Tuesday, November 11, 2008 at 7:31AM
From the kitchen my coffeemaker gurgles, the first sign that my day has officially begun. I hear cars whooshing by in the rain, a sound which takes me all the way back to childhood. Where did we live when I could hear traffic in the rain, and found it to be comforting background music to my simple little days?
Today is Veteran’s Day, but like the tale of my childhood woe, my yearly tribute to my dad (who fought on Normandy Beach) is beginning to sound redundant. This is not to minimize his contribution, or the after effects of his stint in the army, many of which lasted for the rest of his life. The other night I watched Saving Private Ryan again, mainly because there was nothing much else on cable. (Dad had wanted to see this movie–but never got a chance to– because he’d heard it was the most realistic screen version of World War II. He’d heard that veterans would go see the movie and weep openly, so accurate was its portrayal of the grim miseries and realities of war.) I wasn’t aware that Veteran’s Day was right around the corner when I chose the channel. I couldn’t look at some of the more graphic scenes of violence: for the first time I connected them with what my father must have seen and contended with and, somehow, lived through.
I wonder what kind of daughter he thought I’d grow up to be. I wonder if he had dreams for me, and if so what those dreams were constructed of. Being objective enough to see me not as just a woman or mother or nana, but as a daughter as well is not all that easy. In a very real sense I am no longer anyone’s daughter. What an odd thought! I’ve grown so used to no longer receiving birthday cards from my parents that it never hit me like this until now: I’m no one’s daughter.
When I consider the pure misery of my childhood I think I could have turned out much worse than I did. How does the heart keep hoping and believing in better days, against all odds and all evidence that there is not one single soul to act as Protector?
I laughed a lot as a child, a fact which puzzles and pleases me. Never at home though. At home I was solemn, obedient, taking my responsibilities (for they were many) seriously. But once I broke free of that sour environment to play with my friends, I became a little comedienne. Would this have pleased my dad if he could have witnessed me sending my playmates into gales of laughter with my funny quips? I think so. Humor was one of the human qualities Dad most admired in others, and treasured in himself. He possessed a humorous outlook in abundance; I think my ability to soften the stark realities of life for myself and others by using humor would have pleased him immensely.
From an early age I was an avid lover of words, poring over books in that deliciously slow way of children who are utterly focused on something they love. This too must have pleased my dad. As an artist, he was the first to point out to me (during my teen years after we’d reconnected) that writers are artists whose medium is words. I think if only I could have lost myself in my writing, made a career out of it and lived like the writer I was, he would have burst with pride.
Spiritually, I got things right in his eyes. My thirst for spiritual truth burned just as strong as my love for words, and this was something else pleasing to my dad, one more thing we shared in common. Though come to think of it, I was forever choosing men who lacked this spiritual thirst, and I’m not sure why. I recognized this quality in my father and admired it greatly. Why then settle for someone whose vision never rose higher than the earth beneath his feet?
I think Dad might have liked the woman his daughter grew into. I want to think so.
I don’t know what kind of day this will be. I have so many things I’m juggling right now, some of them things I can’t even blog about. But I have hope, and suddenly I see that for all his bumbling ways, hope is the one legacy from my father which has made my continual existence on this planet possible.