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Here's Looking At You Dad

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DADDYS GIRL
alamy

This morning, on the fifth anniversary of my father's death, I saw a raisin pie in the bakery and burst into tears. My Dad adored raisin pie. And I adored him.

I may be 60, but I've discovered that you don't outgrow being a Daddy's girl.

His memory is with me every day. He was tall, talented and a man of few words. When he spoke, I listened. He made me feel like the best little girl/young woman/woman in the world. In his book, I could do no wrong.

Boomers like to call themselves orphans after their parents have 'slipped the surly bonds of earth,' but that doesn't make sense to me. On my eighth birthday my father took me to a real orphanage to hand out Ukrainian costumed dolls, identical to the present he had just given me. I didn't understand what we were doing there, but he soon made the reason clear. These girls, he said, had no mother or father. I had both. The least I could do was share the bounty I'd been given. He said it would make me feel grateful for my good fortune. He was right.

I had two parents, and that ain't no orphan in my book. To me the use of that name, cheapens the journey of those born and abandoned by whatever tragedy befell them. Do we call ourselves orphans to remain children forever? How childish.

When our parents die, we don't like to believe that we're next. But we are. Better to grow up before we die. That's a lesson my dad taught me. So on this anniversary, I remember, with gratitude my dad.

He taught me to look up when things got tough. See the sky, drink in the largess of the world, work hard, play hard and believe that who you are is good enough. If someone doesn't like it - then tell them to go to hell.

In fact one day in my twenties he told me the same thing. I drove up to my Dad's ranch to give him an earful of small-time complaints on behalf of my siblings and me. I felt he'd been absent from our lives way too long and was not making an effort to know his adult children, to the detriment of our relationship.

He was sitting on a rocking chair listening to my heart-felt rant wearing his characteristic stony stare. I finished. " Are you finished?" he asked. I nodded. " Well, " he said, " I love you, but you're full of shit." With that he got up and walked away. I drove back to town in tears.

He loved us too much to be accused of loving us too little. His was not the day-to-day presence of my mother, but a fierce devotion all the same...unconditional love, for life and beyond. I knew that then, I remember it now.

As an adult past the middle of my life, when I reflect on the people and places that make up my memories, I know that his was the single greatest influence on me. I have his cheekbones, his eyes and sometimes his sly grin, but that's not what I mean.

He was a well-known actor who hated signing autographs and didn't always behave like a polite studio player. Far from it. But he treated coalminers and kings with the same respect. He was humble and played down his accomplishments. He didn't kiss and tell. He knew who he was and never forgot the small mining town in Pennsylvania where he was from.

He introduced me in art in all its forms. From Beethoven's 9th to the poetry of Shakespeare and Poe; to the surrealism of Dali and the rugged majesty of Ernie Barnes' athletes, as well as the magic of the Bolshoi Ballet...no medium escaped his interest.

Most of all he stayed curious. He got older, but his spirit never got old. It lit up a room until his dying day. His example is a legacy I aspire to.

So here's looking at you Dad. It may not be Fathers Day to the wide world, but it is for me....a day of remembrance and gratefulness and a piece of raisin pie to boot!