Moms are great at building up dads.
My kids often heard, “Your father used to do 50 push-ups with all three of you balanced on his back” and “Your dad will help you with your math (or science). He’s a genius when it comes to math.”
I loved to say, “Ask your dad to take a look at your throat. After all, he’s your veterinarian.”
Moms are also good at making dads look intimidating. We say, “Your father is going to hear about this,” and “Just wait till your father gets home.”
Transitioning from “dad” to “father” ramps up the terror level.
In our family, the mom’s bark was worse—way worse—than the dad’s bite. The day our kids figured that out was a sad, sad day.
My own father’s best impression of a threatening dad was, well, not exactly scary.
He would put his arm around me and say, “If any boys come calling for you, I’ll meet them at the door with a baseball bat.”
This was the same dad who refused to let Gary drive back to WVU if the teeniest hint of snow was in the forecast. Instead, he made up a bed on the sofa for my then-boyfriend. The next morning, Dad rose early, cooked breakfast, and sat down to eat with Gary before seeing him on his way.
Imagine how frightened Gary must have been.
In his work as a professional in Boy Scouting, Dad never shied away from opportunities to step in as a surrogate father. It wasn’t unusual for extra boys to show up for dinner at our house or for Dad to give them tutorials in chess afterward.
Those who know him say Dad was gentle and kind and loyal. He could diffuse the most explosive situations by speaking in calm tones and lacing his words with humor.
He used the same strategy on the tennis court.
Dad and I shared competitive spirits. Nothing kept us from the court—not even my three pregnancies. Within a week or two of my due dates—during the wobble stage—we continued to play matches.
“I’ll take it easy on you today, “ Dad always said. I can’t be certain, but I think a chuckle often followed that statement.
He quickly took control of the points, running me side to side. Dad dropped balls just over the net, then put up lobs that sent me sprinting—more like staggering—back to the baseline.
After beating me soundly, he patted my back oh so gently and said ever so lovingly, “I’ll take it easy on you next time.”
Ha. Ha. Ha, ha, ha.
My father’s presence exuded complete trust. With him behind the wheel of our car, I surrendered to sleep without a fight. So zonked was I, I never stirred when he carried me from the car to my bed and tucked me in.
I close my eyes and I’m princess under the moonlight—riding on dad’s shoulders from the campfire at Boy Scout camp.
I hear him singing, “Oh, my name is McNamara, I’m the leader of the band…” and “Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra….”
I can still feel the rough of his hand as it embraced mine.
When I lost my dad—wait, no, I didn’t lose him. He died.
After his funeral, I wasted a great deal of time on anger—angry that cancer could dare strike a person who made everyone and everything around him better.
Finally, I realized how selfish I’d been, and my anger gave way to gratitude. You see, I was blessed into adulthood with a giant of a father, a man whose compassion and guidance remains with me daily.
One never loses a love so true and unfailing and powerful. I didn’t lose my dad. I never will.