Archive for June, 2012

Mi Papa

Monday, June 11th, 2012

I’m nothing even close to Italian, but I like the sound of mi papa. Mi papa – my dad. I love him so much, I simply have to say why. Also, I’ve spent a good part of my life not appreciating him the way I do today. This is sad, but the reality.

Mi papa’s picture can be seen in the dictionary under “good man.” I remember papa taking the four of us on camping vacations all over the country, in our van-conversion (converted by him, of course). Strong, totally smart – brilliant, as my mom says – and competent, he knows how to do everything from fixing a stalled car engine to making full-course bacon-and-egg breakfasts on a Coleman stove. I remember when our camper stopped dead in the middle of “the longest bridge in the country,” a 10-or-20-mile monstrosity we were traversing in some distant state I can’t remember. I was scared and crying, but as usual, my dad found a way to get us going again. As long as my dad was there, I always knew we would be alright.

Papa is level-headed and a good model for slowing down in the midst of a problem to reason it out. I took it for granted how reassured I felt when he didn’t panic about stuff. Steady, quiet, modest, moral, responsible – these are the things I see in my dad as I try to be them myself these days. Consistent and always there for us as I grew up, I relied on his presence and comforting assurance. I remember when I had the measles – or was it the mumps? Down-and-out on the couch in the porch, I felt awful. But papa was working in the yard close by. I could hear the lawnmower and smell the cut grass. And even though I was sick, I felt better just knowing he was there, nearby.

It was my dad who took us out sailing on boats he himself built, and his skillful hand that kept us flying over the waves of Seneca and Canandaigua Lake. He it was who took us to the golf course after dark in the summer to pluck night-crawlers off the watered grass for fishing bait the next day. It was my dad who took us tobogganing in the nearby hills in the wintertime. Who helped construct a five-foot-long paper maché model of a grasshopper, in all its scientific detail, for a school project. And Dad who painted and refinished every single wall and floor inside our house, sanded and painted the outside, and laid new shingles on the roof. He who installed our backyard above-ground pool, while letting the neighborhood boys help with this important, grown-up construction project. He planted tomatoes, grilled hamburgers, explained math problems, supported us working as a mechanical engineer for Bausch & Lomb for over 20 years. And these are only some of the things I remember from the oblivious haze of being a kid.

It wasn’t always easy growing up with papa – he was loving, but got angry and yelled too. I learned to be afraid of him sometimes. Why did I let the bad stuff overshadow the good in mi papa for so long? I know a big part of the answer: me and my “issues.” Seems as though I’ve had those since almost my birth. They stressed me and caused so much rushing around looking for approval that I never realized mi papa did love me the whole time. In his special, perfectly papa way.

Mi papa, I love you too.