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Sandy Navas
August 15th, 2012, 11:59 AM
After my comment on the THOUGHTS thread this morning I got to thinking about this message that was sent to us by our daughter - in reference to something she learned about her Father . . . I've removed some of her identifying information - but suffice to say she found this message in a magazine and it truly hit home with her:

Subject: He Took Care Of His Family
Date: Wed, 26 May 1999 08:20:59-0400
Viorst, Judith. Family Circle; June 22, 1999. p. 112.

"I currently have a very close girlfriend who is having extreme marital problems. Her husband has never Worked consistently has hasn't been home now in almost three months. Her family keeps telling her to leave him, that their baby deserves a father who will "take care of them." She is younger than me and very dedicated to getting "in touch with her true inner feelings." She thinks that her parents are cold and has remarked to me several times that "all they care about is money." "As long as he loves us," she has told me "it shouldn't matter how much money he does or doesn't make. I can support us financially.,, After reading this, I felt compelled to give my dad a call. I just had to share this, my new found Understanding, with him. I had to let him know that, even though it didn't take me until middle age, I finally understood. 1 read it to him over the phone, not wanting even, to wait for e-mail. I asked my mother to listen in so that, she too, would see what I had learned. We all wept. I hope you all learn the lesson that I learned from this and possibly, feel compelled to share this with your dad. Father's Day is just around the corner and it's a fact that more attention is paid to mothers then is ever paid to fathers at this time of year. My dad, like Judith's, took care of his family, and continues to do so. I LOVE YOU DAD !! !!!"

.... signed

.................................................. .................

I was middle-aged before I knew my father. He had been there all along, of course- husband of Ruth, sire of Judith and Lois and, as men were expected to be when I was growing up, the breadwinner and official head of the household. Short-tempered and quick with a smack, he demanded during our growing up years--a don't-talk back obedience from his daughters, intoning (Lois and I knew the words by heart), "I'm not asking you to love me, but **** it--I insist that you respect me."

Yeah, yeah, I would think disrespectfully, having--so I believed--got my dad's number early and entirely. Long before my age had hit double digits, I had found him--and continued to find him--wanting.

He wasn't brilliant or noble. He hadn't a shred of poetry in his soul. He showed no interest in the inner life. And he certainly wasn't the paterfamilias of this daughter's dreams: The father of cozy heart-to-hearts, of tender words of advice, of "You're looking sad today. Is something the matter?" The father who took the time to penetrate the secret workings of my soul.

No, my father was just an overworked man who almost never missed a day at the office, and who often worked on weekends and evenings as well. He was, in profession and spirit, so I dismissively judged him, lust an accountant.

Then one day when I was 52 and the only surviving female in our family, I received a packet from my dad. His covering letter said that in the interest of "having everything run smoothly, he was sending me some material that would help me, when the time came, to efficiently deal with the aftermath of his death. Assuring me that he wasn't intending to die anytime soon, he enclosed, among many other items, a copy of his will and papers attesting to the fact that he owned plot so and-so at such-and such cemetery and that his gravestone had been paid in full.

Attached to this last document was a form allowing the purchaser to state the words he wished inscribed on his stone. In my father's tidy printing was his chosen epitaph:

He took care of his family.

I read the words. I read them again. My eyes filled up with tears. I suddenly found myself pierced with an understanding I had not possessed before. Those words made me see that my dad bad been marked forever by the Depression of the 1930's, by the terrifying struggle of those years, when the issue wasn't getting in touch with his or anyone's feelings but simple, desperate, economic survival. I summoned up an image of my dad as a skinny and penniless young man undertaking the burdens of marriage and fatherhood, afraid that he couldn't do it, afraid that he would fall through the cracks and drag the rest of us with him, afraid that he would fail to take care of his family.

I understood then, as I hadn't before, that this fear of going under, of letting us all his wife and daughters, go under, had shaped my dad's definition of what it meant to be a good and decent man. I also understood that while he had prospered fairly well in later years, he always ran scared. And so he never dared take the time to bother with father/daughter confidences, with what he must surely have viewed as the frills of fatherhood. With this fear at his heels, he kept breaking his back to put food on our table, a roof over our heads. In return he felt entitled to insist on not love but--**** it--respect from his daughters.

"Middle age is late in life to learn to look at a parent grown-up to grown-up, to see him outside the context of a child's demands and dreams and disappointments. Middle age is late to learn that steadfast reliability may, though lacking poetry, be noble. Middle age is late, but not, in my case, thank goodness, irrevocably late.

I called up my father and told him that his package had arrived. Then I gave him what, had I been a faster learner, I might have given him many decades ago. "I just read," I said, "what you want inscribed on your gravestone. And Dad, it's true," I told him, both respectfully and lovingly, "you did--you really did--take care of your family." "

sewbizzy
August 15th, 2012, 12:24 PM
Wow, Sandy, this is awesome...I can't help but cry!!!
You have a way of putting things into words I never could...
My father never showed much love either, but he worked hard all his life as a coalminer and always took care of my Mom and I the best he could...
so this "coal-miner's daughter" says-----Thanks for sharing!!!!

LynneLeavell
August 15th, 2012, 01:10 PM
Thanks Sandy for sharing. This is an eye opener. Unfortunately my dad has been gone 15 years now.

sewmuchjan
August 15th, 2012, 07:44 PM
All I can say is Thank You Sandy...

Love,
Jan G.

auntiemern
August 15th, 2012, 09:09 PM
Thanks Sandy. I am so thankful that my DD and step children have an amazing relationship with their father, and in DD's case her strep father. Some times it just takes some of us longer to 'get it'. Don't know if you know the song but Reba made a song named " The Greatest Man I Never Knew" It is an eye opener. Can't hear it without crying.

Sandy Navas
August 15th, 2012, 10:18 PM
Marilyn, I cry every time I hear Reba sing that.

I remember when my grandmother (Dad's mom) passed away. Dad and I had a tiff because he didn't like my first husband so I was sitting behind him (so he never knew I was even there) about two rows back and to his right. I could see his face fairly well and remember thinking that he was such an unfeeling person because he never shed a tear. Stoic? You bet. It took awhile before I learned that he was that way because that was the way he was raised. Big boys don't cry.

Amazing how our perceptions change as we get older and wiser (we hope).

Musical_Starling
August 15th, 2012, 11:14 PM
Sandy, I feel like I should reply here as opposed to the other thread. I'm so glad that you were able to recognize the great man that your father was, and that he truly was a "Dad" and not just a "father" :) I don't expect any sort of revelation to occur between The Giant and FIL though. There are times with FIL will talk with me (but not The Giant, they are like oil and water) and will be just as understanding as anyone I know, but this only occurs when the conversation is focused on making money. FIL (and MIL to a lesser extent) are completely focused on money. They have MORE than enough money to live comfortably. I won't get into specifics, but it is suffice to say that they are VERY well off. They bring in well over six figures annually and could retire tomorrow if they wanted to. But it's like the saying I see here sometimes, "She who dies with the most fabric wins", well FIL believes "he who dies with the most money wins". He will work himself to his grave just so he can afford to keep the best truck that comes with all of the options that most people cannot afford and he looks like the coolest guy on the block. You'd think at 60 he would have learned to stop trying to keep up with the Jones'....

So no worries, you did not offend or upset me with your comment, I can see how FIL would appear to be a provider, just like your Dad was. However, while FIL can definitely "provide" for his family, I'm not sure that's exactly what motivates him...

auntiemern
August 16th, 2012, 12:27 AM
She who dies with the most fabric does not win. It just means she didn't sew fast enough.
Sandy, I feel like I should reply here as opposed to the other thread. I'm so glad that you were able to recognize the great man that your father was, and that he truly was a "Dad" and not just a "father" :) I don't expect any sort of revelation to occur between The Giant and FIL though. There are times with FIL will talk with me (but not The Giant, they are like oil and water) and will be just as understanding as anyone I know, but this only occurs when the conversation is focused on making money. FIL (and MIL to a lesser extent) are completely focused on money. They have MORE than enough money to live comfortably. I won't get into specifics, but it is suffice to say that they are VERY well off. They bring in well over six figures annually and could retire tomorrow if they wanted to. But it's like the saying I see here sometimes, "She who dies with the most fabric wins", well FIL believes "he who dies with the most money wins". He will work himself to his grave just so he can afford to keep the best truck that comes with all of the options that most people cannot afford and he looks like the coolest guy on the block. You'd think at 60 he would have learned to stop trying to keep up with the Jones'....

So no worries, you did not offend or upset me with your comment, I can see how FIL would appear to be a provider, just like your Dad was. However, while FIL can definitely "provide" for his family, I'm not sure that's exactly what motivates him...