special guy. For me, as a Mennonite girl, make-up was "verboten." But your comments made me remember that my dad bought me some really special Christmas gifts too - including a candle-making kit that was one of my all-time favorites. Thanks for sharing these memories!

  5. Fathers and daughters. Those of us daughters who had great relationships with our dads are so very very blessed. And the blessings go on - even after the dads are gone, don't they, Doris?
    Thank you for this lovely tribute to your dad. It helped me feel - in some small way - as if I got to know a bit of him.
    Here's my tribute to my dad:
    I'd be honored to share it with you.

  6. Your tribute was beautiful, Patricia, a poignant and courageous portrait of your father. Thanks for sharing it.

  7. Your father sounds amazing, Doris. I'm so glad you had him... and he, you.