Daddy left for the office at five in the morning, a briefcase in one hand, a brown-bag lunch in the other, returning home at the end of each day for supper. My three siblings and I didn’t disturb him at work unless it was to tell him the grades on our report cards. He was king at home. And he was somewhat removed from our daily lives. More myth than actual: the “myth” of daddy.

Rather than make him into a nonperson, at a remove from the rest of us, somehow all the details that made him other elevated his status in my eyes. My perception of Daddy’s heightened stature colored all my interactions with him up until the time he died four days shy of his 54th birthday when I was 13 years old.

Aura of Mythology

His premature passing merely added to the aura of mythology that seemed to surround him. It was as if someone had taken a yellow highlighter and colored over the parts of my life that included my father, turning memories into legends.

There were life events in which Daddy’s participation was integral—whenever my mother bought me a new pair of shoes, for instance. My mom might take me to several stores, and I might try on many different pairs of shoes until we decided which pair she’d buy me, but the process of procuring new shoes was not complete until hours after the cashier rang up the sale. I would not be allowed to wear my new shoes out of doors until Daddy did his part.

After supper, my father would call me down to his basement workshop. I would proudly hand him my new shoes, one at a time, and he would score the shiny, slippery soles with a pen knife. That would keep me from slipping: keep me safe.

After supper, my father would call me down to his basement workshop. I would proudly hand him my new shoes, one at a time, and he would score the shiny, slippery soles with a pen knife. That would keep me from slipping: keep me safe. It felt like a blessing, to be handed those shoes with their now messed-up finish. It was like a protective shield or maybe a kiss.

A similar ritual evolved around clothes shopping. My mother would have me try on my new outfits for Daddy after supper. After my father had me twirl and turn, he’d say, “Tear it in good health!”

Because, you see, my dad had a certain perspective. Material goods are nice but by nature, will not last. We should not expect them to last.

More Important Things

There are more important things than things.  There are our values.  And there are the basics we may not think about until deprived of them, such as good health.

I work at keeping the mythology of my father alive. It is not really that difficult. It’s as simple as having my child model a new outfit for me and saying, “Tear it in good health!”

This too, feels like a benediction.