Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thoughts on Father's Day

Norah’s Dad Roger
It is my opinion that a father should never to teach their child to drive, but should instead leave the task to a paid instructor.

Thinking about my dad this Father’s Day, I recall the summer months we spent buckled into the front seat of his indigo blue (1970?) Ford Falcon as he gave me driving lessons.  These months stick out to me as some of the best and worst times we’ve spent together. 

The more negative moments included my dad frequently shouting:
“Too Close! You’re WAY too close!” 

He found this phrase appropriate in multiple instances, and used it to reference my proximity to both the parked car as well as oncoming traffic.  He also used it when observing the distance between the boat I was attempting to maneuver and the unsuspecting vehicle that drove in front of us.

Fortunately there were also more positive events during our driving excursions.  One sticky summer day I had aimlessly driven east from my parents’ SE Portland home on Powell Boulevard and eventually into Gresham with my dad in the passenger seat.  We stopped at a strip mall Starbucks for a cold Frappucino and had then gone to see “Memento” at a movie theater so far out in the sticks, I’d never heard its name before.

I also remember happily leaving the DMV, new driver’s license in hand, and driving (alone!) to a celebratory lunch with my dad at Pizzicato.  He was probably as elated as I was that day, if for no other reason than the fact that he’d never have to teach anyone (especially not me) to drive again in his life.

Since dad and I both love to be right, we’ve definitely had some arguments when one challenges the other’s opinion.

The infamous, “I think I know a little bit more about this city than you do,” quote, originating from me daring to question his knowledge of on-ramps to I-5, and the numerous bets we’ve made about the most insignificant things have made for good entertainment and fun (especially in retrospect).

Besides those I've already mentioned, another quote of dad’s that I’ll never forget is:
“And that’s where we have to stop.” 
As I grew up, my dad used to read to me before bedtime.  Picture books in my younger years, and later, chapter books.  On a nightly basis I looked forward to his enthusiastic readings of Charlotte’s Web, The Trumpet of the Swan, and Stuart Little (so we liked E.B. White) to see what would happen next. 

Once my dreaded “bedtime” was upon us, he would tell me, “And that’s where we have to stop,” before putting the bookmark in place and closing the book until the following night.

I begged him so many nights not to say those dreaded words, that he finally stopped.  Instead, he closed his lips and said the words without saying them.  It became a sort of muffled, seven syllable hum, inevitably leading to the same unwelcome outcome.  To make me laugh, he made puppets out of my favorite stuffed animals, perpetually hiding a stuffed pig under the bed and pretending to be dumbfounded when I asked where it was. 

Over the years, dad and I have taken more walks, gone on more lunch dates, and shared more talks in his art studio together than I could ever count.  Not only is he a father, as I’ve grown older he has become a loyal, supportive, trusted, accepting and wonderful friend.

He has created a life and a business centered around what he is most passionate about--his art--and has become a successful and fulfilled person because he’s always followed his dreams.  My dad has always encouraged me to follow mine as well, and been an advocate for me at all times.

From walking me home from the school bus stop, to walking me down the aisle, I will always cherish having dad at my side.  Call me corny, but I will forever be daddy’s little girl.

Ryan’s Dad Mike
Having a son can’t be the easiest thing.  Having a son when you’re a man in your early twenties must be substantially more difficult.  Outgrowing my own early twenties, I now fully realize that.  However, given all the hurdles that surely presented themselves where fatherhood is concerned, my dad has been the greatest dad, and the prefect dad for me. 
I wasn’t always the easiest kid to deal with.  I recall a day when I was young and living with my dad in South Eugene.  Located next to a large hill, our backyard was fenced-in on all sides.  From time to time, deer would wander into our open gate and pick apples from a tree in the yard. 
One day, I saw from inside the house that the backyard gate was open and went out to close it.  After doing so, I turned to head back into the house and noticed that a deer was standing in the (now enclosed) yard.  As any little boy would, I decided to chase it.  In an attempt to escape, the deer ran full speed into our sliding glass door.  Luckily the door stood strong and we did not end up with an injured deer running around our house.  The deer instead quickly made its way through a hole in the fence and away from the situation.
Recently in a water skiing accident, my dad had a purple and black bruise on his leg, stretching from waist to ankle.  Ignoring the pain, he made his way down the long set of stairs to check on me after hearing the commotion.  I don’t think he was too happy about his walk.  Regardless of my protests, I think he still believes that it was really a purposeful attempt on my part to trap a deer in our backyard.
I remember from an early age that my dad has always made an effort to be there for me.  In middle school when I joined the football team, he took a vested interest in what I was doing and became one of the assistant coaches for the team.  Although at the time this was embarrassing and annoying, in retrospect I wouldn’t have it any other way. 
All of my friends knew who Michael Newman was.  He was the funny guy who always entertained with jokes.  It was great that my friends knew my dad and that he knew them.  Some of my friends still refer to him as “Coach Newman”, and they‘re quite at ease having a conversation with him when a run-in occurs at the local grocery store. 
My dad is a guy who cannot walk the fifty yards to grab the mail without stopping to have five conversations.  Most likely due to this characteristic, over the years I have inherited quite an aptitude for talking (no comments Norah…).  Couple that with the millions of jokes I have heard my dad tell over the years and I can’t help but see the similarities between him and myself.  While in a way that’s a scary thought, in all honesty I’m happy for every trait he’s given me.  If I can be half the father to my future children that my father has been to me, I’ll be a very happy man.

Ryan’s Stepdad Tommie
I have been fortunate enough to not only have one great dad, but to have two.  Tommie married my mom when I was in middle school.  After getting his two children (Josh and Wendy) through their teenage years, he now had one more teen to deal with.  Luckily he was a seasoned veteran by that point. 
I have many fond memories of spending time camping with Tommie.  We spent a week every summer at Cottage Grove Lake, fishing, water skiing and inner-tubing from a boat.
At one point, Tommie was elected to take on the task of teaching me to drive (given that he’d done it twice before).  Tommie was a patient and effective driving instructor.  This may have something to do with the fact that he was an actual motorcycle instructor at that time.  The first day Tommie and I began driving lessons is one that will forever be ingrained in my memory. 
We went out to the country in his Toyota pick-up, stick shift of course, and off we went.  It took me some time to get the hang of it but eventually I did.  We ended up driving around virtually every area in Eugene and found ourselves in every possible driving situation.  We drove on logging roads (some of which were covered in snow), highways, city streets, and even returned home in a full on downpour.  No one was “too close”, and we made it to day two of driving lessons with no major problems to report.  Not only was he a great driving instructor, Tommie has been a great father to me.  I will always be thankful for that.
Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads in our lives.  We love you.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful tribute to Dad!
    It is so funny to hear your memories of learning to drive with him. Mine are similar and could certainly begin with the sentence "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times." I still remember, like it was yesterday, Dad getting out of the car on Stark (BUSY STREET) and holding up his hands to show me how much space I had between myself and the parked cars (I tended to vear a bit to close to, you know oncoming traffic, I guess, in fear of hitting parked cars).
    And in the end, we are both excellent drivers and very lucky daughters.