Father's Day is always a bittersweet day for me, having lost my own Father at the age of nineteen. I don't have any photos of him from that time, but here's an early one....
I remember my Dad as a larger than life figure, in both stature and temperament...someone who lived life to the fullest (often to his own detriment), someone with a keen intellect, a fierce sense of loyalty, and an intense work ethic. Someone who encouraged me to follow my dreams, and to always strive for excellence.
As far as my Dad was concerned, there were three grades on a school report card; an "A", which was good, a "B", which was acceptable, and a "C,D, and F" which were all the same grade in his eyes, and equaled failure. Try as his three children might to explain to him that a C was "average", he countered with the opinion that average equaled failure. A pretty high bar to set, and one I'll admit I still have slightly obsessive issues with (I've been known even as an adult to re-take classes if I receive less than an "A") ;)
He loved us, he pushed us, and he left us far too soon, stubbornly refusing to slow down, or to change a reckless and self destructive lifestyle. I miss him.
Just three years after his death, John and I welcomed Courtney, who would have been his second grandchild. Sorry as I was she'd never know her grandfather, I watched this wonderful new relationship between Courtney and John develop, marveling at how naturally this former rock n roll musician took to Fatherhood....
He raised her with humor, probably one of the best gifts a parent can give a child. I have so many stories, so many photos, and later emails between the two of them, detailing this quirky closeness, these quick-witted examples of a loving, but decidedly unconventional upbringing....
(Relax - the bar is at her grandparent's house, the "bartender" is her grandfather, and she's drinking apple juice, lol)
Memories that still crack me up.....
When she was three and a half, and started singing the "F" word in the living room one day, sending me into shock (telling her it was a "bad word" of course), and prompting Courtney to become very upset, telling us it was a "new word" one of the neighborhood children had taught her - they had told her it meant "friend".
"Well, yes. Sometimes it does," said John..."but we still don't say it."
When she was four, and he had her completely convinced her stuffed Cat in the Hat doll was REAL. Seriously - he'd construct elaborate vignettes where she would find the Cat in the Hat eating chocolate cake in the bathtub, raiding the refrigerator, reaching into the fish tank, riding her tricycle, etc....We finally had to tell her the truth when, unable to find him one night, she panicked because she was sure he'd "wreck her room!" (I'm sure we'll end up paying for her therapy one day).
When she was five, and her kindergarten class was learning to sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee", and John explained it was the WRONG SONG, proceeding to teach her the words to "God Save the Queen" instead, instructing her to sing it proudly as the rest of the class sang "the stolen version". Her kindergarten teacher was not amused.
And later, a series of email exchanges giving her humorous Fatherly advice on everything from her first serious break-up to advice on navigating British culture as she spent a semester at Oxford.
As I said, unconventional - as was, in retrospect, most of her upbringing, (we're not big on rules in this house)....
But I think if asked, she'd say as a Dad, John pretty much rocks. And see - she made it just fine. ;)
She has a housesitting gig for her aunt this weekend, so won't be seeing him, and they'll both be fine with it. Because this is a connection that transcends distance and circumstance. It's a bond they have unlike any other bond in her life, and God willing, her someday-children will grow up to know their grandfather too.
John and I will celebrate the day - Father's Day and the summer solstice - by having a little cookout in between the raindrops, opening a bottle of wine, and toasting a job well done.
Happy Father's Day, all. :)