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The Softer Side of Dad


Yesterday being Father's Day, many thoughts and memories of Dad drifted thru my mind, so for this week's Monday Memories I wanted to share a few stories about him that will forever make me smile...

I am a middle child with a sister two years older and another three years younger. My older sister was clearly my mom's favorite - the one she focused on, while my little sister was "the baby" and the apple of my Dad's eye.  Like most middle children I fell somewhere in between, struggling to develop my identity and role within the family.  Since my Father had no sons, I was the one who became his fishing partner, home repair assistant, and general helper.  I have good memories of the projects we worked on together, and the times we spent together fishing. 

I remember one remodelling project in particular... Dad was creating a recreation room in our basement for us and our friends.  This included framing in walls, hanging that ever-popular 1960's wood-grain panelling, etc.  Mom had an large oval kitchen table which had been replaced and reincarnated for use as a folding table in her laundry room in the basement.  Dad and I were using it as a worktable to cut large sheets of panelling to size.  At one point, he misjudged the distance of the circular saw blade from the edge of the table and accidentally sliced a nice long piece off the rounded corner.  He looked at me and I at him, knowing that Mom was not going to be happy about this development.  In an unspoken vow of secrecy, we finished our cutting, and then cleverly (or so we thought) replaced the plastic tablecloth mom kept on the table, thinking she wouldn't notice the slightly irregular shape it had taken on.  We were wrong. Mom spotted the defect quickly, and she was definitely not amused!  The table remained in use in the laundry room for several years to come, and I smiled every time I looked at the flat edge it had acquired.  I think I gave it a touch of whimsy!

On another occasion, Dad and I had taken the boat out fishing at a nearby lake one evening.  We weren't particularly successful fishermen, but on this night I had managed to reel in a nice-sized walleye that was intended for the frying pan.  Dad secured the fish on the stringer and tossed it over the side of the boat to keep it fresh while we continued to fish.   We didn't catch anything else, so when the time came to call it a night, Dad momentarily forgot about my fish on the stringer and gunning the boat motor, turned the boat sharply to head back to shore.  The fish stringer was just long enough that it was swept back toward the motor, the propeller nicely slicing off my fish. The moment he heard the propeller struggle, he remembered and quickly pulled up the stringer,  but it was too late... all that remained was a fish head, the fish being neatly sheared off.  He felt bad but we both ended up laughing, and took it home to mom to show her our "catch of the night".

Dad was raised in a serious depression-era farm family of sturdy German stock. There were no open displays of affection and horseplay was frowned upon. We were pretty much raised that way too. But beneath Dad's non-nonsense surface lurked a sometimes playful heart.  I remember a warm summer evening with Mom standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes. There was no AC in houses back then, so the window over the sink was open to catch whatever breeze there might be.  Dad was outside trimming the shrubbery and watering the lawn.  In a rare moment of daring, he aimed his water hose squarely at mom, sending a stream of water blasting thru the window screen, soaking her, the curtains, the counter, the floor, and pretty much everything else in range. My sister and I were drying dishes at the time, and were flabbergasted and then delighted by Dad's spontaneous playful act.  Needless to say, it didn't go as well with mom, who let lose with a string of brightly colored words we very rarely heard used in our household. Ok, so it was a bit of a mess to clean up, it still was pretty funny since such behavior was so out of character for Dad.  I shudder to think what might have happened if one of us girls had pulled a stunt like that! I can still envision my Mom's shocked face, water dripping from her hair, and the brief impish smile that crossed my dad's face. It was priceless!

6 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh, I love that story about the garden hose. I bet that underneath that string of words your mother was secretly amused, and a whole lot more comfortable too :).

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  2. What lovely memories Josie! Thanks so much for sharing them. I love seeing the 'backstory' of your life :)

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  3. Robin - I think as children we tend to see our parents in that role only, so it is always suprising and fun to discover they are "real people" too! When I think of my dad as being stern, I remember that he also had a playful child inside, just as my husband and I do, even if we are no all "grown up"!

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  4. Louise - Thank you for always being so supportive of my writing efforts. I think the older one gets the more enjoyable it is to look back into the past with a new perspective. These are moments with Dad that I treasure, times where we were just enjoying each other's company as a family!

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Your comments are always appreciated... they make me smile! :-)