Plenty of little girls idolize their moms, but Adela Crandall Durkee’s sweet story reminds us that dads are pretty cool too! Read more from Adela on her blog.
When I was a little girl, I really, really wanted to be like dad. Perhaps it was because dads went off to work. Perhaps it was because dads, are, well, dads are tougher than moms. There, I said it. My dad was a challenge to me. I always did like a challenge.
Nobody at school ever asked, “What does your Mom do?” Everybody knew. Moms are moms; that’s what they do. Moms do stuff that make home homey: washing and folding laundry; sewing clothes; weeding gardens and canning vegetables; giving out jobs to kids; going over spelling words; and making sure everybody minds their Ps and Qs and has good manners. Moms are there for kids.
Dads were different. Dads went off and did stuff nobody saw, only heard about. My best-friend-blood-sister Connie’s dad was a principal at a high school. My best-friend-from-the-bus, Betty’s dad worked in the shop making Buicks. My friend Eddie’s dad was a farmer. My dad fixed people’s phones. That was the best job in the whole wide world. For one thing, everybody needs a phone, and for another thing, my dad got to meet all kinds of interesting people and see right inside their houses and their lives. AND my dad was a farmer, too. He got to spend a whole lot of time outside. I L-O-V-E, loved being outside. There was so much interesting stuff outside.
Dad climbed up telephone poles. I liked to climb trees. I could climb to the tippy top of pine trees, till my hands were sappy and evergreen smell made me think of Christmas. Mom looked up with one hand shading her eyes, and said, “Del…li! You come down from there before you break your neck.”
That’s the same way she said, “Dea-eeen,” when Dad made her want to be mad, but laughter softened up the mad parts and bubbled right out of her in a laugh. I was almost like Dad.
Dad showed me how to hitch up a disc or a wagon, how to work the hydraulic, and how to fix fences so the cows would stay where they belonged. Pretty soon, I learned how to test the fences for grounds all by myself, and replace insulators. I was in charge of the barn-chores when Dad worked overtime. I made sure everything got done. I was almost like Dad.
Dad played tricks on his friends at work, which made Mom throw her head back and laugh with all her fillings showing. Dad and his friend Clem order 100 baby chicks delivered to their boss. One hundred baby chicks cried out, “Peep-peep, Are you my mother?” to Dad’s boss when he opened his office door the next morning.
I surprised the mailman with shredded up cattails that floated out of the mailbox like a million fairies in the breeze. I was the only kid in the back seat of the car, swallowing giggles when Dad opened the mailbox in his Sunday best and a million cattail seeds floated into the window and landed on his black suit and stuck to his Brylcreem hair. Mom looked out the driver’s seat window and bit her fist. I was almost like Dad.
Dad taught me how to play regular checkers and Chinese checkers and challenged me to Othello. I got super-good at those games until I could beat the pants off of Dad. I said “Scratch you Yahtzee,” and laughed ‘til my sides hurt. I loved to win. Almost as much as Dad.
Dad worked tons of overtime, so lots of weeks I only saw him at breakfast. Sometimes he even missed church on Sunday, ‘cause he had to work and put bread on the table. Dad always told me how I could do things better. Dad was super-good at doing math in his head, and he wanted me to learn that, too, which I never did get the hang of.
“What’s 386 times 3?” Dad said while he milked Old Belle.
My fingers twitched beside my legs, wishing for a pencil. “I can figure that out,” I said.
“In your head,” he said. “Right now.”
I felt my brain squinch up inside my head, concentrating. I could think so much better with a pencil in my hand.
“Like this,” he said. “300 X 3 is 900; 80 X 3 is 240, 6 X 3 is 18.”
I knew all that.
“Next round to the nearest 10, and add them up. 900 + 240 + 20 is 1160. Now subtract 2, ‘cause you started with 18, and you have 1158. See how easy that is?”
Dad harrumphed the pail out from under Old Belle and filled the cat dish, without spilling a drop. I planned to hold those numbers in my head until I got a piece of paper and a pencil, and could check what he said. I could maybe someday be just like Dad.
Cats came a-running and lapped like fancy-ladies at tea before Red Rose’s piglets came scrambling out from under the bottom rail of the pigpen. They slurped and splashed their feet in the milk and grunted like the barbarians Mom was all the time telling us kids we were acting like. Dad told Mom all about the piglets over breakfast.
“Those cats pulled their noses back in disgust.” Dad puckered up his nose like a prissy lady. “They looked at each other as if to say, ‘Well, I never,’ and walked away with their tails pulled up into question marks.” Someday I was gonna tell stories as good as Dad.
I guess when it comes right down to it, there’s something pretty special about the differences parents offer children. Mom created a safe place to be myself. She taught me I could learn anything I set my mind to. Mom made sure I knew I would always, always be loved. No matter what. She let me be soft. Dad challenged me to be more. He challenged me to be better. He taught me to climb higher. Dad made me tough.
(All that said, I can still think better with a pencil – or a keyboard – at my fingertips.)