One of the gifts of parenthood is being able to reflect upon your own childhood with more clarity, more understanding and more appreciation.
It’s being grateful for the times your parents trudged up a ladder onto a roof to string Christmas lights to bring you joy.
It’s realizing all the selfless things, all the inconvenient things, all the time that goes into it.
That’s what my Dad did for me, and I’m thinking of him today, up on this slippery frozen roof. And I’m laughing about being the house that kept their lights up year-round a few times- I finally get that now, too.
Because it all takes so darn much time, and he just wanted to make the most of it.
You see, my Dad was raised to have heart. Growing up in a household of three older sisters, he followed in his father’s good example, making it a priority to provide for his family.
Doing so as a single Dad through the week meant some things along the way got missed.
He had no time to learn the difference between a text or email.
He thinks the two words iPad and iPod are just differences in pronunciation of people’s dialects.
He doesn’t know own a computer and can’t tell you what a smartphone is, so I know he’ll never read this.
What is a blog anyways, he’ll ask me, when someone asks him if he’s read my latest piece.
It used to drive me nuts as a teenager, to see him falling behind. But in his mind he wasn’t.
And even now I suppose I wish he’s read these things called blogs. But it’s not how he chooses to spend his time. He’s retired and he is free and he is living.
And free time for Dad today, like free time before, means he’s probably off on a road tripping adventure.
Because life with my Dad is a Sunday drive, except it takes place on a Tuesday night, Wednesday or Thursday.
Memories of a childhood with my Dad is a patchwork collective of moments of me sitting by his side, after he’s returned home from a 12 hour day, and we’d be cruising the lots around town looking at all the new cars.
Sometimes we’d make it to Melmerby Beach or to an aunt’s house or as far as Green Hill to look at the scenery. Sometimes we’d cruise the new developments in the subdivisions of New Glasgow, or drive by the new seaside shops in Pictou. During the holidays we made a special point of driving the circuit of the county’s best decorated homes, and he knew each and every one of them. But there was never really an agenda to our nightly course, like there was no direction to our discussion.
Dad worked a demanding and physical job my whole life, but each and every night when he came home we’d hop in the car, just he and I. He could have just grabbed a beer, and sat his rear immediately into the blue velvet Lazyboy rocking chair in the basement where he’d fall asleep watching the hockey game. But first we would get in that car, turn up the radio to hear the top 9 at 9, and drive.
We didn’t necessarily stop at the drive-thru or buy a popsicle, but when we did, that was a great day. We didn’t necessarily chat all that much, me being a teenager too intent to hear the music charts, but when we did, it always ended in fits of laughter. He, in his bleach and chlorine stained ripped denim jeans and his decades old blue pullover Helly Hansen sweater, his deeply tanned and calloused hands gripping firm at the wheel.
And there were many different sets of wheels over the years, as I remember being his chief sign maker from the age of 5 when an old clunker grew too clunky and it was placed on our curb for sale. There was the green Crown Vic, the black Ford Bronco, the turquoise Honda Accord. Then I made actual friends and we made more room with the blue Grand Caravan with the wood paneling, the purple Grand Caravan with the captain’s seats, the silver Grand Caravan, and so many more substitutes in between. He dreamed of a new vehicle, one that wouldn’t be such a quick flash in the pan- but myself, I loved the excitement of change. I loved his ability to make the best of it.
Dad didn’t have time for things that didn’t matter- he didn’t gossip and he never complained. He lived his life simply- not really knowing politics, or what was in the day’s news. But he knew how the people in his life were doing.
He certainly couldn’t have enjoyed Ricky Martin as much as I did in 1999, but he smiled and turned it up anyways. He must have cringed when I began singing along to Eminem, Nelly and Ludacris, but he put up with it because it was time spent doing what mattered.
Throughout my life my Dad drove me, and my friends, any which place we wanted to go. He was present with me, within the confines of a moving vehicle. We could talk about our days, about a dance, about the mundane- or sit and eat an ice cream in silence after my first break-up. Every drive was the same but different.
He was dependably predictable and honest- he’d break up fights in the schoolyard, and quick grocery store trips would turn into hour long events- he simply cared for, and about, everyone. He made the time for it.
It’s December now, and I find myself pointing out Christmas lights to the girls. And so, I’m thinking of my Dad as I find myself on this rooftop stringing lights up myself for the very first time. What a gift it was for me to be raised with an old fashioned Dad- no gadgets, Facebook updates or Instagram accounts distracted him from getting to know me as I grew up.
He always found the time.
You’re in my heart this week, Dad. Because now it’s my car that’s sketchy but the Christmas lights are waiting. So happy you’re the one I can call.