I have my father's eyes. Sometimes I wonder if I share his vision as well.
Perhaps in some ways I do. We both have bad tempers we've learned to control. We both appreciate travel, Motown music and family history, and we both have a limited tolerance for nonsense.
Fortunately, his tolerance for a bit of gentle ribbing is less limited, because Tuesday is his birthday, and I plan to remind him that he is really, really old. Actually, he's not, but I enjoy giving him a bit of trouble when I can.
A few years ago, I played an April Fool's Day joke that involved a convoluted (and entirely, emphatically, false) story about company bankruptcy. Dad, bless him, advised me calmly and reassuringly over the phone and email all day, until the early evening when I asked, "Have you looked at a calendar today?"
After rewarding me with a few choice (unprintable) words, he was clearly proud. And, I imagine, relieved. But indeed proud. After all, this is the man who taught me how to short sheet a bed before I went off to summer camp when I was 8, and who reenacted a scene from "Coming to America" on the balcony of an Israeli hotel room in 1993.
I love my father dearly and have an immense amount of respect for him, but I am hardly a "daddy's girl." We didn't always see eye to eye during my childhood, and we still don't at times, but I've gained an appreciation for his perspective on some things. I think I've become more like him as I've gotten older.
He is diplomatic, dignified and hardworking. He doesn't like to show weakness or worry people. He worries, too much, about the people he loves. He is not fond of problems he cannot solve. He will, most likely, not be fond of being the subject of one of my columns. He'll get over it.
I didn't grow up with a whole lot of homespun wisdom and platitudes about what it means to be a good person, or the importance of faith or love. My parents, especially my father, taught more by example.
He's warm, but not the most sentimentally expressive person I've ever met. I recall anything too touchy-feely being categorized as its own brand of bull(ahem) -- psychological bull, feminist bull, sentimental bull... .
"We shouldn't come visit that weekend because it's Valentine's Day," he noted to me once. "Don't you and Joe have some romantic bull... planned?" Dad is not a new-age, kumbaya man.
He's also not a terribly atypical man. Like many men I know, he expresses himself more in actions than in words. He worked hard to make sure my sister and I were well-educated and taken care of. He helped care for my mother's ailing parents as if they were his own. Several years ago, I had a health scare, and he told me that if there were ever anything wrong with me for real, he'd move hell and earth to fix it. I don't doubt that.
He honors my mother. He reminds my sister and me to send anniversary cards, birthday cards, Valentine's cards, Mother's Day cards, because it's important to him that Mom be acknowledged. He instructs me to consult her on my wardrobe for family events, (hopefully) not because he thinks I don't know how to pick out clothing, but because she likes having input. She certainly doesn't need anyone to fight her battles for her, but he'll do it eagerly. And does, at times.
Actually, here's one little sentimental secret I don't think he'll mind my giving away: His favorite song is "My Girl." He's said he has three. My sister and I both have special men in our lives now, and while Dad has welcomed them, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that he has staked his claim on that particular tune.
A number of years ago, I was presented with what one might describe as a cruel riddle. Here's the question that was presented to me:
"If your husband and your father were both drowning, and you could only rescue one of them, which one would you save?"
"My husband," I answered immediately. "It would never occur to me that my father couldn't save himself. Besides, he probably wouldn't let me help him if I tried."
Contact Holly Leber at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6391. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/hollyleber. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/leber.holly.