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.
We’ll play “My Girl” at our weddings, whenever they may happen, and that dance will belong to Dad. The grandchildren will come eventually — I think he’s more eager for those than he’ll admit — and there’s already room waiting for them, in the Hamptons.
In 2010, my parents moved back to the East End, this time settling in a big house in Bridgehampton. Several of the tiny Dune Road condos could fit in there, much larger than my empty-nester parents need right now. But Dad thinks ahead. Mom, too. It’s a house in which to grow a family, a new generation, now that my sister and I are grown.
My sister and I are grown. I think that’s hard on my father sometimes, accepting that his daughters are adults. I try to be sympathetic. Sometimes. Other times, I just wish he’d get over it. But he can be stubborn. So can I. God only knows where I get it.
A number of years ago, I was presented with what one might describe as a cruel riddle. It went like this:
“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.”
*Portions of this work were previously published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, and are reproduced with permission of the editor.
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