For my dad, Gilbert Wayne Griffith
Some women may say with dismay that they are their father’s daughter. They bemoan inheriting their father’s mean streak or distant coldness or business acuity and that he had no depth, no grace, no heart.
Not so with this Daughter’s Father
When I was eighteen, I left home to get away from my dad. Was it to escape the tyranny of, “While you’re under my roof, you’ll do as I say?” One of his favorite sayings to his kids, no, that wasn’t why I went four hours away to college. I had to flee the love I had for him as soon as I could or I would never leave.
I want(ed) to have great adventures in life. Had I attended college near home, I‘d have become more dependent on Dad—his friendship, his guidance, his easy companionship. I would have never lived in Ohio, Colorado, California, or Montana. Living in those places, I traveled to the Caribbean, Mexico, Europe. Odds are that I’d have missed it and not have great friends scattered across the places I’ve been.
I Left Dad for 20 Years to Find My Way Back to Him
I returned to my native state of Pennsylvania in 1999, to Pittsburgh, about seventy miles from where I grew up. When I came here, it was for the short term. If Ohio was my least favorite state to live in, Pennsylvania ran the closest second. What the humidity did to my long wavy hair alone was enough to keep me away. I had no intentions of staying long enough to change the plates on my rig or get a PA license.
I’m creeping up on another summer in the land of crickets, lightening bugs, and midget hills people think are mountains. I’ve found myself loving this place once again. It has grown back into my heart—rounding out parts of my life where pieces were missing.
Visiting my father over the ten years I had with him, I was overwhelmed with unwavering love. (Mom is discussed in other blogs, the little minx) It was difficult to fathom how I left home in the first place. Dad died on April 30, 2009 from the dreaded ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease. Being here for my parents at the ends of their lives was what I needed to do. For them and for myself.
Thank God for Leading Me Home
As a teenager, my father and I used to argue at the supper table. My siblings weren’t saints. Okay, Jackie was perfect, Joey the Golden Child, and Joanne so much younger that there was no competition. I was the great debater, the instigator. In college, the speech professor acknowledged, “You love to dispute any point, don’t you?” Yes, yes, I do. With Dad, I’d assert one line on a topic and he’d take up the other. It was a game but sometimes it would turn into a truly heated discussion. I could be obstinate. Surprised?) I’d stomp off to my bedroom in a huff. I’d sit in the closet with the door shut and the light off. Dad yelled for me to come back or, he’d jokingly shout, he was coming in to beat me. I’d sit in the dark laughing, the amusement in his voice apparent.
As easy as a would-be quarrel started, it ended.
When I came returned, we could still rev up a good argument when we felt like it. Most of our adult time together was full more conversations than conflict—even humorous ones.
There was no such thing as going to bed angry in our home. I don’t think I ever went to sleep without a kiss and a hug goodnight from each of them. Jackie was visiting from Montana, we climbed in the twin beds and called out, “Daddy! Come tuck us in!” Yes, we were in our forties. What about it? He came in laughing, pulled the sheets up to our chins and kissed us each on the forehead.
Father’s can tuck daughters in no matter how old they are!
Dad was a Funny Guy
The photo is my 71-year-old dad taking photos of a kiddie pool one hot August day. Why? So PKS (punk kid sister, Joanne) and I could sit and share margaritas.
The winter before he died, dad had my brother install a deer feeder in the backyard. Seventy-six years into watching the deer wander this land that his grandfather (plus one? two?) had settled, he enjoyed them. Then he realized the fun neighbors next door had put a feeder in their front yard. Dad turned to his computer, typed and printed a sign. He instructed Jackie and Joey to sneak down and tape it to their corn crib, “Better feed 75 yards north.”
Do I not care about the car I drive because even though Dad liked cars, he never bothered with a new one? He maintained ours and did mechanical work for others to earn extra cash along the way. But new? It was never an issue for him, so it became irrelevant to me. This daughter go her first new car when I was forty-nine. I’m still driving it.
Lesson’s Learned by this Father’s Daughter
By that logic, did I fail so many times at love in my life because I learned the wrong lesson of love from my dad? Did I not understand the concrete, unfailing fact of my father’s love? I looked instead to how much he worked and felt that love must mean absence? I chose men who left me alone for the wrong reasons.
What a lightning bolt as Dad said (as he often did), “I love you, honey.” I was in my late thirties and bemoaning single hood. Spoken with simple intensity, my internal world came alive. I understood the unconditional love that I had been missing for years—both giving and receiving. Fathers and daughters–what a way to share love.
Great Love Comes From the Heart
Love doesn’t have to be tied to a quantity of words spilling over you in a constant flow. It doesn’t have to be proven by a continuous presence. I’m a writer—alone time is a good time. Love simply has to be given from the heart. When that heart is rich with boundless with joy, saying, I love you becomes the easiest words you can speak.
That was my dad. That remains his greatest gift to me. When he quieted, paused and stated, “I love you, honey,” my life grew in abundance. I better grasped what it meant to be full of love. My heart learned to overflow, to reach out to others from a new place. The strength to do so comes directly from the love of my dad.
I said I am my father’s daughter because we were equally stubborn, principle-minded, quick to anger and quick to laugh.
Now I say, I am my father’s daughter because he taught me how to love.
Read: About My Mother
Dad was always, always there for us. Always. I loved him so much and will miss him until the day that I get to join him in heaven.
Love this post, Rose. My Dad was similar in the argument department. I remember having a discussion with him about something. He said I was wrong, I knew I was right. So, I got out an encyclopedia that proved I was right and he said the book was wrong! But he always treated me like a princess and taught me so much about life and business! Alzheimer’s got him. But I know he’s still here, guiding me on. I love the resemblance between you and your Dad. You’ve got his sparkle!
Sorry to hear that your dad had to deal with Alzheimers. Nasty.
I love that you yanked out an encyclopedia–that’s exactly what I would have done! Funny that he said the book was wrong.
Yep, they stick with us–thank heavens.
Thanks for the compliment–I like to think the four of us have that sparkle and our mom’s wicked laugh!
RoseMary – you must stop making me cry! You were so lucky to have had your dad, and this is such a beautiful tribute. Your closing line is very moving. If only we could all have dads like yours the world would be a much better place.
I’ll come up with something witty & funny for the next post, Monika! My observation of parents who get the job right: they show unconditional love. If a kid knows they have that, all the rest–reprimands, punishments, hard conversations–don’t hurt, but teach. I’m betting you and your husband, like Phoenicia and hers, are getting that right.
How great to see such a post written in honor of your father!
Thank you, Jeri. Even in my sadness that he is gone, I get great joy out of telling dad-stories.
Thank you for sharing a snippet of your family life. Your childhood seemed full of joy, love and warmth. You have your father’s smile which I spotted instantly in the photograph taken in 1983. He was a handsome man.
I am sure the memories will live on in your life and your siblings lives. How blessed you are to have to have experienced and known of your father’s love for you. Many will never know this- me included.
It makes me happy that you can see me in my dad, Phoenicia. I supposed all kids think their parents were handsome and beautiful–I sure do.
Every time I tell a dad-story, he’s right back alive and beside me! I’m sorry that you didn’t get to have this, but I know you are creating the good times with your children and husband.
Awesome photos as always. What a wonderful relationship you had with your dad. You are very fortunate to both have had it and for recognizing its worth.
Thank you, Debra. He was such a good person. I think he knew his kids were his fan club.
I love the pic of you with your father. Sounds like he was a great man and a loving dad. I’m so sorry he had to go through ALS. But I’m glad you have many years of great memories.
We were two peas in a pod, Erica. ALS is the worst. I pray a cure comes soon.
Oh Rosemary – this was worth the wait! I’m so glad you fixed the glitch (even if only temporarily) to be able to honor your dad today.
Thank you, Karen. He was a special man and I’m happy to share him with you.
A lovely tribute to a man who must have been a wonderful dad.
Thank you, Ken. He sure was something else.
You are so blessed you had your dad. Sometimes we need to move away from family to gain independence. Making you the strong woman you are today.
Good perspective, Bola. Sometimes family, with the best intentions, can hold us in place instead of letting us grow. Distance can change that.
Yes, they certainly were humble.
He was really, really great – we were both so blessed to have him.
I once told Dad why I left home at 18 and didn’t come back until 40, he rolled his eyes and shook his head. Dad speak for: get a life. ha! Our Dads were both such humble people–weren’t they?
Nicely and lovingly stated, Rosemary. What do you think your Dad would think about this tribute?
Seester wears it well, HQ–I’m jealous that you get to see her most days.
I didn’t know your dad but, love to hear about him. I am grateful that he was such a loving man who raised two sisters who mean so much to me. We know that love can be contagious failed or otherwise what is not contagious is to have never loved. I am grateful for your dad’s love towards his family for every day I see your sister I get to un-wrap a bundle filled with love that graces me. His gift just keeps giving…………
Tears of joy, I hope, Patty. That’s how Dad always wanted it.
Such a beautiful tribute to a wonderful man. Your words have driven me to tears…such love is hard to describe but you did it. Thank you, Rose.