Have I said “thank you” enough times in the last 35 years? Maybe for the obvious stuff…birthday gifts, famiy dinners, free babysitting…but I don’t remember thanking you for these 10 things that ended up being really important: thank my dad
#1 – Thank you for making us drive everywhere on vacations. One of life’s earliest lessons in delayed gratification: sometimes you get carsick, hit by a drunk driver, and lost on the Las Vegas Strip before reaching Disneyland. I’m speaking both literally and metaphorically, here. Ask anyone for their best vacation anecdotes, and very few will launch into a charming tale about what happened on their 3-hour flight. Ask me for mine, and I will tell you about the time we spent Christmas Eve in a St. Louis snowstorm, and the hotel door man wouldn’t let us in because he thought we were homeless. Or the afore-mentioned Disneyland trip which took an unprecedented three weeks to complete but allowed us to visit Hearst Castle, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Grand Canyon. If we had flown to our destinations, I would possess only a fraction of my favorite travel memories.
#2 – Thank you for making me dig my retainer out of the trash. It prepared me to rummage through more disgusting stuff for more valuable things after I became a mom. Like the time I emptied out the contents of my Dyson and sifted through particulates searching for a human tooth. It was the very first tooth your granddaughter cut, and, coincidentally, the very first one she lost. I spent a fortune on that thing in sleepless nights of teething and proper dental hygiene, so I didn’t even think twice about diving in to save it…all so I could buy it back as the Tooth Fairy.
#3 – Thank you for teaching me to ride a bike without training wheels. I distinctly remember the joy I felt – wind in my hair, streamers flapping wildly – as I watched the houses on our street whiz by in a blur. What I didn’t notice was your hand steadying the bicycle as you ran behind me. Is that what parenting will be like for the rest of my life? Exhausting myself as I show my kids how to fly without me while mourning the fact that I’m working myself out of a job? When I start to feel unneeded, I remember how I felt on my bike…and that you were always there just in case.
#4 – Thank you for teaching me the difference between “good” music and “bad” music – and that it’s OK enjoy them both. Thank you for a childhood soundtrack that included everything from James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt to the Brandenburgh Concertos and Little Feat. Thanks for introducing me to the Beach Boys and Beatles before NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys came along. Also related: thanks for making us listen to NPR’s Car Talk, Fresh Air, and All Things Considered – they paved the way for me to love Snap Judgement, This American Life, and Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!
#5- Thank you for voting for Ross Perot. Is it OK to call you out like that on the internet 24 years later? It was the first time I realized that there is very rarely only ONE choice (or even two!) when you find yourself in a tough situation – and that following your conscience is more important than what other people think of your decisions. I know I’m far more conservative that you would prefer, but I have been a registered Independent since my 18th birthday, and I promise I will never be a a Republican!
#6 – Thank you for teaching me how to drive a manual transmission & how to change a flat tire. You were right! There have been occasions when the only vehicle available was a stick shift, and I was the only one who knew how to drive it. Although I’ve never faced a flat tire on my own, let’s be honest: if I had, I would have just called you, anyway. But that’s not the point. I could if I had to…which is pretty much Motherhood summed up in 5 words.
#7 – Thank you for making us read Dave Barry and Mark Twain out loud during dinner instead of watching TV. I learned very early how side-splittingly hilarious the written word can be, and I attribute my love of all things Twain, Wilde, Sorkin, and Sedaris to the times you would read to us (or make us read) at the table or after dinner.
#8 – Thank you for having your own hobbies. I didn’t understand at the time, not that it bothered me, why you spent your spare time working on cars (for fun? really?) or playing drums in a country band on weekends. But I get it now. It’s nice to take a few hours once in a while and just be the person you were for the first quarter-century of your life – before you were responsible for ALL the money and ALL the kids ALL the time. It makes you a better parent.
#9 – Thank you for laughing at inappropriate times. Sometimes it’s the only way to get through the grief. Or the pain. Or the anger. I doubt grandma will ever forgive us for giggling uncontrollably through her mother’s funeral, but it’s one of my all-time favorite memories of you. My first instinct in awkward situations is always laughter – which is extremely inconvenient…but I guess it could be worse.
#10 – Thank you for being my biggest, loudest, most loyal cheerleader. Even now. You’ve always encouraged me – whether it was academics, performing, or my work – so much that I often wondered if I would disappoint you by choosing to be “just a mom”…which was silly. You still tell me all the time that I’m a good mom. THE BEST MOM! Even when I confess my latest failures and frustrations – you still reply with “Yeah, that sucks” or “Yup, that happens sometimes!” and follow it up with “You’re such a good mom.” There were times that I only believed in myself by virtue of your belief in me.
So I took a deep breath, dusted myself off, and tried again – because I knew you wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.