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Tuesday, 06 January 2009

My Father's Daughter

By Kate Dudding who keeps a website at Kate Dudding, Storyteller

My father, Kenneth William Eike, Sr., died in 1983 when he was 68 and I was 32. I have many regrets about his death. One important one is that my son was born 2 years after my father died, so they never met. But my largest regret is that I never established an adult relationship with my father.

KateDudding

Oh, I knew he loved me – that was never in question. You can see his love for me in the only picture I have of him looking at me. I’m six months old, wearing my tiny Easter dress. He’s holding me like a sack of groceries, with my back against his chest. He is just beaming down at me. There are a lot of other pictures of us together, looking squarely at the camera, but this is the only picture I have of him looking at me.

So I always knew he loved me.

But we didn’t really have interests in common. He was primarily interested in sports, mostly watching them on TV, even bowling and golf, but he also bowled and golfed and fished in real life. I’m interested in crafts and playing the piano – things my mother did.

So while it was too late for me to change our relationship, I still wanted to find some connections between us. So I sat down one day to count the ways I resemble him.

I looked at photos for any physical resemblance and discovered that I have my father’s smile – both his teeth and his lips. So I counted both of these “startling” physical resemblances as one.

My father was an amateur pachysandra farmer, on his 50-feet by 150-feet suburban lot. Pachysandra is a ground cover, which thrives in shady areas. My father started by planting pachysandra under the maples by the street, then under the shrubs at the front of the house, then under every other plant and tree in the yard. He knew just how to propagate the pachysandra too.

Now I have not done any pachysandra farming. But at our second home, I did plant lots of perennials and spring bulbs. So I’ll count our shared gardening interest as two.

Then I got on a roll. I realized that whatever organization my father belonged to, Purchasing Agents Association or Trout Unlimited, for example, he always got involved in organizing events. And I do that with my organizations – the local storytelling guild and the PTA. So that’s three.

Then there are cards. We both love to play cards. Growing up we played four-handed pinochle with my mother and brother – girls against the boys. And we played two-handed cribbage and gin rummy. My father would never discard anything he thought I wanted. At the end of every hand, he looked at my cards. “I thought you were collecting 10s. I’ve been holding onto this 10 since the beginning of the game!” That’s four.

And my son enjoys cards and betting on cards. My father occasionally played poker with his cronies. So, since this betting on cards passed through me to my son, I’ll count that as five.

But five was as far as I got. I wasn’t satisfied - it didn’t feel like enough ways that I resembled my father. .

But the next Christmas eve, the 17th without my father, something happened.

Everything was finally ready for Christmas: food prepared, tree trimmed, presents wrapped and put around the tree and in the stockings. And we still had some energy left. So my husband and son challenged my sister-in-law and me to a game of ping-pong.

We had only had the ping-pong table in the basement for a few months. And I can’t remember when or if I’d ever played any doubles sports game. But I heard myself saying, “Good shot, partner!” and “Your serve, partner.” I couldn’t figure out where all this partner talk had come from…

But as I was getting ready for bed, I realized - that was my father’s card table talk. When he was playing pinochle with my brother or grandfather or uncle or the next door neighbor, my father was always saying, “Good game, partner.”, or “We’ll win the next hand, partner.”

Suddenly, that was six. And that was enough. I finally realized that I do resemble my father in ways I may or may not recognize. I look forward to future revelations. But they will merely confirm what I now know deep in my heart: I am my father’s daughter.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Kate,
Thanks so much for sharing such a wonderful story. I understand the longing to connect. My father died when I was thirteen and he forty something. I often wonder what our relationship would have been like had he lived longer. A few years back when either something I said or did prompted my brother to remark to those present in the room “she’s my father.” His observation made me glad, sad, proud and most of all hungry for more.

I love your idea of setting of on the journey to discover connection to your father. A noble pursuit. There probably are other thinks as well that you don't even know of. Thank you for the story.

Kate,

This was a wonderful story. I enjoyed every line and feel exactly as you do about the way your Dad is looking at you. He is so proud and wants to show you off to the World.

I think there are really seven ways you resemble your Father.

I'll just bet you look at your boy with that same glint in your eye that
we see in the picture of your Dad looking at you...

Thank you for one more reason to remember my dad. He passed 8 years and 4 months ago...but who's counting? A wonderful man whom I admire to this day! I often see him in my brothers, and my daughter (she was his 'favorite')...but now, i find myself looking for him in me, too. Beautiful story!

I'm one of those guys who looks like his dad. I remember one Sunday walking down the hall at church with my dad. A lady was walking with her little daughter hand in hand. After we passed, I heard the little girl say, "Mommy, did you see those two men. They look just alike."

Sometimes my mother just stares at me. I miss Dad too, but he left a lot for us to remember fondly.

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