This framed triptych is a series of photos of my sisters, father and me on Easter Sunday over the years. We realized not too long ago that we had fallen naturally into the same configuration, unplanned, for almost 20 years. Now we do it on purpose and we call it the Dad-Daughter Pose. The picture in the middle is 2007, the left is 1987 and the right is 1997.
My parents celebrated their 35th wedding anniversay in March of 2007 and my sisters and I put together a scrapbook for them and each enclosed letters to them. Mine to my dad read as follows:
Hi Dad. 3 April 2007
Happy 35th anniversary! I know the crafty gift may not be a “guy” thing, but I hope you enjoy looking back on all your years with Mom and your girls. I think we’ve all mostly gotten better looking over the years…I know my hair is a definite improvement over especially my awkward middle school years, and your wardrobe has advanced far beyond the snug grey coaching pants and tube socks pulled up! You really do have a lovely family (namely a handsome and adorable grandson!), so thanks for the good genes.
I have a lot more than good genes to thank you for, though, probably more than I can put into words, but I hope you know how much I appreciate all you’ve done and been to me for the last 30 years. You have been such a provider and caregiver to us, and, sure, we weren’t fabulously wealthy, but I have always felt we were rather fortunate. Thank you for working hard, spending nights and weekends away from us at ballgames, working more than one job, to give us a comfortable life. I will always remember our family trips to the mall to buy school clothes, you doling out (your) money to each of us and letting us make our own choices…or piling into the Scout or van after a fun and frenzied day at the mall buying each other Christmas presents, again with money you gave us. I will remember checks or a few bills laid out on the breakfast table on Monday mornings for our lunch money for the week, or you giving me a check to buy my yearbook without me even having to ask for it. Thank you for taking care of me financially, even when I was away at college and on my own. You helped me get my checking account when I started working for Pat and Glen, and my first credit card when I left home. The card had a $500 limit then, and now the limit is $18,000! I will always have an image in my mind of the inside of your roll-top desk, your keys and watch and change in there after a long day, but also an orderly stack of envelopes and stamps, your calculator and checkbook, which was always balanced and in order. I learned a lot about how to manage my money and household from you, to spend responsibly and take care of things instead of letting them pile up and get out of control, to show up when I am supposed to and do something if I say I will. I think I’ve been a good employee at all my various jobs, from cabin cleaner to funeral home office assistant, to grocery checker, babysitter and now teacher, because I learned from my father’s work ethic and commitment to his word. You never seem to put things off, whether it is yard work or paying bills or making a phone call you need to, and as an adult, I realize not every man is like that.
I didn’t mean to leave Lindsay and Lane off the page with you as a coach…I don’t even really remember if or what they played for you, but I obviously spent a lot of time with you in that capacity, hours after school at practices and on the road to games, riding home in the Scout afterwards, win or lose. Your successful records are a clear indicator of your ability as a coach, but I have witnessed first-hand (as a Lady Cat, at home in the yard practicing for summer softball, on the field at camp, with your girls in Rogers) the more subtle nuances that made you the coach so many athletes are willing to do almost anything for. For one, your own athletic ability is proven. I remember you serving ball after ball over the net during practice, playing pick-up games with all the high-school boys and the guys at camp. Boys would tell me, “Yeah, your dad came out to football practice today and kicked some field goals for us.” One told me you were casually munching on an apple while kicking one after the other that were good. I wish I was a runner like you…your goal to incorporate meaningful exercise into every day for a year is an admirable one, one I wouldn’t accomplish but I am confident you will. I think it’s so cute that you let Macauley “work out” with you downstairs—he loves it. Athletes, I think, are reluctant to listen to a coach who can’t actually do what he asks his players to, and for you that has never been the case. You could coach anything, but you work especially well with girls because you know how to talk to us: I remember at the beginning of two-a-days one year you made a speech about how you have four girls at home and that you understood what we might be going through (feminine problems, etc.)…you also wrote down my birthday as August 24th when you were checking the roster at the end of that speech, but I think you were just kidding. You could also deal with the occasional emotional outburst. Plus, you always made us laugh (singing on the intercom on the bus on the way home--after a win--and dropping an unexpected cuss word as we circled up in the locker room before a game) and could see the humor in situations (a certain girl's continual popping of the ball 100 feet behind her on every pass). I am glad I had the opportunity to play for you, and I know I was not the star, but I hope I did okay for you in my #1 Hay Cow jersey (and the knee-length shorts we had a couple of years!). You were always fair and if I ever disappointed you as a player you never showed it. I also liked when you came to my track meets to see me run the 100 and my relays, or pull off my record-breaking long jumps. I felt comforted and reassured to see you in the stands, not pushed or pressured or nervous, and I know many kids can’t say the same of their parents. You are an excellent coach and there are hundreds of players out there who I know would say the same and will likely always remember you as a positive influence on them.
My playing days are long gone now…sometimes it seems like just yesterday that I was living at home and going to school (with my entire family) each day. Other times, though, I look at how far my life has come and those days seem so far away. I look back on growing up with you and Mom and Lindsay and Lane with so many fond and funny memories, and knowing what I know of the world now, I feel even luckier for the way I was raised and how close and stable our family has always been. I moved away to Drury and struck out on my own, the first to leave our family as we knew it…I don’t know, maybe I even distanced myself a little back then, not coming home every weekend, finding new friends and starting an independent life here in Springfield, but I think I was able to do that because I had learned how to take care of myself from you all and had the security and confidence that I could make it on my own…with, of course, gentle reminders from my dad to check my oil and get my loan paperwork in and to “be smart and watch out for the other guy.” I have always felt that you would protect me if you needed to, but you were never the overbearing, overprotective father, even when I was dating and had all sorts of boys coming to the house. The boys were still scared of you anyway, though, because you were so quiet. I have to say that when I considered who I might spend the rest of my life with, I was looking (both consciously and not) to find many of the things I know you to be in that man. I wanted someone who, like you, stays on top of things, does what is right no matter what, is kind and gentle while still being tough and capable. I wanted someone athletic like you, funny like you and someone who would be a comfortable and hands-on dad like you. I wanted someone with a quiet confidence and good nature like you. I’m sure you’ll agree I have found those things in Ryan. He is a good man, like my father is.
I have a really good life now: a loyal, strong and smart husband who really knows and understands me and is my best friend, a healthy, brilliant, charming and strikingly handsome little boy, a nice house, new car, rewarding job, lots of friends and financial security. I am happy and normal and settled, and I can attribute the way I turned out to the way I was raised and taken care of by you and Mom. I hope my life makes you both feel like you have done something well. You have never made me feel like I have to work for it, but it has always been important to me to have your approval and it always will be. When you read the essay I wrote about Papaw in the Annex kitchen before his funeral, I could tell you liked and were impressed by it without you really saying anything, and that made me proud. In the card you gave me when I graduated from high school, you wrote that you thought your mother would have been proud of me for all I had done. That meant a lot to me, too. I wish I could have known her, that she could know my son.
It seems like having Macauley has made me even closer to you and Mom. I have needed the two of you to help me take care of him, and you two are probably the only other people besides Ryan and me who are as amused and amazed by (and forgiving of) everything that kid does and says. He loves spending time with his Papa, and I’m sure he will continue to even as he grows up. I wonder what the two of you will do together when he is a teenager, a grown man, a father himself…I know he will look to you as someone he wants to be like, just like his mother does. Thank you for being so good to him.
I hope you knew I felt all this for you before, that there is much more I couldn’t or haven’t put into words, but I am glad we can get together as a family and celebrate both your anniversary and Easter this year. I hope this book and letter give you some idea of how much I appreciate and love you, not only on this special occasion but every day that I live. As Macauley has taken to saying lately, “You’re the best.” You really are. Thank you so much and happy anniversary.