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.

Dad with a huge grin after hard day's work

Gilbert 1983, one of my favorite pics

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.

Hawaiian shirt on Dad

Dad, 2008 – fighting ALS

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. 

Goodnight, Kiddos

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!

I am my Father’s daughter because he is the man who taught me how to love. Click To Tweet

pool

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.

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.

Father and Daughter in Montana

1992 Me & Dad

*

Read: About My Mother