I used to be really angry with my Father. Really. Angry. I wasn’t the rebellious type that mouthed off at him, but I just never understood why he had to be so mean to my Mother and from time to time, to me and my siblings. Then a few years ago, my older cousin was telling me about our Grandmother, my Father’s Mother — and what a VERY, VERY, VERY mean woman she was.
As my cousin shared a story or two, I remember thinking, “man, Daddy was never that bad to me.” Sadly by the time I’d come to this realization though, both he and my Mom had lost their battles with Lung and Ovarian Cancer, respectively.
This week my friend Ashley, who her adoring fans know as The Baddest Mother Ever, wrote a heartfelt blog post that brought me to a new understanding about my Dad. In several blog posts Ashley has shared about her marriage to Fartbuster (her words, not mine), and in this particular one mentions a discussion with her therapist.
“the therapist said, ‘No, this is as good as he gets. He’s doing his best.’ She wasn’t running him down–she was encouraging me to live in reality…”
He’s Doing His Best … now that’s not to say his best was good enough, and that she didn’t deserve better, but it created a change in expectation. And I had the same shift when I read her blog post. My Dad was not the worst, and he could have been better, but it could be that he was his own best. And that’s just the reality of it.
So while I was thinking about how to write a post about Father’s Day, those words came back to me. He did his best. OK. And there were really a lot of things he did best at. His anger and abuse is where he failed his family. But I do have lots of precious memories. And oddly enough the best of which involved crashes.
I was a late bloomer when it came to bike riding. I was nearly 7 before I had a bike and I think I still had training wheels. We lived on a busy street – so I practiced and learned riding loops around the house. On one of the first times without the training wheels, I pedaled my heart out trying to stay up — and when I looked up I crashed my bike into the side of the house. OUCH. I don’t remember being dawdled over, but I do remember being encouraged to get back on and try again, and again, and again.
Around the age of 10, we got a new car … a Toyota Corolla with a STICK in the floor. When I was younger we had a Valiant with the shifter in the steering column, but this one was in the floor, right there between the bucket seats. And the bucket seats meant that I didn’t get to sit in the front between my parents – because my middle seat was gone.
(Side note … this was the 70′s and children still rode in the front seat — without seat belts, or car seats. ) To my friend Allana who may read this later … I make sure children are always buckled up, OK. No worries).
But there was something new with this car because from the backseat, I could lean in between my parents and they would let me practice shifting. It was SO AWESOME. I had to listen for the engine and wait and make my move. 1 to 2, 2 to 3, then 3 to 4. WHEEE.
One day Dad decided to let me try backing the car off the carport and into the yard. I did pretty well, too. Well, mostly, until I mistakenly pressed the gas instead of the brake, and crashed into the tree in our front yard. Now fortunately, it was an Cedar Tree with about 7 feet of soft cushy branches to soften the crash. And other than a couple of nicks in grill, you couldn’t tell it had even happened. Daddy believed in hands-on learning, and he didn’t raise his voice again on the matter — after the “HIT THE BRAKES, HIT THE BRAKES” scream. He just calmly shook his head and said, “It’s my fault, I asked you to drive.”
You would have thought he’d learned his lesson, but like I said, Daddy believed in hands-on learning. At his other house (that’s a WHOLE ‘NOTHER story), Daddy asked me to back out the Chevy Pickup. No stick this time. I’m good. As I am backing down the driveway, VERY SLOWLY, I kept my eyes on the prize. So imagine my surprise as I heard a crack sound coming from the house, I thought “UH-OH.” This house had tiles on the side, and I broke one off with the truck bumper. Daddy just shook his head. I do recall a little lecture, about watching where I was going. The problem was that I was watching where I wanted to go… down the drive way, and wasn’t focused on how close I was to the house. (I’m also guessing there is a whole blog post in this one thought — focusing on goal while still being aware of the journey).
He was bound and determined that I would learn to drive, and by George, I did. And the reason I did was because my Dad was the Best Dad he could be.
Happy Father’s Day Dad. I do love you, too!