The above black and white picture of my dad in the sweet aviator shades of 1982, perhaps, is one of my favorite pictures of us for a variety of reasons. A giant blow up version leftover from his 60th birthday party hangs on my classroom door and students comment regularly on it– about how “badass” my dad looks, and I agree there is a certain movie star quality with the longish hair, semi-serious smile, and unshaven beard. And my brother is also hilarious to me with the “I’m #1” finger pointing to the heavens, bowl hair style, and his daughter Hazel looks exactly like him, only way cuter and more smiley. I’m looking confused in the photo, probably not even realizing my mom is taking the picture, which my brother will tell you was par for the course.
The one pic of Geoff is from a recent fishing trip to our nearby pond where we can only catch horn pout (aka catfish) and yellow perch, thanks to a super nice neighbor stocking the pond. Greta doesn’t fish so much as she likes to catch frogs in her net and she is the person SOLELY in charge of worm distribution. She pinches off sections of worms easily for her brother and dad to put on the hook. God forbid the person who attempts to take her job from her. Even Carver is completely happy to let Greta do the pinching off of the night-crawlers. Geoff is happy here at the pond with our catch and release program and our children. It’s their thing to do together while I’m trying to make dinner or in the case of this evening, I needed to vacuum our tiny house which is far easier when these three are not in it.
So Father’s Day is one of those extra special holidays for Geoff, because after his accident, he worried he would never become one. Geoff was more eager to become a dad than I was to become a mom, but now that our kids are more independent he is now a more hands on parent than he was when they were babies. I love summer because it’s just so easy to say– take them fishing, or bike-riding or frogging. Our kids are learning about patience, and compassion, and problem solving. They love to help their dad, and if I can just get them to be able to put together and take apart his wheelchair on family trips, I’ll be completely independent!
When I think back to my own childhood, my dad was famous for his neighborhood bonfires in our back yard. He could stay up the better part of the night making sure that he didn’t set the rest of the neighborhood on fire because our bonfires were pretty big; in fact, it’s what I think he misses most about having a stand alone home at the bottom of Eagle Drive, a dead end street, is the camaraderie of neighbors coming together to hang out on a Friday or Saturday night after spending the day doing projects around the yard or house. Dad taught us at a very early age that we needed to earn our keep around that place. I’m pretty sure we were bringing in fire wood at ages 2 and 3 and Greg was mowing the lawn at age 6. No, those are exaggerations, but not by much.
I have this very vivid memory of having lied about something– can’t remember what the lie was– but I remember not being able to fall asleep one night because the guilt was making that impossible. I came out to the kitchen, and my parents were standing there talking. And I’m pretty sure I was crying and he picked me up and sat me on this stool that was under the phone. High school followers: this is because the phone actually had a cord so you were stuck to a 5-8 foot circumference, and the stool was helpful. The stool was also next to these cowboy doors that you pushed open like the kitchen was a saloon. But anyway, he told me I could tell him what I was so worried about, and so I fessed up to my lie. All he asked was whether I learned my lesson about lying because it had made me feel so terrible. And I had. So he hugged me and sent me packing back to bed.
Just this week, he showed up at bedtime and Greta wasn’t quite ready to sleep, unlike her brother who had been passed out for an hour. So, I asked Pop Pop if he wanted to read her another story. I was maxed out, so his timing was perfect. Only Greta didn’t want to read, she wanted to tell him a story, so the two of them snuggled on her bed, which is way too small for Pop Pop. But I loved that she loved having him there, and she probably would have chatted with him all night had I not kicked him out.
I am so lucky to have my mom and dad living down the street from me in their retirement. They are an incredible support system, along with my in-laws, for me while Geoff is traveling, and they are also just a whole lot of fun. Our kids KNOW their grandparents really well, and I’m forever grateful for that experience. Having both Pop Pop and Gram and Grandpa and Grandma living within 20 minutes means extra special grandparent time.
When they were babies, Geoff struggled to move them from one place to another. His favorite activity with them was napping, and still is based on that last pic from the night after he got home late from traveling. Not to wake me up, he slept on the couch. Carver must have heard him come home and made his way onto the coach too. We joke that it’s a good thing Geoff can’t feel half his body or he would know that Carver’s 63 pounds of burning love would be crushing him.
We’ve gotten to the point now where Geoff and our kids have “their things” that they like to do that doesn’t include Mommy, like playing records on the Victrola, sounding the trumpet loudly, working on bike maintenance, and, of course, fishing, frogging, and skiing the coldest days of the year. These are activities I’m happy to opt out of, so that Geoff can continue to figure out those moments of parenting when we are alone. I’m a lucky lady to have had a great dad, and to be married to one too. And we are especially thankful to all of our friends and uncles out there who help in those special daddy moments when our own needs a little assistance. Happy Father’s Day!