I had a complicated relationship with my father. One of my earliest memories of him was when I was no more than four years old. I knocked on the door to his “in home” office and waited for permission to enter, just as I’d been taught. Upon being told I could come in, I went over to his desk where he was seated and asked, “Why don’t you ever call me into your office?” He smiled at me and replied, “Because you never do anything wrong… yet…”
It was the early 60′s. Having children was not viewed with the same kind of thoughtful consideration it is given, by many, today. Mothers were expected to stay home, while fathers were expected to go to work. In-home offices were considered unusual. Personal computers did not exist. My father made notes and calculations on hundreds of pieces of paper. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties before I could reliably decipher his illegible scrawl. During my teens I fought with him daily. I was more in touch with my animosity toward him than love. During my twenties, his glaring deficits outweighed his assets. It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I was able to begin to forgive him. My last memory of my father, aside from his actual death, was when I went to visit my parents after a grueling and unexpectedly, emotionally, draining trek in Nepal.
I can still remember the sound of the gravel under the wheels of the car as it drove down the slight incline of their driveway. I can still picture my father seated in his wheelchair waiting for me, under the fig tree to the left of the front door. I can still remember the feelings of emotion – relief, love, exhaustion and gratitude – that I felt upon seeing him there waiting. I ran to him, crouched down so I was eye-level and threw my arms around his neck. I remember the words I whispered into his ear as tears streamed down my face, ”I am so happy to see you. I love you so much,” I said. And then I kissed his wrinkled, tanned cheek and didn’t let go. ”I am so grateful you are here,” I said between sobs.
I remember the look on his face, the emotion expressed in those blue, blue eyes of his. He smiled at me with so much adoration and love and said to my mother, with a slight grin, “I think we should send her off to Nepal every year.” And then he placed his hand on my head and stroked my hair as I wept.
That is my favorite memory of my father. Not six months later he was dead. I am as grateful for that memory today, as I was seeing him that day, now so long ago.