Looking for answers to life's questions

Father’s Day is here once again. I don’t believe I’ve ever done a post explicitly about my dad. I read all the stories about close relationships with dads and am always struck with envy. My dad was a good man. He just wasn’t around much and didn’t know what to do with us when he was home. I had almost no memory of his existence before the age of 6 ½. Military life kept him mostly far from us. When he was home, there seemed an uncertainty about him. What was he supposed to do with these little rug rats? He was the oldest of 10 children. When I asked him toward the end of his life how he could go away from his family and not write to his mother, he said he was just another mouth to feed. That sentence broke my heart and answered all my questions.

Dad gave what he had to give. He was the one who sat with me on Sunday afternoons holding a dictionary. I was between 11-13 and struggling with the English language. The nuances were difficult to grasp and I was always feeling like such an idiot because I didn’t understand what someone was saying. He would open that dictionary and pick a random word, tell me to spell it and tell him what I thought it meant. I learned root words, prefixes and suffixes from him. He taught me to guess what a word meant by the root of that word. There isn’t a conversation I can’t follow now because of that drill. Words finally became my friends and they fascinated me.

My dad was hardcore military. Strict and meticulous as any soldier needs to be. He sacrificed his toys so his kids could have some. One Christmas, during the dictionary years, he spent a lot of time at the base wood shop, building a desk with a typewriter insert for me as well as a bookcase. My love of books was already in full bloom. He sold his shotgun that he hunted with, to buy my brother a bike. No more squirrels or rabbits in our pots.

Just a child in uniform.

Just a child in uniform.

After he retired, I discovered we were reading the same books. He would devour everything Edgar Casey had as well as anyone else, in his spiritual quest. We were traveling the same path 2000 miles apart. We could finally have a conversation of sorts. Retirement was very hard on him. Without the structure of the military, he seemed to flounder. He was a man of deep commitment. That I knew when my mother would try his patience to no end and he would say he was there until he left the planet. He came back to Germany for my mother and I when so many had abandoned the children they produced. It took until I was four to get all the channels and hoops jumped. He may not have been the warm, cuddly dad so many have but he was a good example of tenacity and doing what was right in spite of popular opinion. I was able to be by his side as he drew his last breath and hold his memory fondly as I write this. He made the writing possible. Thanks Dad.


“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”

Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

Comments on: "In Search of the meaning of Father" (11)

  1. Interesting entry – I’m an Army Brat too and know what it was like. My father told me his Commanding Officer once told him, “If I had wanted you to have children I would have issued you some.”

    Thanks for sharing.

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    • That about sums up the attitude. We were told that the reason we were not welcome at the hospitals was if the military wanted you to have a family, they would have issued you one. It was a tough but interesting life. Thanks for reading.

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  2. Marlene, this is such a beautifully written piece and I found it very moving. The vision of you sitting with the dictionary and then reading about your Dad’s influence on your writing and reading – wonderful gifts to treasure and lovely memories. He cuddled you with all that he had – and there’s great beauty in that – and we can’t really ask for more of someone. I’m very pleased to have found you and be following you. All my best to you on this difficult day for so many people. Ruth

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    • Thank you for reading and your comment. I was surprised at myself for writing this particular post but it just came out. I don’t think some people realize that hard lives are sometimes a gift in themselves. I’m grateful for mine and wouldn’t trade it for anyone elses. If I’d had indulgent parents, what a mess I might have been. 🙂

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  3. JackieP said:

    Your father loved you very much. He taught you language and how to use it and you taught him that a daughters love is something precious. You were both blessed in your own way. In your words of the story I felt the love and that is something that is special.

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    • Thank you Jackie. Yes, I finally figured out what his love looked like. As we both grew older, we were able to bridge the chasm. The gift of language is a great one for me. I must express myself more now with writing since my speech is no longer as clear.

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  4. What a wonderful glimpse at a man I really didn’t get a chance to know. He sounds a lot like my own dad (although mine was not military). Must be a family trait. I had more conversation with my dad in the past few years than all the years growing up. We always knew he loved us. That went without saying. He was always there and provided all that we needed and more. I wouldn’t give up a minute of the time we’ve shared together and I’m so proud to be a part of his wonderful family.

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    • Thanks for reading Dot. I didn’t get to know your dad either. It would be interesting to learn more. Uncle Larry was the one I knew best and Uncle Bob. I so sorry that this Father’s Day will be so hard for you. I’m thinking of you today.

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  5. I really enjoyed this post, Marlene. I think it takes many years for us to appreciate our parents. We’re inherently selfish as children and often don’t realize what we’ve got. You are so right: an easy life isn’t always a good thing. I read your love of the man in every word. Thanks for sharing with us.

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  6. So nice to have fond remembrance, thanks for sharing your story Marlene. My mothers side of the family were from Germany and a stark contrast of my dads family. Militant-yes, Cuddly-No. Your dad showed his love in so many other ways. Hope your day was extra special. hugs xk

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