My Dad, My Hero

Photo from Adobe Stock

My Dad, My Hero

My father never had any sisters. He grew up a wild boy skipping school to swim in the creek and trap skunks. In high school he was a basketball star very popular with girls, several of whom wore his class ring on a chain around their necks. He was a skilled hunter and fisherman and helped put food on the table. From time to time, he worked in his father’s siding business. When World War II began, he lied about his age and joined the navy at seventeen. He was, I think, a “man’s man,” always more comfortable in the company of men than in the company of women.

My birth may have been a disappointment to my father, my being a girl. I was also a lot like my mother, with whom he had little in common…imaginative, creative, a lover of art, poetry, and music, uncoordinated and not very good at sports. Still, he was proud of me, ambitious for me, and he was my hero!

My brother was born two years after me, and when I was four, my sister was born. While my mother was in the hospital, I remember Dad trying to make Shirley Temple-style curls in my hair one Sunday morning. I remember his consternation when the ends stuck out at the bottom. I must have been quite a sight going to church with my hair looking like that!

My father’s first assignment as a minister was to three little country churches in Pennsylvania. While Mom went home with my younger brother and sister after the first Sunday service, I always continued on with Dad to the second service. I listened to every sermon three times, never tiring of my dad’s wonderful stories. I remember standing beside the piano when I was five and singing my first solo.

Visiting my grandparents when I was four or five, we went to the swimming pool in Wheeling, West Virginia. My father asked me if I would like to dive with him. With my arms tight around his neck and holding my breath, we went off the high dive together. My father was my hero!

When I was seven, I started piano lessons, which continued for nine years, although I had little musical talent. Eventually, I played the piano and antique pump organ at church when no one else was available. I wasn’t very good! I sang in the choir for years, often performing solos and duets. When I was eleven or twelve, I would put my hair up in a French twist and go with my father to hymn sings at neighboring churches. With my hair up, I thought I looked older and hoped people might mistake me for Dad’s wife. Of course, that was pretty silly!

Mom persuaded Dad to include his daughters, as well as his son on his hunting and fishing expeditions. Though I didn’t shoot, I enjoyed going with my father and our dog, Lady, to hunt quail, and I was always the one to prepare them for cooking. When we went fishing, I was usually the one to clean the fish.

One day, Dad took my brother, sister, and me to fish for bluegills in a farm pond. I got my line hopelessly tangled. Trying to break the line by pulling against my foot, I embedded a fish hook deep in the calf of my leg. My father cut it out with his pocket knife. I was very brave. “You are lucky I just sharpened my knife!” my father said. I still have a little purple scar on my leg.

When I was in high school, hunters sometimes stayed at our house. They would get up at four in the morning to go deer hunting with my father. I also got up early and fixed them a hearty breakfast. I enjoyed listening to their hunting stories and fish tales.

Like his mother, my father was a talented gardener. His huge garden helped to feed our family. I remember Dad teaching me how to plant beans and pull weeds. We all shelled peas, snapped beans, and husked corn. In the early years, my mother canned, but when I was about six, we got a large freezer, and my parents kept it full of vegetables from the garden and fish and meat my father brought home. My father also raised beautiful flowers that my mother and I enjoyed making into arrangements for home and church.

My mother was an excellent cook and baker. Mom turned the abundance from the garden into delicious meals and baked pies, cookies, and cakes. Dad had been a cook aboard a ship when he was in the navy and was always reminding us that the best chefs are men! When it came to preparing deer steak or frying trout, Dad often did that job.

Always the athlete, Dad never played a sport he didn’t like…darts, bowling, ice skating, roller skating, skiing, hiking, swimming, college football…When I was in high school, he used to outshoot teenagers on the church basketball court. My father, brother, and I got our Red Cross lifeguard certifications together. They scored higher in the water test than I did, and I scored higher on the written exam! In his seventies, Dad was still skating with the church youth group.

The youth group activity I enjoyed most when I was young was hiking in Shenandoah National Park.We would pile into the back of an old hearse and head for the mountains. After the hike, we enjoyed burgers and hot dogs cooked over wood coals and we roasted marshmallows.

One day, without my parents’ knowledge, I wore my bathing suit under my clothes. Our group hiked to the top of South River Falls, a tall waterfall with a pool in the middle that was reported to be bottomless. Many people have died walking near the waterfalls in the park. Luckily, I didn’t die. I just climbed down through the middle of the falls and swam in the pool at the bottom. Oddly, I don’t remember being punished for that episode. Maybe Dad saw himself in me that day!

On another hike, I walked through a yellow jackets’ nest. Swatting the bees as I ran, I knocked my glasses off. Days later, my father returned to the trail and found my glasses. Remarkable! My Hero!

When I was in high school, my parents’s marriage, always a mismatch, began to steadily deteriorate. Life at home was often unpleasant because of the conflict between my parents. Also, I found the restrictions imposed by my parents unbearable.

I had a brief, but very unfortunate experience at a religious boarding school. The repressive and malevolent attitudes and the rampant hyprocricy at the school made me question religion. I became an atheist at age thirteen. Though I continued to participate in church activities for many years, I think my parents were aware that I no longer accepted their beliefs. Stubborn and independent, as both of my parents were, I obeyed them for the most part, but was pretty outspoken with them about my views.

My father was as frustrated as I was, I think. He had trouble seeing me grow up and was reluctant to relinquish control. When I was seventeen, he did several things to me that were very hurtful. I think he later regretted his actions, although he never said that he was sorry. He was much less controlling with my younger sister as she grew up.

After their children were grown, my parents went through a very messy divorce. Dad and I both made efforts to maintain a relationship until the day he died, but I could never fit his mold. I always loved my father, and he loved me, but, like Humpty Dumpty, our family could never be put together again.

My father died at age seventy-five in 2004. I have many treasured memories of my dad and a few memories it took me years to forgive. Fulfilling his wishes, family members sang some of his favorite hymns at his funeral in a little country church where he was the pastor. My father had “died with his boots on!”

To all the fathers everywhere, you will never be perfect. Don’t stress over it. All any of us can do is our best! We love you. We will always love you!

Blue Hole, where my family liked to swim and fish. Photo by Taber Andrew Bain CCBY2.0

My Father

Father,

human being,

excellent example

of many admirable skills:

great speaker and storyteller,

gardener, fisherman,

hunter, builder,

athlete!

Father,

good intentions

and high expectations.

He didn’t model compromise

or practice co-operation.

He focused on rules, not

relationships.

He tried.

Father,

childhood hero!

I was so proud of him,

and I know he was proud of me.

Though I could never fit his mold,

I always loved my dad,

and he loved me.

We tried.

South River Falls, Shenandoah National Park-Virginia, USA. Photo from Adobe Stock

Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia

❤ Happy Fathers Day! ❤

70 Comments

  1. This is such a precious warm beautiful journey you allowed us through your childhood and family experience – what a rich personality of your father through your lens and how we get shaped in the love of our family the way it comes to us 🙏🏼💛

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

    1. Pregalba, what a lovely response! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. ❤ I wrote several poems for this post and trashed them. I seldom write prose for my blog, but in this case, I had a rather complex story to tell, so I settled for both a narrative and a poem. I felt like my struggles with writing this helped me to gain perspective on the relationship I had with my father.

      Hope your weekend is joyful! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  2. What a wonderful and moving tribute.

    My father lied about his age and joined the RFA.
    I like your forbidden swimming trip, the fact you survived and your belief that your father may have withheld punishment because he saw something of himself in you.
    Finally, i could really relate to the family tension…as you say, like Humpty, the family could never be put together again..

    Very honest and moving.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

    1. Lawrence, thank you for sharing your thoughts. ❤ Your comments are very much appreciated. I am glad you found the post relatable, though I am sorry that you endured similar experiences growing up.

      Have a great weekend!

      Like

      Reply

  3. This is so beautifully written Cheryl. So good to know all these details of your early life and family.
    May he be blessed in whichever dimension he is in. And may you live in peace and joy 💖🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    1. Thank you so much, Kate, for sharing your thoughts. Your kind words are very much appreciated. ❤ I struggled with this post but found that writing it helped me to finally gain better closure on my conflicted feelings about my father.

      Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply

      1. yes it felt cathartic Cheryl … I had a similar conflicting relationship with a father I adored who also did some very cruel things in my teens but I knew he had PTSD from his war service … it doesn’t excuse his behaviour but my sister wound him up 😦

        we don’t forget those episodes but we also know they are not their true nature …

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for sharing these memories Cheryl, both the good and the bad. I can see how you both loved one another despite your differences. I often wonder how my children will feel about me when I grow up! ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

    1. Thank you, Ingrid, for your thoughtful comment. ❤ Children can be unpredictable, but you've given your children a wonderful example of creativity, hard work, and excellence. I think mentoring your children and providing them with opportunities to discover their own interests and talents is important. Your helping Benji develop his own blog and express his interest in trains demonstrates that you are also doing that. The opportunity to travel and live abroad will surely benefit your children. I think your children will appreciate growing up with you! 🙂 I know everyone tells you this, but childhood is short. Enjoy your children while they are growing up! ❤ Happy parenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

    1. Laura, thank you so much for your beautiful and meaningful response. ❤ I struggled to write this post, discarding several drafts of poems. I don't usually post prose, but this time is the exception. Writing the post enhanced my perspective on my complex relationship with my father.

      "Gritty" and "grace' are words no one has ever used to describe my writing. I take that as a compliment. Thank you!

      Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  5. Thanks for sharing your childhood experiences with your dad. Our parents, may not be perfect, but they always have a special place in our hearts. Glad you penned your feelings for him. A heartfelt and true tribute, Cheryl ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    1. Thank you, Eugenia, for reading and for your kind response! It means a lot to me. ❤ It is my pleasure to share my experiences. I struggled with this post, but writing it gave me fresh insights into my relationship with my father. 🙂

      Enjoy your weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  6. This was a very touching read Cheryl. Your dad was a multi talented person, so many strengths, so many professions, and a great dad too. Thank you for sharing such treasured memories of your childhood, of growing up, the wild adventures in that beautiful region. I can almost see all of you tramping and cooking the produce of the hunts in the woods. And what I find so beautiful is the fact that you were quite different in nature from him, and more like your mom, and yet you were such an integral part of all the time you shared together, not hunting but preparing the food, not believing but singing choirs and playing piano at the church service.
    I see my dad too, and I believe the dad’s of those times were very free spirited. They were caring in their own way, and yet very demanding of discipline to what they believe in.
    A dad cannot be disappointed at a daughters birth I believe, dads and daughters share a very very special bond.
    I remember another dad’s beautiful bond with his daughter, Atticus Finch and his daughter “Scout” Finch in “To kill a mockingbird”. The father daughter relation, how he raised her as a free minded, fair and brave child without burdening her with the social norms and hypocrisy. Created a big impression in my mind!
    Have a great weekend Cheryl 💖

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

    1. Thank you so much, Deb, for your thoughtful, insightful response. I found your comment about fathers very interesting. I certainly think fathers of today tend to be much more involved in their children’s daily lives. I can tell from what you write that you are a very loving and hands-on parent. I think that’s great! 🙂

      One thing my mother did fairly well and I wish my father had done more of is to guide me in finding my own path. I believe children benefit by gradually making more of their own decisions and choices as they get older. Let them learn from small mistakes and become more responsible and self-reliant as they grow.

      I like the description of the relationship between Atticus Finch and Scout that you referenced. That seems very close to ideal parenting. Thank you for sharing that.

      I hope all is well with you. You too have a great weekend! ❤

      Like

      Reply

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about you and your family life. Your father sounded like a very active man – he truly did a lot in his lifetime. Maybe you get your appreciation for nature which I see come through in your poetry, from his love for gardening. I hope that he’s resting in piece. ‘We tried’ – I think that this is the essence of all parenthood. All you can do is try and care for your child with all your heart. Also, I really liked this poem’s typographic style.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    1. Thank you, Simone, for sharing your thoughts. Your kind words are very much appreciated. ❤ I agree that the essence of parenting is loving your children and doing your best.

      Glad you like the poem. It is an octave poem, a poem with eight lines. There are other types of octave poems, but this one is unrhymed with a syllable count of 2,4,6,8, 8,6,4,2.

      Have a great weekend! ❤ ❤ ❤

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply

  8. I enjoyed and related easily to this tribute. First I want to say that it was commendable that your father, being the rugged individual he was, still tried to I make Shirley Temple-style curls in your hair that Sunday morning. Our fathers had a lot in common. My dad hunted and fished in Wisconsin. (His mother had the garden for food and flowers.) He played football, and after 20 years in the military, he became a lay minister and taught Sunday school until he was in his 80s. I rebelled against Christianity in my late teens and twenties, becoming proudly agnostic and my father and I barely spoke during that time. I opened up to Jesus (more authentically) after having my own children, and my dad and I got closer in his last years. The love of our fathers love lives on and we value all that they taught us. Thank for these powerful memories!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  9. We are all unique. Having different thoughts makes it difficult to maintain a relationship but that’s okay. We are all different and human is error.
    A beautiful tribute to you father. An adventurous life he lived. Motivating. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    1. Kritika, your thoughtful response to this poem means a lot to me! ❤ Thank you for sharing your perspective and for your kind words. I am happy you found the post motivating!

      Yesterday was my father's birthday, and I had a meaningful conversation with my sister about him. She is four years younger, and it was interesting how different factors, especially birth order, (Our brother is the middle child.) affected our relationship with our father.

      I hope all is well with you. Wishing you health, happiness, and success! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

      1. My pleasure always kindly 🙂
        Also, rightly said. Different factors affecting the relationship.
        Yes. I am doing good. Thank you so much Cheryl. Wish you the best of all too (hugs) (love)

        Liked by 1 person

  10. What a wonderful beautifully written post about your Dad. Despite not fitting his mold, I can still feel your love for him through your words. You also gave me quite the start for Father’s Day is not until this Sunday, or so I thought and if it were last Sunday, I’d be giving my husband late cards. We can have Dads that we don’t agree with or who forgiveness takes years to do, but when it comes down to brass tacks, if it were not for our Dads, let’s face it, we’d not be here. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

      1. Funny in the beginning you say he was a little disappointed when he got a girl, but I kept thinking that you two were so alike in many ways, and he recognized that almost immediately when you were old enough to communicate with and do stuff together. A wonderful tribute to one who taught you much!

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s