The Skinny Daily Post™

Short, daily essays on weight loss and fitness
from a really average woman who lost 100 lbs.
and works every day to keep it off.

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Sunday, June 15, 2003  

My Dad

I'm obviously my dad's daughter. There's no missing it. I've got his general frame, long thigh bones and bony shoulders, loose joints, wide feet. We both have a funny protruding bump at the base of our sternums. The hairline, unfortunately, is similar too.

The chin. The eyes.

And luckily, the low blood pressure, low cholesterol. We have that in our corner.

We both frown a lot, without meaning to. We have identical frown lines between our brows. Three disapproving vertical lines etching our concentration into our faces. We both fall in love with a good joke and stay by its side for years and years.

We both get grumpy when we're tired, manage migraines when we're stressed. Say colorful things when the wrench slips or the garbage bag breaks.

I like my dad. Always have, always will. So today, of course, I'm thinking about "Me ol' Da'" and those things he gave me, body-health-fitness-wise, that I'm so lucky to have.

Swimming - I've mentioned it before. He has a beautiful crawl, and taught it to each of us. None of us have mastered it. But all of us admire it. He doesn't like to do laps, but often did to stay in shape. He prefers to swim for a purpose. To anchor a buoy, to explore a reef, to fix a boat. And when it was time to cover a good distance in a short time, there was that crawl. Something to see.

Dancing - Well, this is the main thing. My father can dance. Guys used to dance. They used to work at it. If they were very, very good, they could lead a woman around the floor with one finger expertly placed near her left shoulder blade. They could communicate all they needed to through their hands and their own movements. Women swooned. Dad is that kind of dancer. Well, okay, I never could follow that well. But my mom is a brilliant dancer too, so together they clear floors. And I keep trying because I carry that picture around in my head - the two of them grapevining across the dance floor. Their concentration and joy. They practiced at home in our living room. They had fun. It's something to shoot for.

Fixing stuff - Dad fixed stuff and included us as he did. He asks us to hold flashlights on the work he does, though he rarely needs the extra light. He just wanted us to watch him do things so we'd learn how. My sister and I own more power tools than any other women we know because we know how to fix stuff. Why mention it here? Active hobbies, people. They burn calories.

Paddling - He taught canoe skills at a boy scout camp as a teenager, and he was well placed in the position. Yes, most of us can paddle a canoe forward and backward, but can you scull one sideways? Parallel park one? No? That's because you didn't learn from my dad. Poor you.

Hauling Wood -It makes you strong. It keeps your house warm. It smells good. And, my dad likes to point out, it feels so good when it's over. If you're cold in the winter, haul wood. You'll get colder, then appreciate how warm you were before you started. He has a funny idea about the gratification of a hard job done: "I like to hit myself on the head with a hammer," he says, "because it feels so good when I stop."

Ice Skating - You stop being cold when you start working on figures. He taught us how. Skating backward, cross overs, spinning. Getting up when you fall. Laughing instead of crying when you land hard.

Riding my bike - Who needs training wheels? We didn't rely on them. We relied on our dad, holding the back of the seat and running alongside until we were ready for him to let go. Or until he was ready to let go. Whichever came last.

Papaya - The love of a good piece of fruit. You never saw such precision and enjoyment in the consumption of a food. His spoon cuts were considered and precise. His strong jaws bit down hard on his spoon. Not a drop of juice escaped him. I used to sit, gape-jawed, watching him work through half a huge papaya before he headed off to work. Ripe fruit is a gift. My mouth waters at the thought of his mouth watering over a good slice of papaya dressed with calamansi (a tropical lemon/lime).

Popcorn - Dad makes the best popcorn in the world. I keep trying, but I've never approached his. We snacked on popcorn and cheese and nuts. Turns out these are good snacks. I'm glad I have a taste for them.

Calisthenics - Every time I do push-ups and sit-ups, I slip into my dad's skin. He did his exercises by his bedside in the morning. He always put his watch and change and keys in the same spot at night, and always did his exercises by his bed.

First nylons - When I was young, girls wore opaque tights. Shear stockings, nylons, pantyhose, were for women. My first pair was navy blue. I wore them with a little knit suit, a short skirt and jacket. Mom sent Dad in to see me in my new outfit, and he choked up. When he could, he said, "My little girl is a lady!" And right then, with that blessing, I was.

Chivalry - Pop is a retired Captain in the U.S. Navy. And so, he is a gentleman. And until you've walked down the street with a man trained to behave like a gentleman, you just don't know what you're missing. I'm a dedicated feminist. I don't believe that someone holding the door for me puts me in a position of weakness. No. Consider this: my dad's grace - the doors he held, the chairs he helped with, the firm arm he extended, his insistence on walking on the street-side of the sidewalk, unlocking doors - he does all he can to make the women in his life feel like royalty. When you're treated with respect, it's easier to respect yourself. And self-respect is the first step toward self-care. That might seem like a convoluted argument, but I don't think so.

Weather - No discussion of my dad's influence would be complete without it. Um. He thinks a lot about the weather, and he's explained high pressure systems meeting low pressure systems so often to me that you'd think it would sink in. It doesn't. However, I remain interested in his interest. And I love his barometers. All of them. And I do check the weather before going for a run or bike ride. I do. Really.

Duty - this last is the biggest thing of all. Pop did his duty. He served his country and his family. He is a product of his era. Who knows what sort of life he would have led if he had the means and the chance to do whatever HE wanted to do? He didn't have the opportunity that I did to lounge about in a liberal arts college, spending a few years choosing a major, a lifetime to cobble a career together. His indulgences were few and far between. He understood that we often must do what we don't want to do because it's our job to do it. Period. And you can't shirk your duty. What pushes me, often reluctantly, out of my chair to get moving, to work out, to buy, make, eat better food, is ultimately this far weaker glimmer, a tiny kernel of his great sense of duty. Show up. Do the work. Quit whining.

There's more. But why make you jealous?

Thanks, Pop. I love you dearly,


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posted by Julie |
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