Now It's My Turn - Livin' the Good Life
Dec. 12th, 2009
02:05 pm - Now It's My Turn
As my dad ages, and he'll be 91 next month, I'm finding I need to assist him more and more. As I go through the process of helping him get places, dress, eat healthy meals, and remember "what's next?", I'm reminded of the many ways he helped me as a child. I don't know if his attentions to me were extraordinary or not, but looking back, he sure seemed to go the extra-mile for me.
When I was really young, and my parents were still together, Dad and I had what we called "Hair Club" on Saturday mornings. That meant that I washed his hair and then he let me do whatever I wanted with it. Usually I put it in pin curlers, something that seemed to require a lot of practice on my part. When the pin curls were dried his hair came out super-curly! I remember that one Saturday he needed to go to the hardware store and he was willing to go with his freshly-curled hair, no problem. I didn't think that was extraordinary at the time, but looking back, I realize it was. When I was really young, he put up with me being "his dog", where I would crawl around the living room, barking and whining and sitting by his side whenever he sat down. He completely played along with that, to my delight. He built me a bedroom that had a false front to it, making it look like a little house with a front door and a bell, windows on either side of the door, and a shingle "roof" that slanted down over the front of the "house". He knew that I lived in my own little fantasy world, and he indulged me by giving me my own little dollhouse bedroom. I took ballet, and he encouraged me by installing floor-to-ceiling mirrors with a ballet bar in the den so I could practise whenever I wanted to. (I ended up teaching ballet to my little friends in the neighborhood, of course.) If I walked in on him working (he was ALWAYS working) and wanted to talk to him, he dropped what he was doing and gave me his full attention. If I wanted to do something, it was not unlike him to say enthusiastically, "OK, let's do it right now." And off we'd go.
After my parents divorced, Dad had me and my brother on Monday evenings and all day most Saturdays. By that time, my dad was becoming a well-known astrologer in the Los Angeles area. So he would teach me about astrology after dinner on those Monday evenings. Eventually I could make and read astrological charts myself. He was a very patient and attentive teacher, and I got a lot out of our sessions. I was learning so much more than astrology at his kitchen table. I was learning all about life from my dad's perspective, which I never seemed to tire of. Dad also took me to the store and let me buy anything I wanted to make for dinner, as long as I did all the cooking. This meant that most of the meals were from cans, but it made my little ten-year-old self feel mighty proud that I could cook dinner for my dad and brother all by myself. We also did photograghy together on those evenings. He had his tiny bathroom set up as a photo lab, and we spent many happy hours developing prints together. His style was patient, but exacting. Later, he would walk us to the Glendale Library just down the street to check out and return books from the week before. I remember once he took me and my brother to the adult portion of the massive library and pointed to the long "Religion and Philosophy" section saying, "I've read every book on this isle." My brother and I were impressed, but not surprised. We knew our dad was a walking encyclopedia and was forever learning new things. After that, I read every book in the fairly extensive "horse story section" in the children's library.
My dad also had a small airplane, and he took me all over the place in it. I was an experienced flyer by the time I was eleven or twelve. He made a point of explaining everything he was doing to me, and sometimes he even let me steer the plane! We studied the maps before we took off, then he let me navigate by having me look for different markers and airports on the ground as we flew over.
Having one's daddy suddenly not at home anymore is a shock for any child. I think my dad knew that and took his visitations very seriously. One thing I took for granted at the time, but looked forward to, were his letters. He wrote to me every day. I loved checking the mailbox each day after school, because I invariably found a letter from him. Usually they were just short notes, often about nothing in particular... his opinions on current events, musings on philosophy, spirituality, and history. I think he used his letters to further educate me on all kinds of subjects while he was letting me know he was thinking about me. It worked... I got the message.
One thing my dad did for me that I'm sure was a sacrifice on his part was to take me horseback riding on Saturdays. My dad had zero interest in horses, but he knew how important they were to me, so he indulged my horse-passion often. He would sit out in front of riding stables initially while I took my hour-long ride, but later he found someone who would let me ride their horse as long as I wanted. So, Dad would spend many of his Saturdays watching me saddle, groom, and ride "Golden Sally" with, what I realize now, the patience of Job! I know now that my dad was helping me find and develop my interests, and he was willing to invest seemingly unlimited time into furthering his daughter's development. The bottom line is, he was truly interested in me and was there for me, even though he didn't live in our home. I knew, without a doubt, that I could count on him.
So, as I attend to my dad in his latter years, I remember how he attended to me. I'm grateful to him for his years of caring and assistance, and I stand ready to do the same for him.