Children and grandchildren have helped me understand my worth. Not much beats watching your kids and grand kids become happy and prosperous.
They Grow Up Fast
Thank goodness for memories. Fatherhood provides a huge basketful of them, especially when you have daughters. My girls' expressions on those rare occasions when I behaved, to them, in a zany way, will remain with me like beautifully twirled chocolates. They rush in; I can remember the time, the season, the sounds - all the particulars of a precious moment with the girls.
What's He Doing?
One evening, about 10 years ago, we all piled into the car to go shopping at Wal-Mart. Christmas was not far off and the girls were anxious to look at clothes. My wife was in a good mood, too. She was ready to scout the place out for potential gift items. It was one of those times when everything seemed perfect.
As we walked through the automatic store doors, an elderly woman greeter headed straight toward us with a smile on her face and was pushing and offering a shopping cart. I thanked the woman and took my basket. I thought to myself, " With three ladies in tow, they probably know I am going to buy."
So I walked ahead with my cart but something seemed wrong. You know that feeling you have when there isn't enough noise for the family to be with you? Well, I had that feeling. So I looked back, and that is when I realized I was in trouble. My daughters (then 12 and 18) were standing at the entrance with their hands over their faces. My wife was shaking her head with a bit of a frown, and the poor greeter. She looked at me with an expression of utter disbelief. I could tell she didn't know what to do. It was as if a squirrel had raced in the store and stolen her earing. Then it hit me - the greeter wasn't a greeter at all, and I had stolen that woman's basket.
I pushed the cart back and offered my apologies, but the damage was done.
The kindly-looking lady said, "I have never had that happen before."
One daughter said, "I don't believe you did that."
The youngest daughter said, "DAD!"
Then I decided to brush it off and act as if nothing had happened. This is a good strategy for you dads out there. The girls hated it when stuff happened. They had an embarrassment button that I seemed to be able to push so easily.
Walking about 50 feet into the store, my wife and the girls started to laugh uproariously. And, I could tell from their red faces that I had been forgiven. How I will remember those red faces (and the smell of popcorn)!
Lest you think that this kind of thing happened often, it didn't. I am sure it happened far more often than my daughters liked. It seemed as if the girls faces would become totally animated. There was no missing what they were feeling by their facial signature. I don't have any sons, so perhaps boys react to things the same way or differently. I don't know.
All of which now brings another moment to mind.
Dad's A Nerd
I had planned a short vacation to Hawaii for the family. We arrived at the Tucson International Airport for our flight to Los Angeles, and then on to Honolulu. The girls again were very excited. And why not? How often do people get the chance to go to an island paradise? All they talked about was going to the beach.
Finally we were on board our flight to Hawaii. The plane was enormous. It was a Boeing 747 and with all the seats it seemed like a movie theater. Listening to the sound of jet engines in the cabin, looking out the window at LAX, I thought of how lucky I was to be able to travel with my family. And that engine sound made me a little sleepy.
When we were out over the ocean, the pilot came over the intercom and announced that given the flight would be a long one, he had created a contest for all who wanted to participate. I think he was a father of daughters also. The contest, he said, would make the flight more interesting.
Here was the deal. The pilot gave our average cruising speed, our tailwind, our current distance from Honolulu, the time at our current distance from the islands, etc, etc. He challenged the cabin to calculate the exact time we would land in Honolulu.
I thought this sounded like fun, so I encouraged the girls to try to figure it out. They just rolled their eyes. Yes, the eye roll. All dads know what that means. Get with it, Dad. We're on vacation. So I had my wife rummage through her purse for a pen. Heaven forbid I should ask the stewardess for one!
After a few minutes of calculation I handed my answer to a stewardess who was walking up and down the aisles collecting answers. It was fun; it got me piqued a bit. But it wasn't long until the sound of those jet engines had me sleeping.
I don't know how much time passed, but at one point my oldest daughter started pushing me on the shoulder rather violently.
"You're snoring, Dad!"
I had done it again. I knew there must have been other dads snoring on the plane, but the only one that could be heard was me. The girls were looking at each other and giggling. It was a half-embarrassed giggle, not the sound of horror. I was OK.
Then the pilot came over the loudspeaker to announce the winners of the contest. Six people had gotten the correct answer, and he was reading off the names. The girls were talking and genuinely enjoying each others company. That is something siblings can have a hard time with. The last name he read was mine, and I had gotten closest, within a minute, of the correct time. The girls turned and looked at me in - oh, my - disbelief again. They were whispering to each other, "He won, he won!" I had only taught math for half my life, but you would have thought I had broken the world record for the high jump. They were bouncing up and down in their seats ever so gently and whispering over and over again. You could tell they were surprised and happy, but they didn't know if they should say anything to me. That was the look I remember.
Then the stewardess started walking down the isle to find the people who were the big winners. Each person was given a bottle of champagne.
When the stewardess got to me, she bent over slightly and said, "Don't open the bottle on the plane." I think she must have had daughters too. It was a good thing she told me.
There are many of these vignettes I have stored away. They pop out to give me so much fun. Those who have not experienced fatherhood are missing out.
And now I have a granddaughter! She is nine months old and full of curiosity. She can pull herself up to stand at a couch or table. Any day now she will be walking. When she hears the music on Sesame Street, she rocks back and forth dancing to the tunes.
I am proud of my girls. My wife was a great model for them. She really deserves the lion's share of credit. I know my granddaughter will learn a lot from her mother, my eldest daughter, but I still would like to teach her a few things. I want, for instance, to teach her how to fish. That will be fantastic.
And so another adventure is in my future. Grandfather will have a boat load of new memories to bring back whenever he wants - and, of course, the unforgettable looks on my grand daughter's face!
© 2010 John R Wilsdon