I was thinking of my father today. Being Father’s Day only made it more poignant. My dad was a wonderful, intelligent, kind and flawed man. His flaws I have learned to see as I have grown older and maybe more judgmental. But I cherish all those flaws, just as I cherish his perfections. It is the flaws that challenge me to be who I am today. A perfect father would make a poor and unsupportable role model. One can not hope to achieve perfection, but with love, flaws can become endearments and points of improvement.
I love my father. I miss him so terribly much. I don’t really look much like him. The mirror brings no remembrance. I yearned to hear his voice, and so when little touches of similarity come out of the mouths of strangers, I am visited by emotions of love and loss. I wish I could see the twinkle of laughter that used to light his eyes, instead I look to spread a bit of cheer to friends. Imagining how much pleasure that would have given him.
Decades have passed since I last held his hand, walked side by side in comfortable silence, or conversed over silly mundane things. I am a sentimental soul. He was not so much. I still have a coat he wore. I stole it from him as a teen, and wore it to art school when I left home. He was there with me, hugging me, held inside the warm, wool herringbone weight of unfashionable attire. I still have that coat. Three decades have left it tattered and worn, but I would never part with it by choice.
There is one thing, one thing that I do, that is a gift from my father. I wear hats. In the late 70’s, no one wore hats like the one I took from his closet. It was a fedora, narrow brimmed, like a “Mad Men” era cliche’. It made me feel different is a way indescribable. I was a child growing into a young adult. I wanted to be my own person. I was full of contradictions. I was setting myself apart from my peers, but I was also, playing a little bit at being my dad. That part felt safe. I wore his hat, I didn’t ask him if I could, but he didn’t mind. I kept the hat and wore it as I grew. I never noticed how it fit until one day…
My dad said with a laugh, “The hat’s too small.”
Yes, with my full head of hair, it barely stayed on. I didn’t care in the least. To me it was perfection.
Eventually, as most children do, I grew up and apart. I also grew to find and wear my own hat. One that fit me better than his. It was still a fedora, wider brimmed, a little larger of course. But, really, when I wear it, I am still wearing my father’s hat. It is as if he were still with me. He shades me, keeps the rain off me, he gives me character in a crowd. He would laugh at me to hear me say such things. He would shake his head, and point out, “You are your own person. I was only privileged to get to know you and be a part of your life.”
He would be right of course, but like the hat that is too small, that idea doesn’t fit. I am who I am because I knew him… I only wish I had known him longer. Then we could have worn hats together…
Happy Father’s Day….. I miss you Dad!
Day 15 of “Face Lines… and Story Lines”
Words and Image by Cicely Robin Laing©2014
Read Full Post »