Happy Father’s Day to all you dads, whether you parent your own child, someone else’s child, or a child with more than two legs! You teach your children more than you can possibly imagine, more than you ever intend them to know. I know this, because I had a great dad. He was not a frivolous guy, didn’t gamble or golf or bowl or boat or party hearty. He was a hard-working man who had well-defined expectations of himself and of me. I was to be a person of faith, hard-working, honest, kind, generous, try my hardest, do my best, and graduate from college. I don’t recall him asking any more of me than that.
It seemed to me that my dad could do anything. He could take a car apart and put it back together and made sure that I could change a tire and check the oil in the car before he ever let me drive it. He was patient. The second time that I backed the car out of the garage, I caught the outside mirror on the garage door hinge and ripped it off the car. I burst into tears, of course. But you know what? He was more upset because I was terrified that he would be upset about the mirror than he was about the damage.
He could build anything. He built that garage and added a family room to our house. He also helped the Veterinarian and me build our veterinary hospital, from the cinder block walls in. But I learned as much from observing how he lived his life as from what he taught me to do.
One sunny spring Saturday, as I sat at the big maple desk in our living room, writing a book report, I heard my dad stop the lawn mower and chat with someone. Our house was on the corner of a moderately busy street, whose sidewalk saw lots of pedestrians and strollers and bicycles. In our neighborhood, everyone knew everyone else by sight or by their kids or by their cars, if not by their name. I pulled aside the sheer drapery to see who was passing our way and saw him with a white-haired lady in a lilac-flowered house dress, rolled-down stockings, and wool felt slippers.
My Mother came up behind me. “Who’s Daddy talking to?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Some lady.”
“I’ve never seen her before,” she said. We watched my dad shake the lady’s hand.
“Well, why don’t you rest here under the tree in the shade?” he said to her and looked up at the window where we were standing. My Mother raised her eyebrows and hurried out the side door.
“Lenore, this is my wife,” my father gestured to My Mother. “Lenore lives at the nursing home down on Allen Road.” Lenore had walked about two miles.
“Oh!” I heard My Mother’s surprised reply.
“She’s walking to her son’s house in Toledo,” about 50 miles away.
“Well,” My Mother replied, without skipping a beat, “that’s a pretty long walk. Let me get you a drink of water.” She looked pointedly at My Father, who nodded, and quickly came into the house and headed for the telephone. She notified the police and drew a glass of water.
“The home already called the police,” she whispered to me. “They’re on their way.” She hurried back outside, where Lenore was attempting to leave.
“Why don’t you have the water, first, before you set out again?” He encouraged her. “It’s pretty warm today.”
“Yes,” Lenore accepted the glass. “You have such a nice yard.” She sipped deeply at the water. “You remind me a lot of my son. I don’t get to see him very much anymore, you know.”
I stepped into the side yard, and Lenore looked up.
“This is my daughter,” my father introduced me.
“Hello, dear, you have a very nice father.” I smiled shyly and thought she was exactly correct. Within minutes, a police car pulled slowly to the curb.
“Well, Mrs. Ratkowski,” the driver called to her, as he took his hat off and approached her, “out for a walk again today?” He smiled at my parents.
“Oh, yes, officer,” Lenore replied. [That’s how we spoke to police officers in those days. We called them “officer” or “sir.”] “Yes, I’m on my way to see my son.” She looked warily from the policeman to my dad.
“I see,” the policeman placed his hand lightly on Lenore’s elbow. “Your friends at the home didn’t get a chance to say good-bye and are worried about you.”
“Tell them that I’m fine. I’m just chatting with this nice man and his family.”
“Well, ma’am, we need to get you back there.” He started to steer her towards the patrol car.
Lenore stopped, her face confused, and she looked at my dad.
“I think you should go with him and let them sort it out,” he reassured her. “They’ll make sure you get in touch with your son.”
“But he’s expecting me,” she didn’t cry, but there was such sadness in her voice.
“He’ll be very worried, if he doesn’t know where you are,” my dad took her arm and started walking to the car. “And I’ll feel better, if I know you’re safe.” Lenore allowed him to settle her in the back seat of the car.
“Well, thank you!” She smiled and gave a little wave as the car pulled away. We waved back. My dad, who had lunch with his own mother every Wednesday, shook his head and returned to cutting the grass.
It seems like such an insignificant incident in anyone’s daily life, but it has stayed with me for 50 years. I learned from my dad that we are all dependent on the kindness of strangers, especially when we are confused and lost and not ourselves.
About 10 years later, when I was confused, he gave me an excellent piece of advice. Raised a Catholic, I was contemplating being married by a Presbyterian minister of whom The Veterinarian was quite fond. I asked my dad if he would be upset, that I didn’t want to cause the trouble in our family that was raised when he married My Mother, who was not a Catholic. He said, “You have to do what is right for you. I appreciate that you’re concerned about it, but you have to live this life yourself and do what works for you.”
Here is a photo of me at that very confusing moment in my life, when I was about to be married by that Presbyterian minister. I am 20 and terrified that I’m making a mistake. You can see the tears in my eyes, but the show must go on, so I smile. My Dad is not smiling. He, too, thinks I am making a mistake. We both know that I am too young to be married but that I had made a commitment. We both know that God will watch out for me. My dad knows that he couldn’t have picked a better man to be my husband, so, here he is, supporting me, whatever comes, waiting to pick up the pieces, to make things right.
What a great dad!
A recent date told me that some men just wink or write to women to see if they can get an answer, not because they’re really interested in them. Oh, great! This bit of information confirmed what I have suspected. I couldn’t figure out why I wouldn’t get any response when I emailed men who claimed to be interested in me. Well, I’ve tried playing nice, and I’ve been honest about who I am and who I’m looking for. Where are all the honest men like my dear old dad? Herewith my new, totally honest profile:
“I didn’t know how to do this when I was 17, so I latched onto one guy and stuck with him until he up and died on me when I was 59 — yep, I was faithful to one, and only one, guy, so that kinda makes me a 63-year old virgin, if you think about it. Betcha don’t know many of those, do ya?
I have two more months left on this subscription, and my daughter says I am wasting my $$$ if I hide my profile. My friends say, “Surely, Mr. Right is on his way.” (I have the funniest friends.) So, instead of selling myself as the ideal woman, let’s see if I can entertain you. I am always entertained by reading some of your profiles, especially those of 60-something hipsters looking for women 25-45. Someone who is still engaged in life is a must, but I’m not into delusion. If you’re over the age of 12 and believe in love at first sight, don’t contact me.
I don’t lie. I don’t fake my photos, age, height, or weight. Yes, I’m short and old (as are most of you guys — old, I mean), but I consider myself a 30-ish trans-Brazilian supermodel, if that counts for anything, so you are not allowed to discriminate on my lack of stature. (Stop reading if you have to google “stature”).
I don’t have stretch marks. [See? I figured how to work that into my profile.] All my body parts are original equipment, except one of my teeth (BMI-21). I own my own home and car. I dress nicely. I’m smart. My manners are impeccable. I am a lady, except when I’m swearing (in case that’s a turn-off). I think I’m kind and generous, but, who am I to say?
I’ve only visited four of the seven continents. I like the French, especially their wine. Of course, I’ll drink almost any country’s wine, but I won’t drink anyone’s beer. I don’t get seasick. I don’t faint at the sight of mice, spiders, or snakes. I don’t panic in emergencies, unless you find that exciting, in which case, I can shriek with the best of them. Sorry, I’m just not completely helpless, but I can pretend to be, if that helps. I try to leave the drama on the stage, where it belongs.
On the other hand, if you want a mountain-biking, rock-climbing, hog-riding, golfing/skiing/backpacking buddy with breasts, check out reality tv.
If you really do want someone beautiful inside and out, funny, intelligent, honest, confident, and financially independent (which most of you do want, apparently), and YOU are handsome inside and out, witty, honest, dependable, intelligent, financially independent, and know your way around a chainsaw, give me a call. (I live in the woods and am afraid of chain saws — hard to believe, I know) If not, my dog is a great snuggler, although also quite a snorer.
I used to answer every person who contacted me, but I think it was some kind of trick, because I rarely got a response to my response, so I don’t answer winks or interests or favorites. If you have something to say, say it in clear, grammatical English. (I speak two other languages, but let’s stick with English.) I dislike snobs, bigots, bad manners, and narrow-mindedness, this includes men who think they are hipsters (see above).
Don’t contact me if you’re married or still angry at your ex-wife. Don’t contact me if you don’t like to travel outside of a 25-mile radius of Baltimore. If you can’t recognize the state of Michigan by its silhouette, pass me by.
That’s it. I have nothing left to say. I’ll start googling convents now. Maybe I can find one that will let me bring my dog and my Champagne. Thanks for letting me entertain you!”
So far, it’s working great, because out of 136 people lured by my sweet photo in the past week, only one has winked at me! Think of all the bullets I’ve dodged, so, who am I to complain? Life is good (mostly). Soli Deo Gloria!