He Has Chuck Norris’ Hands

Every year, on the same day, I forget the same thing. Once per year I spend the days before thinking, Dad’s Birthday is … I must remember to give him a call. Every year I forget… unless I’m reminded… ON the day… at a point in time that I can call him right away.

So of course this year was no different. However, AHA… I called him, and that is not always the case. I DO almost always call him (except one year when I was especially po’d with him). Just that I don’t always call him ON the day of his birthday. I have my sister to thank this year. This is the dialogue from this exchange of sisterly love and affection…

My Sister and ISister: Call Dad. It is his bday :)

Me: ;-) Done

Sister: Yeah us!!!!! :)

Me: :-)

Simple as that. Team work saves the day. It’s a good thing too, cause I am my Fathers daughter, hands down. That man can not deny me, as I look just like him. I even see it, startlingly, in the mirror occasionally. It is rather disconcerting to glance at yourself in the mirror, and see your Dad staring back at you. I also acquired his introversion, as well as his avoidance of idle chit-chat – therefore phones are an especially annoying feature of day-to-day life.

One day it changed though. Subtly, but it did change.

I was about 17, and feeling rather mean. Really had this anger on, and decided that morning to really get the old man going. God who knows why… even today I can’t say exactly what triggers these ridiculous youthful sparring matches with ones Father.

FATHER AND DAUGHTERYet, Fathers and Daughters have very unique relationships… and often times Dad’s just don’t understand how powerful they are within their child’s eyes, and eventually their grown-up lives.

I wonder though, how can I EVERY YEAR forget his birthday, ON his birthday?

I don’t mean every now and again, or I have a couple of times, no, I forget every single year. I think it’s because he is out of sync with the rest of us. Everyone else in the family (until my youngest niece was born, bless her) has their birthday in the summer or fall… not Dad… nope… late winter. Figures, for one born in the south to be born in late winter. By the time his birthday comes along, us Canadians are right tired of winter.

Its more than that though I think. Somewhere inside me resides a two and a half-year old who believed her Daddy left her… and went away forever. He didn’t, but to one so young I’m certain it felt that way. I don’t remember feeling that way so young, I just know there has always been this division between us, and I suspect it started back at that time.

In High School, Mom had to act as referee, EVERY DAY before school. Dad be in the bathroom, and I’d be across the hall in my bedroom. He’d be in their snorting and such (broken nose that never healed properly), and I’d be next door cranking my music up so I couldn’t hear his disgustingness. Eventually he’d be yelling at me to turn the music down, and I’d be yelling at him to stop snorting and snuffling.

One memory that I think defines me (and our relationship today) is the day I really pushed him. I pushed him so hard we actually met half way, in the hall, almost nose to nose. Dad has always said that he never wanted boys, always girls. I guess he was terrified of what he’d get… a mini version of himself in all likelihood.

DADI remember thinking I wonder what he’ll do? Will he hit me? Did I push him too far? I looked  down briefly and noticed he was clenching and unclenching his hand. Yes, I had indeed pushed him too far.

Mom did eventually come out and break us apart, but that day I learned that my Dad was a powerfully strong man.  That he was the sort of man who WOULD NOT be pushed to act in such a way towards someone he loved. Or towards anyone… because he was just not that kind of person… just how he was raised.  He has too much pride, class, and grace, to lose his temper in such a fashion.

He knew, he said later on {said with this mild southern drawl}, that “hada I done what I would have liked that day, you’d ha been a grease spot on that wowl behind ya“.

Like me, or me like him (whichever), my Father is a dichotomy. On the surface he seems like this simple, honest, southern guy. However, hidden underneath that veneer is a much more complex character; there is NOTHING simple with my Dad. He has as complex an inner world, and inner person, as I myself do. Over the years I have genuinely been astonished by the things he knows, thinks and what his values really are.

Because he grew up in the South, many Canadians make the assumption that he is therefore racist. Those who don’t really know the South, and have never had to grapple with culture clashes, don’t understand the fear of the other that exists in some places. Fear AND loathing. But not my Dad, and not his family.

Dad’s Mama’s family were Tobacco farmers, and it was to Great GrandmaM’s that Dad went to live when he was 9 years old. By 9 years old, it had become clear that GrandmaN was not mentally well enough to care for such a wild child. Opinionated, disobedient, and foolish he was sent off to live with his Mama’s family outside Ayden, North Carolina.

So off he was shipped to the land of his mother’s birth. That family had been  in that county since the mid to late 1600’s. They had farmed in the same four corners for generation after generation, until sometime in the mid 1700’s they acquired more land, and began to turn a profit and were living very comfortably. Not rich, just well off, and certainly far better off then many others.

Yet when I look back, way back in the records of that one family… I see a pattern. Everyone else around them owned slaves… yet they did not. Why? I don’t know what made that family different. They were respected and humble, church-going and good upstanding citizens… and they believed in leading by example. Simple as that. You want to be treated with respect? Treat others as you would like to be treated. If I can whittle it down to something so simple, yet that is in fact exactly what made them different.

Wedding Photos @ the Homestead

He came up to Canada in the summer of ’65,  met my Mom, and that winter spent the whole time pining away I guess for her. That next summer, he came back up to work Tobacco, but this year he also asked her to marry him, and that September they were wedded. That winter he took his bride home with him, and the next summer in August of 1967, I was born.

My first years were spent in a smallish trailer. Yes, I was in fact a trailer-park baby… much to my Mom’s chagrin. It didn’t take her long to realize the perfect gentlemen she’d known in Canada, had turned into an asshole somewhere around the Mason-Dixon line. So in 1970 we took a plane back across that line, and Mom returned to Dodge, with me in tow.

Old Photos - 001

Poor Mom must have been a mess that trip, as the stewardess’ moved her up into First Class, and babysat me the whole trip back home. She said she cried, and I was just none stop talking and busy busy busy… just almost past that point of hysteria. So once I had been soothed and my fears calmed, I spent the rest of the trip hanging over the seat entertaining the drunk businessmen in the seat behind us.  Mom said the stewardess’ were almost reluctant to give me back to her…they I guess were rather enamored by me. Poor wee mite that I was.

Those women knew something in Mom’s life was afoot.

Dad on the other hand had sold everything they owned and bought some car and drove out to California. Was there for 6 months before he finally left and followed us back to Canada. Back to Dodge. Dad was probably only 25.

Later on, when I was older, he told my sister and I how this man he ran into on the way out, when he stopped in Texas… well he said this guy, as he was getting up to leave, leaned over and said “son, I don’t know you,  but I can say that you’re a mighty weak man if you don’t follow that woman. You will regret it. That sort don’t come along very often.

Mom and ISo to my little mind, Daddy had left; when in fact it was really Mom who left, not Dad. Of course though, Mommy could do no wrong. She and I bonded closer than the womb, in those first years alone in the south with a babe in arms. She danced with me, played with me, read to me, sang songs to me and loved every single moment she spent with me.  Daddy though, Daddy left, and Daddy made my Mommy cry. Daddy therefore must be bad.

Oh, how innocent and simplistic is the mind of a child. We all know that it is in fact never, ever that simple. So at some point I suppose we look in the mirror, and we look down at our hands, and we see, no, I do not have his hands… as they are the hands of a man who sees through the veneer, and for whom I owe so much to.

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