Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dad on My Mind

It's not very often that I write what might be considered a "timely" post, but this one just came to me naturally, after reading about Polly's father over at Polly-Vous Français...

There is no specific anecdote that comes to mind, but my memories of my father growing up are all of a smiling man who was almost always in a good mood, and loved to share a bowl of popcorn with me while we watched one of our favorite TV programs together, even in my twenties when that program was more than likely Seinfeld or Law & Order. My father and I have the sort of unspoken bond that is simply impossible to describe or explain; it's just there. I understand it, and I feel it, but I can never really put it into words. He can make me laugh with a certain expression on his face, or simply by looking at me and smirking in that funny way of his... I can pull up snippets of our time together in my mind, freeze-frame them and just remember the laughter, the warmth, and the security he has always brought me when we're together. There's just something reassuring about my father's presence that I definitely miss like a hole in my heart so often here in France. And I've often said that my dad gives the absolute best hugs in the world, and they're truly one of the things I look forward to the MOST when I go back home to the U.S. for a visit.

My boyfriend often comments on the fact that I've adapted fairly well to my life in France, and more specifically to the distance between my family and me. As much as he loves the U.S. himself, and American culture, he points out that he couldn't imagine putting so much distance between himself and his immediate family... They're very close, and speak by phone pretty much daily, even more so since his mother passed away two years ago. Obviously I miss my family and friends back home, but I guess somehow I've seen this distance as a force that has helped me to grow and evolve as a woman, to become stronger and more independent more than anything else. And obviously now that I'm going to be bringing my own first child into the world, I think more and more about this distance and it worries me much more now than it ever did before. I do wish my family was around the corner or at least a short enough distance away so that they could be here in a heartbeat if I needed them. But, of course, I made the choice to live here, to put down my roots in France, several years ago, and moving back to the U.S. is not really something I have in mind, nor a real option, for the immediate future. Besides, for the most part, in spite of the everyday challenges (and growing cost!) of living in France, I really do love it here, and it has become my home in more ways than one. Even if I AM constantly learning something new, in both the language and cultural departments! But I have faith that we'll somehow figure out a way to make it all work out...

But, ahem, as usual, I've gotten sidetracked...

From as far back as I can remember, my father has been the guiding force in my family life, even if he was the least vocal presence, or just a calm, quiet form of reassurance. I inherited the gift of gab from my mother, but sometimes I wish I could be as strong, reserved and solid as my father, in his quiet, unique way. How else can I describe him? Again, bits and pieces come to mind more than anything else: his voracious appetite, often taking seconds and thirds at the dinner table and complimenting my mother on her cooking skills (but somehow never putting on any extra weight around the middle!); his love of pepper on pretty much anything and everything, a culinary preference that somehow I DID manage to inherit and find myself applying to more and more of my favorite dishes; his work ethic, putting in long days at work and then coming home to fall asleep in front of the evening news, the evening paper spread out on his lap, and a light snore growing into what my mom jokingly would refer to as a saw; and his favorite weekend pastimes of washing and waxing his car, which over the years evolved from a Chevy Nova to a Jeep Cherokee and more recently a Ford Explorer, as my parents adopted the American attachment to 4X4s, an apparent "necessity" on certain parts of the East Coast in the winter, and in the summertime, mowing the lawn, now even more of a hobby since he acquired a riding mower that allows him to mow the larger amount of land around their small rancher house.

These days I imagine my father indulging in his favorite hobbies, namely watching baseball in the summer months and football in the winter (although I think baseball will always remain his ultimate favorite), and spending hours paging through coin collecting books in order to find that one elusive hidden treasure to add to his own burgeoning collection, a passion he has had since his own childhood. My father never used to talk very much about this pastime, but more recently he has shared some of his special "finds" and the playfulness and mischief in his eyes when he recounts a coin-collecting tale always make me smile... Particularly when I know he has finally been able to indulge this interest even more in recent years, now that us kids are all grown up and have flown the coop.

My parents also adopted a little beagle a few years ago, Ginger (that's her posing so endearingly in the photo above!) and she has become a major part of their lives as well -- more the princess of the castle, shall we say... When my dad makes his famous sandwiches in the kitchen, she comes running, hoping for a snippet of something from the table. When I was home for a visit a few years back she came bounding out on the back porch and literally stole my sandwich right out of my hands before I could even stop her! As infuriating as she can be at times, and as much as my parents (particularly my mother) seem to indulge her, I know she has brought a lot of happiness to their lives, so I could certainly never begrudge them that... And if anything, when I come home now her presence is a good excuse to get my dad and I out walking together around the neighborhood, lost in our thoughts and exchanging a few thoughts and memories as we explore the area and he tells me about their local haunts.

I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to share the origin behind my "pseudonym", so to speak, here at my blog -- Ace is a nickname my father gave me when I was a little girl, albeit not one that he used particularly often. But he would occasionally pull it out in a moment of congratulations or encouragement, when he most wanted to let me know how much he believed in me... So a few years back, when I was setting up a new e-mail address, the words "Always Ace" just made sense, as it's a nickname that will always remain engraved in my mind as a mental and emotional reminder of my father's presence in my life, no matter where I may be living. I don't think anyone has ever put as much confidence in my capabilities as my father, and I can find no words to adequately express my gratitude for his presence in my life, for his smile and laughter in the toughest of moments, for his steadfast unconditional love. I know that no matter what happens, he wouldn't hesitate to get on a plane and be here in a flash, and I can't wait until he and my mom do exactly that after my Little Bean arrives later this summer...

Thank you, Dad, for just being you.

6 comments:

joy suzanne said...

Oh, Alice, you've made me well up. It sounds like a beautiful and supportive relationship that you have with your Dad.

PutYourFlareOn said...

All you have to do is have your dad read this entry and he'll understand how you feel but dads usually just know these things. Like you said, that connection is just *there*. I think it's completely normal that you are thinking about your dad, you are about to become a parent yourself here very soon. I remember before Max was born I thought a lot about my mom and dad.

The distance is hard, isn't it? I don't know how we do it sometimes but we do. Hope you are doing well! you're on Mat leave now right? Enjoy yourself. Put those feet up and relax.

lapagefrancaise said...

Wonderful post about your dad. I completely understand how you feel about being torn between loving living in your adopted country and wishing your family was closer. I have the EXACT same feelings as you. I love living in France and it would be horrible to leave, but at the same time, I miss little things like being able to meet my dad for brunch on a Sunday or going for a walk on the beach with my mom, or just hanging out at home with family in the backyard. It's funny, whenever my dad and I go to brunch, we always get a newspaper and just silently read the paper and pass each other the different sections when we are finished, and I never thought a thing about it before, but now it is just something I miss so much, this comfortable unspoken gesture. Like what you were saying about sharing a bowl of popcorn while watching TV with your dad. I really know what you mean.

But it seems that despite the distance, your relationship is still strong, and the knowledge that he would jump on a plane immediately if you needed him must do a lot to ease the burden of the distance.

I can also imagine that starting your family would make you wish that your parents were closer, but that's just wonderful that they will be coming to visit after little bean arrives.

Such a cute beagle!

lapagefrancaise said...

P.S. My dad puts pepper on absolutely everything too. When I was a kid, I used to joke that he would someday put start putting pepper in his coffee

Amy H said...

You are SO SO lucky to have a dad like that, Alice. Sounds like you cherish him, and rightfully so!

screamish said...

Hi nice entry!

How are you? when are you going to post more news?? it's been ages! Hope its going well...must be close to time??