I talked to experts about the impact and influence fathers can have on their children. The answer, they all told me, was huge. But I already knew that.
I had 30 years with my own dad to realize that and have watched my husband’s relationship with my son for almost two years.
Today is bittersweet. Most of it will be spent celebrating how wonderful of a dad my husband is to Miles. But the day couldn’t pass, like every day, without reflecting on my own father, Jeff Brown, who passed away of cancer in 2011 at just 56 years old, a few days after my 30th birthday.
I can’t recall a major decision — and many not so many major ones — that didn’t involve a call to my dad and mom for feedback. Although his career path wasn’t writing, my dad was a published poet and author with several pieces on parenting and addictions published in national magazines. I would often call and run story ledes or ideas for articles by him or send him something for a quick edit.
Then there were the little or silly things: shoes. We both loved them. I once had a room dedicated to them. Dad could have had a wing for his collection. He was a man of great — well, let’s just say eclectic — taste when it came to fashion.
Some of my earliest and fondest memories of “Abbey and dad moments” are when he would “dance me” resting gently atop one of those shiny pairs of shoes. We’d rock back and forth, my head barely grazing his knees. Dad would pick me up and swing me around, dancing as he sang “My Girl” to me while I sang, “My Dad,” back to him.
Flash forward more than two decades, and once again I’m stepping on dad’s toes. This time it is just my inherited clumsy manner, not our dance technique. But as my nerves settled during our father/daughter dance at my wedding — just a few weeks after I’d learned of his cancer diagnosis — tears welled up in my eyes as all I wanted to do was say, “Daddy, can I hop on those shoes and have you dance me?” Instead I snuggled into his shoulder and let the tears fall.
It didn’t take dad getting sick for us to express our emotions. My sister Sarah and I were raised by two social workers, what else could you expect? I’m grateful we didn’t leave anything unsaid.
Certainly I wish Dad was still here so I could tell him, “I love you,” a million more times. I wish he were here to help Michael and I raise our children. I wish I could ask him what kind of noodles to cook for dinner. I wish I could ask him if I should go with a Toyota or Honda. Still, I know in my heart that everything that needed to be said has been.
Without a doubt I knew my Daddy loved me. I also know he understood what he meant to me.
The silly memories, the images frozen in time, show his impact. Dad wearing a pink tutu on his head for the first meeting of a boyfriend; always allowing my sister and me to paint his toenails (and toes) in a sparkled pink; protective talks about no dating until graduating from medical school; (neither of us wanted to be doctors. He said that was part of the plan) and talks about my son’s — his first grandchild — impending arrival.
I know dad was over the moon about becoming a grandpa. Telling him I was pregnant was one of the best moments for me. Months before, my dad said his biggest wish was to teach his grandkids how to write a Haiku and throw a curveball. That was so dad. And even though he never met Miles or my sister’s now 4-month-old son, Charlie, I know Dad has been watching over us.
His lessons will be handed down.