Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Week of Thankfulness - Day 2

Certain is it that there is no kind of affection so purely angelic as of a father to a daughter.  In love to our wives there is desire; to our sons, ambition; but to our daughters there is something which there are no words to express.  ~Joseph Addison

The father of a daughter is nothing but a high-class hostage.  A father turns a stony face to his sons, berates them, shakes his antlers, paws the ground, snorts, runs them off into the underbrush, but when his daughter puts her arm over his shoulder and says, "Daddy, I need to ask you something," he is a pat of butter in a hot frying pan.  ~Garrison Keillor

With Ben so ill this past Sunday evening, Joan and I decided she would keep him at home while Jessie and I attended my family's Thanksgiving dinner. I make a lot of jokes about my in-laws, in particular the way each holiday meal has to revolve around my father-in-law like celestial  cranberry sauce would a big fat stuffed turkey sun. In reality I've found these events an opportunity for my family and more precisely, Jessie, to respect the traditions of her elders and hopefully one day, following suit, will create her own family customs that provide grounding and foundation for her own children. This was the case for my side of the family as well...until recent years.

What is left from my generation is a deeply fractured handful of leftovers. All of my grandparents are deceased. So is my father. Both of my brothers' families live 6 and 10 hours away respectively. What was an annual gathering of thankfulness has now become an occasional convention on dysfunctionality. In fact this was the first gathering of my local kin in two years. The core of "This House Divided" is basically my incredibly narrow-minded and bigoted Uncle William along with his daughter-in-law whose life is perfect in every way (she will be glad to remind you quite often). Some of you have probably wondered from time to time where I received my passionate liberal education in regards to politics and religion. That would be my mom. The combination of the three can be quite toxic.

So why am I telling you this in a blog post that from the outset looks like an ode to my daughter? Two years ago a family "thanksgiving" hosted by my mother concluded with phrases and threats along the lines of "you are no longer welcome in this house" - "don't worry, I will never step foot in this house again." It was a rather uncomfortable and ugly conclusion to what should have been a time of joyful reflection.

Late Sunday afternoon, once we decided Ben wasn't going, I told Jessie that she didn't have to go either knowing the images of that previous reunion was seared into her memory. "No Dad, I want to go with you...for you and Me-Ma." I couldn't have been more thrilled had she said, "Dad, I won't go on a date until you tell me to."

The night was rather uncomfortable and sure enough my racist uncle made an unsuccessful attempt over dinner to stir the pot by telling a rather crude joke about our President (within earshot of both of my middle-school aged 2nd cousins and Jessie). Although my mom didn't ignore it, she let him know how inappropriate it was.

Jessie and I took the earliest opportunity to leave - oh how I enjoyed the ride home! We held hands while I listened for the most part. We laughed and howled over some of the idiocy that had transpired the previous two hours. I couldn't help but think back to just a few years ago when I walked her home from school almost every day. For a few moments she was once again my little girl! Even though she has matured in so many ways within these middle school years, some things haven't. Particularly her ability to wrap her Dad's heart around her finger.

Honestly I have worried about my girl from time to time. I've worried about how much of her childhood has been stolen from her because of Ben's genetic disorder. It has been quite obvious to her family that she has matured mentally way beyond her years - something not uncommon for the siblings of exceptional children. I worry that she's missed so many opportunities to be a little girl that she will feel remorseful about it. And I worry that as her father, I'm not giving her enough daddy/daughter time because of so much daddy/Ben time.

I do know this: my Jessie absolutely adores her little brother and that her little brother feels the same. That just leaves me a pat of butter in a hot frying pan.

PS: for my Mom - I so admire you for standing up to William again and again. In no uncertain words, he's an asshole. I have no respect for him whatsoever. Jessie will tell you the same. As she said verbatim on the way home: "I have the coolest grandma in the world!" And you might want to check back later this week...


Eric Fischer said...

Good post -even though you are wrong- my mother is the coolest grandma in the world - just saying.

Ben and Bennie said...

I would've hoped you would say that, Eric!

Kyla said...

Jessie is a special young lady for sure! It has been a pleasure to watch her grow up through the years.