Sunday, April 10, 2005

Thanks, Dad

Like everyone else, I think my Dad is the best dad in the whole wide world. He's always been there for me, even when he was across the country or even in another country. He celebrated 90 years of living this past January and he is just now beginning to show his age. He and my mother were both in the Navy and I was born and grew up in a small town in southern California called Coronado. It was perhaps the most wonderful place to grow up...right on the beach across the bay from San Diego. Coronado, an island in almost every way, was a small town (approx 18,000 back then) and had that wonderful 'small town' feel to it. At its widest point, it was one mile across. We walked or rode bikes everywhere. The ferry boats would transport you across the bay to San Diego and if you stood at the bow of the ferry, you could see the dolphins playfully swimming along with the boat. It was cheap fun at 10 cents for a round trip!

I grew up privileged. Not in a monetary way, but I had opportunities to do things most people probably never have the chance to do. My dad would take us grunion hunting. What's a grunion, you say?? A grunion is a small, silvery fish and at certain times every year, during a full moon, thousands of them ride the waves in onto the beach, flop around in the sand laying their eggs and are then swept out with the next wave. The kicker is that you can only catch them with your hands. NO NETS. And it's usually midnight when they begin their beach assault. We would all stand there, sometimes hundreds of us, looking left and right, watching for the telltale sparkling on the wet sand, signaling us that they (hundreds of the little fellas) were there and then run like crazy trying to reach that group before the next wave came in and whisked them away! Of course, they never ever came ashore where you were standing. Murphy's Law. I couldn't tell you if my mom really ever enjoyed cooking those grunion for us.

My dad was a fireman and every year, on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus would ride on the big red firetruck down the main street, Orange Avenue, ending up at the huge decorated Christmas tree. Since the event was sponsored by the fire department, some of the firemen's kids got to ride with Santa on the truck. When I was 5, my brother and I got to ride on that fire truck. I can remember thinking that I was the most special 5 year old in the world. I remember that feeling, several decades later!

When I was 11, my parents returned from a vacation in Mexico City and announced we were pulling up stakes and moving south. Talk about an adventure! Living in a foreign country is the best thing anyone can do. It gives you a whole different perspective on how good we have things in our own country and a greater respect for other cultures. I will be forever grateful for my father and mother's leap of faith in pulling up roots and embarking on that adventure.

A couple of Father's Days ago, I was in a quandry as to what to get for my dad. He has everything. I had given him pictures of his grandkids and me, cool shirts, Old Spice. As I sat thinking, it occurred to me that maybe I hadn't thanked him for some things he had given me or done for me that back then, I so dearly appreciated. So, I sat down at my computer and began to write my dad a letter, thanking him for everything I could think of that he had done for me in my life. Things like making me and my brother stilts and how much fun it was walking 6 feet tall all over my block. For getting the bubblegum out of my little wool skirt that mysteriously got out of my mouth, into my hands and on to my skirt as I waited my turn at "Show and Tell" when I was in kindergarten. I thanked him for deciding my older brother would not be an only child. I thanked him for working so hard when I was a kid so that we could have everything we needed and half of everything we wanted. I thanked him for pushing me to learn to play golf when I was young. I thanked him for his love and support during my divorce. And most of all, I thanked him for falling in love with my mom.

There are 2 messages to this story. First, do things with your kids (or grandkids) that will give them the opportunity to someday document in a blog. Second, when in doubt as to what to get a parent for their birthday or Mother's or Father's Day, simply thank them. As my father read that 2 page letter, several times he had to wipe away tears. The things I was thanking him for were things he hadn't thought about in years and watching him as he remembered them was better than any gift I could have bought for him. I remember, as a child, asking my mom what she wanted for her birthday or other holiday and her response was always the same... "I just want your love." She was right.

Sometimes love comes in the form of a bunch of words on a piece of paper.


Jeff said...

Very, very nice. Just as you consider yourself lucky to have a dad like him, I'm sure he feels very blessed to have a daughter like you.

Chaunci said...

You're a great writer Debi. I don't think we ever talked abot our dads being in the Navy. I went to Kindergarten and part of 1st grade in Coronado. We lived at 848 J Street and I just visited my old house last month.