For My Father

Today is my dad’s birthday.

Camille Baby and Dad

There’s my dad and me—well, they say that’s me, but I don’t recognise me.  It could be my sister.  Sweet shoes, though, Dad.  I wish you still had those so I could swipe them.

I have 2/3 of his gift purchased, 1/3 ready to purchase, and 0/3 sent in the mail to him.  It’s gonna be a little late.  Sorry, Dad!  So for now, I’ll write him this post, since e-gifts are instantaneous…

I would be lying if I said my dad and I have always had a close relationship.  I’d be lying if I said I was an ideal daughter growing up.  I’d be telling a 100% complete falsehood if I said I was an easy person to raise.

In short, I gave him hell.  (And my mom, too—but it’s not her birthday.)

From my teenage self’s perspective, I was a whole heck of a lot better-behaved than most teenagers.  I never drank.  Never smoked.  Wouldn’t have known how to get drugs even if I wanted to try them, which I didn’t.  I didn’t sneak out—not once.  (We had a dog.  {Plus, it never occurred to any of my friends that we should sneak out, so if I’d gone, I’d have been all alone, and that’s kind of lame for sneaking out purposes.})  I got good grades—even had a full-ride scholarship once upon a time.

…Actually, come to think of it, I was a pretty dang good kid, after all!  Never mind.

Okay, I’m kidding.  I wasn’t perfect—I was dramatic, moody, possibly a bit too spoiled for my own good, you know the type: friendly and outgoing at school and among friends, but couldn’t seem to muster up a kind word for my own family.

I cringe to think of how I was then.

My only solace is that the Good Lord has seen fit to bless me with time to make up for my life from the ages of 14-19.

When I got married and moved to Canada right around my dad’s birthday two years ago, I gave him a gift of blank notecards for him to fill up with his thoughts, reports, whatever, and send to me.  In return, I wrote him back.  I can honestly say this gift has brought us closer emotionally than we’ve been since I turned twelve.  Every time I receive one of his cards in the mail, I tear it open excitedly to see what he has written.

Sometimes his words make me laugh—he has an amazingly goofy sense of humour that I never really knew existed, or else I used to know but forgot.

Dad's Letter to me

In this particular card, he writes, “I haven’t done so well writing you every month but I’m writing you this month!  I’m going to repent!”  See what I mean?  Funny.

Other times I close the cards with tears streaming down my face; not that he writes terribly sappy sentiments, but they just mean so much to me, and I’m so grateful to have them, that I can’t really keep from crying.

Camille and Dad New York City

The relationship we share has not always been stable, but the good thing about a rocky history is that it is at least built on rocks.  And it’s true—my dad has always been there.  Here.  And maybe even when I didn’t believe he (or anyone, for that matter, because like I said: DRAMA!) was there for me, I know now that he was.  He is.  He always has been.

One of my dearest memories I have of my dad is this:

I was 20.  I had gotten engaged in September and by January had decided that before I got married, I needed an awesome “on my own” experience.  So I packed my bags and moved to Belgium to be a nanny.  The day I was scheduled to leave, I was a nervous wreck—I had never met the people, I had no idea if they were even REAL, and if they were real, I was certain they would rape me in my sleep at night.  My dad offered to drive me to the airport, and when we got there, he parked (which is unheard of in our family—we’re a drop-at-the-curb bunch if ever there was one), carried my heaviest bags, stayed with me through check-in, security, and all the way to the gate, where he waited with me until it was time to board (he works for an airline, so his badge allowed him to do that).

Up until the gate, I had kept my composure pretty well, but once I had time to actually sit and THINK about what I was doing, I had a complete meltdown.  Tears started streaming down my face—I rarely cry in front of people, least of all (at that time in my life) my parents—and I just sat there, miserably.  I wanted to just leave.  Run away.  Forget any of it had ever happened.

But you know what my dad did?  He put his arm around my shoulder—again, unusual for us, because we aren’t really the most touchy-feely of families—and just patted it until I calmed down a bit.  He said, “I know it’s scary, what you’re doing.  I’m even scared for you.  But you know?  I am SO PROUD of you.  I respect that you’re doing it.  It’s very brave.  It’s much braver than I was at your age.”

Of course when he said that, I cried even harder because it was without doubt the sweetest moment I’d ever shared with my father, but he just reached into his back pocket and handed me his crisp white handkerchief, which I promptly soiled.

Yes, my dad carries handkerchiefs on a regular basis.  He’s awesome like that.

When it was finally time to board the plane, he told me to keep the hankie, which was particularly generous, since I proceeded to weep halfway to Philadelphia.  For the next five months I used that handkerchief to wrap up the camera Poor Kyle had loaned me, to keep the crumbs off of it in my purse.  The handkerchief and the camera accompanied me everywhere I went.  I still have them, both.

Louvre

And I went on to enjoy one of the most life-altering, self-actualising, personally liberating experiences of my life.  I will always have that.  That, and the hankie.

I love my dad.

I may have stopped calling him “Daddy” when I was six or seven, maybe eight, but I never went so far as to call him “Eric.”  He’s “Dad,” and he always will be.

I’d bake him a cake, but…

…well…

Crappy Cake #1

Crappy Cake #2

…I somehow get the feeling that wouldn’t exactly be a nice gift, given my history with birthday cakes.

I love you, Dad!  Happy Birthday!

About Camille

I'm Camille. I have a butt-chin. I live in Canada. I was born in Arizona. I like Diet Dr. Pepper. Hello. You can find me on Twitter @archiveslives, Facebook at facebook.com/archivesofourlives, instagram at ArchivesLives, and elsewhere.
This entry was posted in change, family, in all seriousness, introspection, self-actualisation. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to For My Father

  1. kim says:

    i was strong up until you wrote about when he took you to the airport and what he said to you when you freaked out…then i cried! happy birthday to your dad!

  2. Chloe says:

    Hi Camille! I’m back!! I missed you!
    Happy birthday to your dad!!

  3. linda rae says:

    What a nice, nice tribute. i think we should celebrate your Dad’s birthday today with fresh picked-from-the-garden, Belgian-chocolate-dipped-strawberries. Isn’t that fitting?

    Happy Birthday Eric!!!

  4. Alexa Mae says:

    This made me cry. No joke…and my dad never gave me a white handkerchief so I have nothing to wipe the tears. Happy Birthday to your Dad! He sounds amazing and I want his blue shoes too. Seriously.

  5. Jenn says:

    Happy Birthday Camille’s Dad! I was the same way with my parents, a really good kid as far as kids go, but man I gave them HELL. There was a few years where I hated my mom. When I went to college I spent many nights curled up in bed on the phone with my mom, crying, and apologizing to her for being such a horrible daughter.

  6. TeamHaynes says:

    This is just so sweet! I applaud you for straightening up your act just in time. You pretty much described me. I was considered a good kid by many but my mother did not see it my way. Luckily dear old dad was the one to let me go out when my room wasn’t clean and I didn’t do my chores. He’s good at that. Expect that one time. Although we had a very difficult time living in the same house. I would say it continued to be a strained relationship until I got married. Its amazing how pleasant people can be when you live miles instead of feet from them.
    I am so happy for you that you’ve been able to get close to your dad through these letters. Men are so stoic so the fact that he told you he was proud of you is a precious moment indeed.
    Those shoes really are awesome. You look so happy in that picture, if it is you. I do hope you tell us what you got your dad after he gets it. I’m curious because I never know what to get my dad. Mostly because my sister is so stinking good at it that it makes me look like a really crappy gift giver. She’s the creative one. I’m the writer who complains in written word.
    What kind of grandpa is he? I’ve noticed a lot of people are even better grandparents than they are parents. Mostly because they can give the kids back at the end of the day but nonetheless they are way more fun. And they spoil. Gosh I wish I had grandparents. I’ve sure he’s a blast.
    Is it a plain hankie or is there something on it? What a lovely gesture. I wish men would carry hankies nowadays. It is so gentlemen-like. Of course I’m obsessed with the 30’s and 40’s so they liked hankies back then.
    Can I visit you and bake with you? It might be years from now but I’m pretty good at it and I might just help some. I really should make a cake and take a picture because some might not believe me. Its all thanks to the MIL. Have you figured out what you are doing wrong?
    Happy Birthday, Camille’s Dad!

  7. GRANMAMA says:

    That picture really is you. I’ll never forget that day–you were 2 months old and we went to cut our Christmas Tree, something I wanted to be a tradition, until you know what happened. You loved the snow and were really bundled up in a little snow suit I bought at Goodwill (that was the only time you ever wore it.) It was a fun day. We borrowed Grandpa Leavitt’s brand new (at that time) pick up. Adell loved it too. My two little girls on a snowy day in Payson was sheer bliss.

    This was a wonderful tribute to Dad. HE will be touched when he reads it.

    You can tell your readers that Dad was a perfect father until Adell turned 11. It wasn’t until then that I knew that he “Stomped, chomped, and made weird noises.” You and Dad were inseparable until you started Preschool. You were VERY close. Preston loves his PAPA and screams for him when PAPA leaves. He is an AWESOME GRANDPA.

  8. Jill says:

    Just wanted to leave you a shout out since you visited my blog. Happy birthday!

  9. Camberley says:

    Tear-Jerker ~ that’s all I can say. Truly Brilliant!

    ~C

  10. Molly says:

    Happy Bday to your dad!

  11. Jeff says:

    Send him the cake…I mean, who wouldn’t believe that it was destroyed in transit? :)

  12. Jeff says:

    Totally buggin’ with that last comment by the way!!

  13. jami says:

    so touching. What a beatiful gift for your dad. I think he will like this better than any gift you could buy him.

  14. jami says:

    wait, one more thing. Your dad works with Grace in nursery. She loves him.

  15. This warmed the cockles of my heart.

  16. niki says:

    this was so beautiful.

    after losing my own father, for a long time, many of my friends would try to protect me from reading/watching/hearing anything having to do with dads in general.

    but they soon learned that that was pointless.

    do things like this make me miss my dad?…of course!

    but more than that, it fills my heart with joy to see a daughter appreciate and truly love her dad.

    thanks for sharing this post. your dad must be really proud of you!

  17. Anonymous says:

    I never knew all that about you and Dad. What a sweet moment. And a wonderful tribute.

  18. Pingback: Archives of Our Lives » Hightailin’ it Outta Here.

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