One of my strongest, and only, memories of my dad is of the Sunday afternoon trips we used to take together to our town’s library.
It was our Sunday afternoon ritual. I looked forward to this journey into the beautiful world of books with this giant man who was my father. The memories I have are more a like a string of emotions and feelings. I sort of remember the car ride. The walk into the building. Holding hands. Looking up at him. To him. Checking out books. But, the details are fuzzy. Why can’t I remember more?
My dad stood tall reaching almost 7 feet. As a small child of about 4’2 I had a long way to look up when I stood next to him. He was big in everyone’s eyes. But in mine, he was bigger than life. People expected him to have the abilities of an amazing athlete and the personality of a bruiser. He was neither of those things. He was soft spoken and barely ever raised his voice, let alone a hand, to me. When my sister’s hamster died it was my dad who carefully buried it in the backyard. When I was in trouble, it was my mom who punished me. When I dressed up and went out to dinner with him, it was my dad who said I looked beautiful. This is why one of our Sunday trips to the library sticks in my mind to this day.
Our town library had a huge parking lot. It seemed like our car was always parked far away from that beautiful brown building with all the windows. This particular day I was very excited to get inside. I don’t know why. Maybe it was cold outside. Maybe the read aloud was one of my favorites that day. Whatever the reason, I remember darting from the car and jetting across the parking lot to the front door….without holding my dad’s hand……without looking for oncoming cars. That was the first, and last time my dad ever hit me.
I think he was very conscious about using force on me because with one swat he could really hurt me. The sting left behind was not from his hand, but from his words. They left an indelible imprint on my soul. He told me how scared he was when he saw me take off running. He was sure that one of the cars in that lot would hit me. He apologized more than once for spanking me. His voice was trembling. I knew he regretted it the moment after it happened and that he had acted out of pure fear.
I only had 4 more years left with my dad after that. He often told me loved me. Looking back on this memory I realize he was also very good at showing me.