Archive | February, 2016

My First Valentine

14 Feb

My First Valentine

Dad_Kate_van
{ Asleep on my father’s shoulder. Summer camping. What you cannot see is that I am dangling off of his seat with  my feet barely touching me seat below. }

My father. My dad has always loved me unconditionally…and never stops, no matter. When others do not, he does.

He has told me to slow down, take one step at a time and would say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” when I was in frantic rush to finish an art mural overnight or write an English Lit essay. And it worked.

My Dad showed up to every single soccer game. Everyone one. He even became the coach of my midget team when the real coach didn’t show up one time. “Hold Your Horses!” he’d yell to a team of screaming girls, “Put me on Coach! Put me in net! Put me on Wing!”

He rose early, got ready for work and made us hot porridge – Red River cereal rolled oats AND quick oats. Molasses and brown sugar every morning. Every. All 12 years of school. That’s approximately 2660 bowl of porridge. I didn’t really like it, but I ate. It “puts meat on our bones and keeps us warm all day.” he’d say.

He was home for supper mostly every night. My mom would warn my twin and I when she could see his car coming down the road or we tucked our foreheads as tight as we could at the are end of the bay window in order to see it at the earliest point it would come into our sight. My twin and I would go and duck behind the kitchen counter and wait in giggles. When my Dad walked through the kitchen door we’d jump up, run towards him in unicorn screaming, “Yabba Dabba Do!” He’d catch us in his arms – one of us eventually falling over the years as we grew and then he would swing us though his legs. He always acted surprised to see us!

My dad designed and built a beautiful home fit for a King, Queen, Princess and princes. He had never built a house before and just decided to go for it!  He instilled this conviction in us in our lives too. Complete with a pool and a horse. Okay the pool was a swamp one year, and we couldn’t ride the horse, but she was a beaut! My first prince charming tried. He was bucked off. He’s survived. It was at a family reunion.

One time in high school I wanted to go to the Richmond Dance in the next town. It was at least a 40 minute drive from where we lived. My father drove me and dropped me off. He told me he would come back to pick me up at 11pm. When I came out of the dance I couldn’t see him any where. Then I noticed the van across the street parked at the gas station. I went across the street. He’d never left. Slept there for the few hours the dance was for and waiting for me.

My father is a calm man with unsuspecting wisdom in his noggin. There are not many things he’s insistent on. Here are some. He insisted we all learn how to drive a standard car. I couldn’t stand it at the time, but I’m forever thankful now and prefer to drive a stick shift. Men are impressed as well. When I got into Ottawa University, Carleton and Queen’s it was down to the wire and a decision had not been made. With the deadline being the next day, he calmly announced, “She’s going to Queens.” When I was checking the residence box choices my mother was supportive of my enthusiasm with choosing Vic Hall – the Co-ed residence. He was not.

“Addy Hall. She’ll be putting down Addy Hall.”
Dad_Kate_UniversityThere are some things I won’t share on here – to personal – but the depth in their mystery should tell you. My father has driven the distance to help the ones he loves.

What really took me by surprise happened 25 years after my father’s gesture actually took place. It was a year or so after my Mom died. We were all sad – grieving the light in the family gone. I the worst for good reason. Things never to be the same. We were sitting { First day of University. Getting dropped off. I didn’t even want my parents there. I had left straight from the camp I had worked at to arrive. My attitude- woot – woot – I am out of here! Two summers on my own and I am ready. My parents new better and arrived. The tears came – fear of leaving your entire existence for the last 19 years. My father is consoling me here and telling me everything is going to be ok. My roommate also had Bon Jovi posters and ugly crocheted granny blankets. I wasn’t a Bon Jovi fan and opted for the more trendy forest green florals that were in. }

in a German eatery in Ottawa valley cottage country. I can’t remember now how we got this part, but I was saying, you know Dad, you remember that life size dollhouse you gave me when I was 6? That was so cool. I woke up on Christmas morning and we were always held back until we entered the room together as “Santa” did not wrap all our presents, but had them carefully laid out in piles. When I entered the room, there in the middle was an absolutely gigantic life-size pretend house for me! It was made of wood and had a door I could walk through and a cute paned window with red chequered curtains and a frill across the top. I was floored. So excited, so happy to have my own life-size “fort” to play in. I asked him what store he bought it at and how he hid it from me without me seeing with the sheer size of it.

“I made it.”

“What do you mean?”

“I made it.”

“You did? You mean you put the pieces together?”

“No – I designed and made it from scratch.”

“Noooo! Really? Dad, I had no idea. All these years, I either forgot or never knew. But how did you keep it hidden from me? (I was a pretty good sneaking around looking for hidden Christmas gifts).

“I made it that night.”

Tears started to stream down my face. I looked at him in shock.

“You mean, not only did you come up with a design for it, but also you bought all the supplies, and you put it together that night? Where?”

“In the basement.”

“God, Dad. That’s amazing. I had no idea. How long did it take?”

“Ohhh – well, probably the whole night.”

I reached over the small table and gave my Dad the biggest hug and cried.

“Aww Dad, I had no idea. That is so amazing. You rock Dad. You rock.”
Kate_dollhouse_dad.
{ The dollhouse my father designed and built from scratch. Christmas circa 1981 }

When my mom passed and I had some several strong reactions that I couldn’t explain. I sought a grief therapist. And in that therapy I have discovered so many things that most people don’t even skim on that makes them think the way they think, do the things they do. I had an extremely traumatic birth and my mom mother never let me forget – miracle baby she called me. “Katie, you were so small – 3 months premature – you almost died Katie,” she would say. My parent’s didn’t name me in the beginning – in case I didn’t make it. This might make the pain of losing me easier she told me. I had 3 nicknames – Twin B, Bird Legs and Sweet Lady.

For some reason I have always loved the sound my father’s boots would make when he’d come home and walk across the kitchen floor. My father wore full suits work and dressed up full leather cowboy boots. He has always been most comfortable in them. One of the many many things I discovered was that no matter what strength or confidence I project, there was always an underlying chord of fear of death – fear of everything running through me. I have never let this stop me. In fact, it pushes me to do the things I fear. The sound of my father’s boots entering the house made me feel safe now that he was home. What I didn’t know and I’ll never know for sure until my life-review comes at my death. You know where you see you life flash before your eyes.( I already know this happens as I experienced it in the Queen’s car accident). Is that apparently, leaving a newborn baby in an incubator with no human contact at all, and a constant bombardment of tape, needles, straps, breathing machines, doctors, nurses, bright lights, noises and a seperation from your c0-womb cohabitor doesn’t make a 1.5 pound preemie want to really stick around. Would you? Runts of puppy litter usually die from lack of attention as they are to tiny  to fight siblings for nurturing attention and food. My mom tried of course she did. The medical reports I mailed away for speak of doctors notes indicating her daily calls. My mom had to have a surgery immediately following our birth and then home to rest. We lived a 1/2 hour from the hospital and so she didn’t come every day.

And only in my therapy could I really only grasp how awful this must have been for me. And a better way for you the reader to grasp this concept is if anyone has had a baby. You are attached at the breast or the hip following births for hours, days, weeks, months. When your baby cries 3 minutes they are picked up and calmed or soothed. Imagine crying for minutes, days, weeks, months and not only your mother not coming to pick you up, but because of the risk of infection, not even being physically touched with a soothing hand. And the only hands coming in, our giving you needles. Even though they were trying to save my life, the nature of what they were doing was in a way torture to anyone, let alone a 1.5 pound infant that doesn’t know where her mother is or her twin. What came to me through different techniques with my therapist is at one point I may have decided to check out. Wouldn’t you? But what I saw in this flashback was me not being able to stand being so alone anymore and leaving my little body, hovering over it in the little incubator –  I heard the sound of my father’s cowboy boots walking down the hospital hallway. I recognize the sounds of those boots. That’s my father.

My father came every day to see me. You see, as luck would have it, in the nation’s capital and all the possible government buildings locations, the east, the west, Hull etc., my father happened to be working in the only government building that was situated directly across from the Civic hospital – yes in the experimental farms. My father was working for Agriculture Canada at the time – directly across the road from the Ottawa Civic. What are the chances of that? He was at work every day and could come over on his lunch hour to see me. I chose to come back.

And I know that  I’m sure I don’t know half the things my father did for me – for the three kids. The hours he worked, the things he made, the family meetings, the planning, the worrying, the late nights, the shopping, the researching – his make-shift MacGyver fixings of socks, shoes, toys, books, science projects, campers, tents, sleeping bags, cleats. I have no idea and I’ll never know. All I know is it was enough. It is enough that my father is who he is without doing all these things – a gentle, loving, compassionate father who’s unsuspecting wisdom surprised me at the times I would need it the most. When our family was in a group setting or helping others and maybe as a child I didn’t want to be there or if someone says something to me without really understanding me and he knows this he had this way of finding my face across a crowd and giving me a quick wink acknowledging that he see me – he gets it.
Dad_Kate_LivingRm{ The only “official” family portrait we ever had taken }

When I got the best friend award in Grade five for being a good friend to the most people in the school and lending a helping hand – I had no idea.  I was 11 years old. When my name was announced, I got up in shock and walked to the front of the entire school gymnasium. I was A sixth sense told me to look back. I did and there standing with smiles beaming at the back  were my mom and Dad. My Dad should have been downtown at work. What floored me about this is that I was so surprised to see both my parents there in the middle of the day, but even more so because my father was wearing his absolute very best dark chocolate double breasted brass buckled suit that he only ever-ever  wore for the most important of meetings. He wore that for me? I was so happy.
Fathers, treat your children – your daughters right. Hopefully, you will have less to worry about the company they keep and the Valentines they will grow up to have in their future because of how you treated them. Everybody deserves the very best. Be a father you deserved as a child. Respect, unconditional love and a number one team coach/cheerleader should do the trick! A nightly story and a good-tuck in with their little feet under the covers goes a long way too.
Happy Valentines Day Everyone!
Love,
Sweet Lady who decided to stay
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