In the last few posts I’ve shown how descriptions of special places in your life and love stories can shape your personal history. Character vignettes can also speak volumes about an important person in your life and yourself as you delve into the relationship. Who remembers being 14? What an awkward age! I love my dad and wrote a life story essay about him as part of my own personal history.
Walking with Dad
The lawns glistened with dew, the morning sun slanted through the trees, and my dad and I headed out for a walk. I was 14 and our relationship was tentative as two reserved introverts struggled to connect. Dad had spent long hours immersed in the formative years of his company Quintron and didn’t have a lot of time left to spend with his kids. My brother had rebelled, rejected Dad’s values, became antagonistic to the Christian faith and conservative principles Dad held dear. Perhaps Dad decided to spend more time with his girls after his experience with Larry. I’m not sure why we started walking, but I loved that time with Dad.
A lot of the walks were silent, and we just enjoying the morning. I had not spent a lot of time alone with my dad. As a little girl I loved watching him as he developed one new passion after another. I watched him tie fish lures with his tiny forceps and vices, I watched as he pushed his wheelbarrow through the backyard when he began organic gardening and landscaping flower beds. We enjoyed asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, and sweet corn. I was amazed when he turned the bathroom into a photo lab dark room complete with photo developing slanted sink. He built Heathkit radios and a stereo system for Larry and I, and was a ham radio operator.
The project I loved the most was when he ordered a kit for a 22’ houseboat and built the huge boat in our garage and had a party so his friends could help him turn the hull over. He soaked the wood strips so they flexed to form the rounded hull. We even water-skied behind it on the Mississippi River and anchored at Hogback Island to relax on the beach. Dad sat on top of the boat with a beer and a little transistor radio to listen to the Cardinals baseball games. He went to Harvard business school for a program in entrepreneurship and spent hours in the living room reading business books as Quintron became a successful reality. He was also a runner and kept a detailed record of how far he ran. He ran the Duluth Grandma’s marathon when he was 59. By the time he was 81 he had logged 31,833 miles of running and walking!
I watched him hard at work with his hobbies, but we didn’t talk much. I was delighted when he wanted to walk with me. We kept a brisk pace and I remember sneaking furtive glances at his face. On one walk, wanting to connect, I finally started a conversation with my geeky engineer father. “How does a refrigerator work?” Not exactly fodder for a father/daughter heart to heart, but interest lit up his face and he proceeded to tell me all about how a refrigerator works. I just enjoyed hearing his interest, hearing his voice directed at me. The topic didn’t matter. How does a refrigerator work? I think it has something to do with compressed gas becoming liquid and then converting back to a gaseous state and becoming very cold in the process!
Out of sheer exuberance at the end of our walk I often burst into a sprint, arms pumping as I sped by the suburban driveways that emanated from the houses like spokes on a wheel. Our techie talk was a connection of sorts. I knew my dad loved me enough to spend time walking with me, and that was enough for me!