Summer with Dad (and some are not)

Thanks, Dad, for all your support. Still miss the fine Dads in my life – so much. In order to see my other photos, click on View Original Post.

scillagrace

The longest day of sunshine in the whole year…and it’s Father’s Day.  You have hours and hours to spend with your dad today!  What will you do?

– go camping, go sailing, have a picnic, play on the beach, go to the zoo, take a walk in the woods, play in the back yard, snuggle on the couch, climb a mountain, go out to dinner, eat ice cream cones on the porch, sing silly songs, read stories, play with his beard, watch the sun set….

Spend time with your Dad.  All you can.  There will probably come a day when you have no more hours of sun or darkness to spend together in the world.  In those days, you may spend time with your photographs and memories of him instead.  It’s not a bad time…..but it’s not the same. 

Dedicated, with love, to my dad (George) and the father of…

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Summer with Dad (and some are not)

The longest day of sunshine in the whole year…and it’s Father’s Day.  You have hours and hours to spend with your dad today!  What will you do?

– go camping, go sailing, have a picnic, play on the beach, go to the zoo, take a walk in the woods, play in the back yard, snuggle on the couch, climb a mountain, go out to dinner, eat ice cream cones on the porch, sing silly songs, read stories, play with his beard, watch the sun set….

Spend time with your Dad.  All you can.  There will probably come a day when you have no more hours of sun or darkness to spend together in the world.  In those days, you may spend time with your photographs and memories of him instead.  It’s not a bad time…..but it’s not the same. 

 

Dedicated, with love, to my dad (George) and the father of my four children (Jim).  I miss you this long, sunny day. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Extra, Extra

The Weekly Photo Challenge prompt posted today says: “This week, share a photo that has a little something extra: an unexpected visitor, or a tranquil landscape with a splash of color. A lone carrot in a sea of peas. Draw us in with a humorous detail, or find a photo with an added element that makes it an image only you could capture.”

Extra(If you click on the photo, it should open in a larger window for a more panoramic view.)

The significance of this photo has many levels.  Someone just visiting this blog for the first time might see a nice composition of natural scenery and a person enjoying it.  Very pleasant.  Someone who knows this blog a little better might recognize the person as Steve, my partner, who shows up in many of my photos.  Someone who knows my history might recognize the Wisconsin shore of Lake Michigan, opposite my grandmother’s beach cottage where I spent many childhood summers, and understand the sentimental attachment I have to this particular body of water.  Only Steve & I know the thought that prompted him to sit in this place, the person he is memorializing as he pauses on our walk.  The invisible figure in this photo is Steve’s father, Stanley. 

I never met Stanley.  He died one month before I first encountered Steve.  I have been introduced to him many times in concept and story, however.  Stanley was a gentle person, a father who did not assert his authority or enforce many rules.  Steve sometimes describes him as “passive resistant”, but his assessment is one of understanding and acceptance rather than judgment.  Stanley enjoyed going slowly through life, enjoying simple pleasures and quiet places.  He worked many years in the US Postal Service and traveled with his family in his own whimsical way.  Taking a cigarette break was a frequent excuse to absent himself from the social gathering at hand to enjoy a peaceful moment.  When Steve saw this bench along the nature trail at Kohler-Andrae State Park, he said, “This is just the kind of place my father would like.”  He sat down.  I walked down the path to allow him some private time with his dad, and snapped this photo. 

Happy Father’s Day, Stanley.  Thanks for being the person you were and for all you did to make Steve the person he is.  Well done, sir.  

Honoring My Father (Reblog)

George William Heigho II — born July 10, 1933, died March 19, 2010.

Today I want to honor my dad and tell you about how I eventually gave him something in return for all he’d given me.

My dad was the most influential person in my life until I was married.  He was the obvious authority in the family, very strict and powerful.  His power was sometimes expressed in angry outbursts like a deep bellow, more often in calculated punishments encased in logical rationalizations.  I knew he was to be obeyed.  I also knew he could be playful.  He loved to build with wooden blocks or sand.  Elaborate structures would spread across the living room floor or the cottage beach front, and my dad would be lying on his side adding finishing touches long after I’d lost interest.  He taught me verse after verse of silly songs with the most scholarly look on his face.  He took photographs with his Leica and set up slide shows with a projector and tripod screen after dinner when I really begged him.  He often grew frustrated with the mechanics of those contraptions, but I would wait hopefully that the show would go on forever.  It was magic to see myself and my family from my dad’s perspective.  He was such a mystery to me.  I thought he was God for a long time.  He certainly seemed smart enough to be.  He was a very devout Episcopalian, Harvard-educated, a professor and a technical writer for IBM.  He was an introvert, and loved the outdoors.  When he retired, he would go off for long hikes in the California hills by himself.  He also loved fine dining, opera, ballet, and museums.  He took us to fabulously educational places — Jamaica, Cozumel, Hawaii, and the National Parks.  He kept the dining room bookcase stacked with reference works and told us that it was unnecessary to argue in conversation over facts.

Camping in Alaska the summer after his senior year in High School: 1951.

My father was not skilled in communicating about emotions.  He was a very private person.  Raising four daughters through their teenaged years must have driven him somewhat mad.  Tears, insecurities, enthusiasms and the fodder of our adolescent dreams seemed to mystify him.  He would help me with my Trigonometry homework instead.

Playing with my dad, 1971.

I married a man of whom my father absolutely approved.  He walked me down the aisle quite proudly.  He feted my family and our guests at 4 baptisms when his grandchildren were born.  I finally felt that I had succeeded in gaining his blessing and trust.  Gradually, I began to work through the  more difficult aspects of our relationship.  He scared my young children with his style of discipline.  I asked him to refrain and allow me to do it my way.   He disowned my older sister for her choice of religion.  For 20 years, that was a subject delicately opened and re-opened during my visits.  I realized that there was still so much about this central figure in my life that I did not understand at all.

Grandpa George

In 2001, after the World Trade Center towers fell, I felt a great urgency to know my father better.  I walked into a Christian bookstore and picked up a book called Always Daddy’s Girl: Understanding Your Father’s Impact on Who You Are by H. Norman Wright.  One of the chapters contained a Father Interview that listed dozens of questions aimed at bringing out the father’s life history and the meaning he assigned to those events.  I decided to ask my father if he would answer some of these questions for me, by e-mail (since he lived more than 2,000 miles away).   Being a writer, this was not a difficult proposition for him to accept.  He decided how to break up the questions into his own groupings and sometimes re-phrase them completely to be more specific and understandable and dove in, essentially writing his own memoirs.   I was amazed, fascinated, deeply touched and profoundly grateful at the correspondence I received.  I printed each one and kept them.  So did my mother.  When I called on the telephone, each time he mentioned how grateful he was for my suggestion.  He and my mother shared many hours reminiscing and putting together the connections of events and feelings of years and years of his life.   On the phone, his repeated thanks began to be a bit eerie.  Gradually, he developed more symptoms of dementia.  His final years were spent in that wordless country we later identified as Alzheimer’s disease.

I could never have known at the time that the e-mails we exchanged would be the last record of my dad’s memory.  To have it preserved is a gift that is priceless to the entire family.  I finally learned something about the many deep wounds of his childhood, the interior life of his character development, his perception of my sister’s death at the age of 20 and his responsibility in the lives of his children.   My father is no longer “perfect”, “smart”, “strict” or any other concept or adjective that I could assign him.  He is simply the man, my father.  I accept him completely and love and respect him more holistically than I did when I knew him as a child.  That is the gift I want to give everyone.

I will close with this photo, taken in the summer of 2008 when my youngest daughter and I visited my father at the nursing home.  I had been widowed 6 months, had not yet met Steve, and was anticipating my father’s imminent passing.  My frozen smile and averted eyes are fascinating to me.  That I feel I must face a camera and record an image is somehow rational and irrational at the same time.  To honor life honestly is a difficult assignment.  I press on.

My Favorite Fathers

The obvious blog subject of the day here in the U.S. of A. is Father’s Day.  I have two stellar examples of fathers prominent in my thoughts and conspicuously absent in the flesh.  My husband, the father of my four children, died in 2008.  My father, who had 5 children, died in 2010.  What they have in common is that they both felt woefully disappointed by their own fathers (at one time) and were determined to do better.  I’m glad to say that my husband had the chance to improve his relationship with his dad over the years, whereas my father did not.  They both had an internal sense of the kind of father they wanted to be, and were clear in their values.  They were incredibly dependable, stable providers of basic things, although in slightly different mixtures.  My husband was far more of a “warm fuzzy”, emotional Teddy Bear.  My father provided more structure and logic.  I’ve come to realize that these are not opposite qualities in parenting, they are important components.  There are as many ways of concocting a life-giving balance as there are fathers. 

My favorite memories of my dad contain literary and educational aspects: his voice reading aloud from story books, the ballet and opera and museum tickets he treated us to regularly, the vacations and nature walks we went on.   My favorite memories of my husband as a father are visceral and physical: how he held them, laughed with them, cried with them, sang to them, praised them and worried over them.  When a man is giving the best he has to his children, it’s a beautiful thing.  Well worth celebrating, whatever flavor it comes in. 

You gotta give Dad a tie on Father’s Day…

(Okay, photographers, clearly the slides taken by my father’s Leica in the 1970s came out better than the prints from my Canon AE-1 that I scanned into a dusty screen.  My brother-in-law converted the slides to digital images somehow; I love how sharp they are!)