Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The gift of thoughtfulness

For my 50Th birthday, the extended family and I all went to Disneyland. The head count is 12. It was a busy time, but a fun time to remember. Two weeks or so before we left, I called my three daughters and gave them a challenge. Their assignment was to go through their memories of them and me and come up with a single favorite. They could only pick one. The one specific thing that says, this is me and my Dad. I didn't tell them I was going to do the same. I was afraid it would affect what they chose. I wanted to see how close we came to what really counts between them and me on an individual parent child relationship.

Here are the memories I came up with about them and me.

Twin A: I was really into photography, and her and I spent almost an entire day together, and shot a whole roll of 35mm film. I also did my own developing, and enlarging. I came up with an 8x10 of her lying on the grass on her tummy with her head in her hands and a large pink flower in her hair. The background is completely out of focus and zoomed in tight enough to see the summer dirt under her 6 year old finger nails. This is burned in my heart and mind forever.

Twin B: I used to be a locksmith, and I would occasionally take my kids on service calls with me. This was her turn to go. When you're 8 years old this is very empowering. This was a good time to expose them to what it means to be the breadwinner for the family. I liked to take them to empty houses that need locks changed or repaired. We always explored the house before I started working. This was usually done for the realtor who set up the appointment and was never there.. This particular house had no heat and no water. It had a lot of locks to service and it turned into a long job. Being kinda on the skinny side it didn't take long before she was freezing cold and she needed to go to the bathroom. It got to the point where I had to stop the project, and drive to somewhere warm. It was the middle of winter and I drove a VW Bus, so there was no point in just starting the car. I drove to the nearest restaurant and we bought hot chocolate and just stayed there until she was good and warm. It added about 2 hours to the job, but the bond of "you are my biggest priority" was worth every second. She knew it and so did I.

My Youngest: There was an unusually heavy snowfall. The kind where it just keeps piling up and up. There will be no school tomorrow kind of snow. My other kids have moved out and it's me and my 13 year old. We spend the day going from snow hill to snow hill. Just looking for the bigger thrill. We ended up at a local school that had a steep slope in the back. We played till way after dark on the plastic sled. The other kids had gone home and the street lights were on. It is now late and dark and very cold, and still the snow is falling. We finally agree to head home. As we get to the car, she starts putting things in the back seat. I get a very long rope out of the trunk, and hook it up to the back of the car. "Want a ride", I ask? "Isn't this dangerous, and illegal" she replies. "Probably, I replied." I then tow her at very low speeds the 8 blocks to our house. Her Mom just happens to be on the front porch as we arrive. I get the one eyebrow raised look. My youngest runs up and says. "I have the coolest Dad ever!"

Here is what they chose as their defining memory of us.

Twin A: To be able to have one parent home with the kids at all times, my spouse and I would work opposite shifts. As it turned out I was responsible for getting the kids up and off to school. Not being a morning person, I would frequently go to the twins room and announce it was time for school. I sometimes, OK often, would crawl into bed with one or the other and tell them it was time to get up. Twin A relayed this to the entire family, that when I got into bed and would snuggle up, she felt safe and warm. That it was just me and her and nothing else mattered. My Daddy loves me.

Twin B remembers: When I would hide random presents. While my kids were little I used to go to the store and buy inexpensive items that were "just for fun". Packs of gum, tic-tacs. The occasional wooden airplane glider. Maybe some lip gloss or any item that would be sure to bring a smile. My goal was no more that 2 bucks. I would wrap them up in colorful gift wrap with no names and hide them in places that they would just "stumble" across them. I chose places like under a bed or at the bottom of the clothes hamper. I never told them when I was doing this. When a present was discovered, the search was on! Twin B loved this game and looked forward to it often. Twin B tells this story to everyone with the same excitement she had when she was 9 years old. She liked it because it showed that I thought about her. It was love in action. My Daddy loves me.

My Youngest remembers: It comes her turn to tell her memory. By now all are hooked. They have heard 5 stories. Three from me and two from them. Hers is the last. I ask her, "whats your favorite memory" all eyes are on her, and she simply says "when you held my hand and squeezed it three times, to silently say, I-love-you. Its now silent at the giant table. Her sisters look at each other and ask, did you know that? They didn't. Now all eyes are on me. I never told anyone. We agreed it would be our special secret and never tell anyone. I think she was 4 or 5 at the time. We kept that promise for about 18 years. The one part of my love that was just hers. No sharing. My Daddy loves me.

I later asked my son-in laws, what was the theme in all their memories. That what you give to your children that is important to them, isn't big gifts and trips and Christmas and birthday presents. It's time. Time for them, just them. That's what they will remember most. Their Daddy loves them.


Anonymous said...

It is so good to look back and remember what made a family close. You are a good dad and a great grandpa!

Very heartfelt post.


ohhollyf said...

What an awesome exercise to do :)

Youthful One said...

I'm in tears.

How delightful.
How thoughtful.

How much I long to create the same intimate and unique memories for each of my five.

THANK YOU for the encouragement and inspiration!

christa jean said...

Memories made in love are that which shape our lives.

Thank you for reminding us of what is truly the most important!

Anonymous said...

Okay, so after reading that, can I be Twin C?