notquiteold

Nancy Roman

A Father’s Duties

In the parking lot at the Petco store, I watch a dad with his three kids. Two boys and girl. The boys are maybe seven and eight; the little girl perhaps four. At the entrance to the store, Dad stops. I see him tell the boys to wait a second. Dad has noticed that the girl’s sundress is all bunched up at the waist. He hair looks like it has been the victim of the open car window. Dad straightens his daughter’s dress. He adjusts her headband and runs his fingers as a quick comb through her hair. He nods his head. They all go into the store.

This is what a father does.

He takes care of his kids, whether it is making sure they are wearing their seatbelts or whether they need a hair repair.

Some people think dads are mostly oblivious.

Good dads should notice.

Good dads should be the dads of small things.

I come from an older generation. The generation where your parents took on the most traditional of roles.

Many of us had fathers who worked incredibly hard to support their families. My father-in-law, who I sadly never knew, always worked two jobs. He may have worked too much. He may not have spent as much time as he would have liked with his family. But he showed his love by working for them. I don’t undervalue that enormous sacrifice.

Dads may have been strict  – the unwavering tough guy and breadwinner – back in my day.

But they also had a softer side – that today may be more common, but was just as cherished then as it is today. Maybe more cherished. A father’s time with his children was often limited, so we loved it when we were so fortunate.

My father never took us shopping, like the dad I describe at the beginning of this story. I don’t think he would ever have even thought of it. But he took us skating in the winter and swimming in the summer. And he took us out for ice cream cones. And he often didn’t have one himself (neither did my mother) even though they loved ice cream.  Dad spent his money on us. Years later, he told me that he often put only a dollar’s worth of gas in the car so he could spend his only other dollar on ice cream cones.

And rides. Traditional fathers were good at rides. It seems today that Mom is mostly the chauffeur, but in my day, Dads did a lot of driving. Of course, we kids didn’t go to that many places that we didn’t walk to. But when we did, it was Dad waiting in his car at the end of our day.

I especially remember my best friend Doris’ father. His shift at the factory ended at 3:30. And if we could get to the town swimming pool, often by walking the long, hot uphill mile-and-a-half, he would be there in his big old Ford at 3:45 to give us a ride home. Always. And always cheerful.

Traditional Dads would teach you things. My father-in-law taught my husband to fix a car. My dad taught me how to play Cribbage and how to follow a football game.

My father taught me how to slow dance.

Traditional dads held you to a high standard. Good grades, chores, politeness – these were required. But they also let you slide on the stuff that was important to you, but what didn’t matter in the long run. They let you blow bubbles in your milk. And they let you – at least once – take a sip of their beer.

And while expecting great things of you, these old-fashioned dads let you know that it was okay to fail. My father may have taught me to play Cribbage, but he didn’t let me win. And all us kids got a “Good try!” when we didn’t make the team or get the part in the play.

These dads let you be silly. They told corny jokes and made funny faces. And they told you stories about the dumb stuff they did as kids. They made you roll on the floor.

Although my father was the traditional dad of the fifties and sixties, he was amazingly ahead of his times, especially when it came to traditional roles themselves.

My father was proud of my mother’s education and work as a nurse. And encouraged his three daughters to try everything and expect success.

Recently a Twitter hashtag game called for responses to the following:

 #ThingsMyDadWouldeNeverDo

My Answer:

Think there was anything a girl couldn’t do.

All three of his daughters (and his son) went to college and earned graduate degrees. We were all successful in our careers and our personal lives.

Dad believed that there was nothing we could not do. He supported every effort, every dream.

Here is a story about my traditional, old-fashioned dad that I have never told anyone.

When I was thirty, I was unmarried but desperately wanted to be a mother. I had heard about a woman who was bringing orphans from El Salvador to the U.S. for adoption. El Salvador was in the midst of a civil war and it was a dangerous place. I contacted this woman and found out what I would need to do in order to adopt one of these children. I completed reams of paperwork, was fingerprinted, and registered with the El Salvadoran embassy.

I waited. It was very difficult. Most of my friends and family and work associates were not supportive. Not out of any meanness or xenophobia, but out of worry. What if the child was ill? What if she could not adapt? How could I manage as a single mother? And the situation in El Salvador was so volatile that the regulations and standards for adoption changed repeatedly.

In the end, El Salvador shut down its U.S. adoptions before my source could find me a child. So it was not to be. Which I grieve for to this day.

But when all was still up in the air, when I still had hope along with fear, when my family was still trying to talk me out of it, my father took me aside one day.

“This is just between us,” he said. “But if you get the chance for a child, and if things change and the child cannot be brought to you – if you need to go to El Salvador to get her – I just want you to know, I will go with you.”

A father has many duties.

A good father will fix your hair.

Or go into a war-torn country to keep you – and your dreams – safe.

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Slow dancing with my father – at my wedding.

 

Happy Father’s Day.

 

 

 

 

 

39 Comments

  1. My Dad held the back of my bike when I tried to ride it, taught me to play cribbage, played duets with me on the piano, took me to see The Wizard of Oz because everyone should see it at least once, bathed my knees and sorted out my verucca, helped me with my homework, encouraged me to save and not overspend, handed me tissues when the boyfriend dumped me, took me shopping for a posh frock for my sister’s wedding reception, towel dried my hair, and a million other things that made him My Dad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • wow. just wow.

      Like

      • Thanks. I miss him and will be lighting a candle for him tomorrow.

        Like

  2. what a beautiful tribute

    Like

  3. Eleven years ago my wonderful Dad died. He taught his three daughters respect for oneself as well as for others. He told us we were beautiful and that we could do anything and be anything if we wanted it enough and worked toward it. I have written several posts about my special dad; I’m glad yours was special too.

    Like

    • It sounds like we had very similar and very wonderful dads. I hope you and your family share all your happy memories this Fathers’ Day.

      Like

  4. lydiaschoch

    What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it, and I’m sorry that your dream of adopting never came true.

    Like

    • It has been a sorrow throughout my life. But I do have a happy life and everyone has a sorrow or two to bear. Thanks.

      Like

  5. Lovely in a dozen different ways.

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    • Thank you for your kind words.

      Like

  6. I’m literally crying! What a beautiful story. Made me appreciate the Traditional Dad I have – more. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Traditional Dads may be out of style, but we were lucky to have them.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pam

    You made me cry, too! Oh, my gosh! What a sweet, supportive dad!
    So sorry about the canceled adoption.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. Sometimes, something you never had is as sad as something you had but lost. But no one gets everything they ever wanted.

      Like

  8. Thank you for sharing the beautiful memories of your wonderful Dad.

    Like

  9. Hello

    Like

  10. Doris Legere Kennedy

    It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized the sacrifices our folks made to give us those special treats, a ride, an ice cream cone, our cherished once a year vacation etc… I have such terrific memories of my folks growing up and wouldn’t trade a second of it for all the riches in the world.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We didn’t have a lot, but everything we had was precious.

      Like

  11. I just spent a little time thinking about all the things my dad did for his family. I remembered a couple that were unexpected and beautiful. I miss him a lot. Thanks for your thought provoking, lovely post.

    Like

    • Thank you … sometimes we need to stop and remember the little things.

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  12. Brought tears, both for your story and missing my father. He piggy-backed me up the stairs to bed and then read me the same story (Cinderella) every night for as long as I asked for it. He painted a used bike (black, because that was the only color paint he had) and taught me how to ride it. This was post-war England and we had nothing, but we wanted for nothing. Thank you for reminding me of the wonderful, sweet, stiff-upper-lip, hard-working man whom I still miss 28 years after he died.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. Your father was exactly the wonderful man you remember all these years later.

      Like

  13. bo

    Reblogged this on Bobbi's Blog and commented:
    Nancy Roman’s beautiful Father’s Day tribute is well worth reading.

    Like

  14. Father’s Day is in September for us but all the posts I am seeing about fathers has made me think of my dad who is amazing and at the moment is in hospital very sick

    Like

    • I hope both you and he are together and fine very soon.

      Like

  15. Wonderful tribute to your Dad.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Donna W.

    You were blessed with a wonderful father, Nancy. And downright handsome, too!! You must miss him very much.

    Like

    • I do miss him. He was a good-hearted and good-natured man.

      Like

  17. “This is just between us,” he said. “But if you get the chance for a child, and if things change and the child cannot be brought to you – if you need to go to El Salvador to get her – I just want you to know, I will go with you.”
    That is the most beautiful thing I have ever read. I honestly can’t see to write any more because of the crying.

    Like

  18. Peggy Kramer

    This is one of the finest things you have ever written – and you’ve written quite a few. I am blown away.

    Like

  19. Wow this post brought tears in my eyes… I remembered every moment i had am still having with my dad…
    As a young child i liked my dad more than my mom but that didn’t change my moms love for me though she knew that..Thanks for sharing this

    Like

  20. This post brought hope to me since my Dad left when I was 12 years old. So many times I wanted my Dad to be there for me. I feel it showing up in my choices of how I interact with men. The good news is I have four brothers (and one sister) who show me how good a Father can be as they interact with their children, my nieces and nephews.

    Like

  21. What an excellent post! Thank you for using your writing ability to speak for so many of us who had wonderful, dutiful dads.

    Like

    • Thanks Joni. It was my privilege to speak up for all the ordinary and hard-working dads.

      Like

  22. Wonderful! Made me tear up and miss my happy, silly, kind father all in one. That punch line at the end … wow! What a guy!! ❤ MJ

    Like

  23. It hit my emotional bone… This is so wonderful. I love my dad to death, he went through a lot for me. He gave up many things just to make sure I have what I need. I can’t say me and my dad have had the best relationship but I can say that we are working on it and we are a family.

    Like

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