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Monday, May 5, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad!

My father is a Taurus – and he’s definitely as stubborn as a bull! Of course, I’m Aquarian, and just as stubborn, so perhaps it’s in the genes?

He’s also incredibly intuitive, with a very strong sense of justice (and injustice) both of which I got from him.

He was born in 1946, which makes him sixty-two today. He was named after his father, William Lee Ladd. My middle name comes from his (Sherilee … they couldn’t decide between Dawn and Sheri, and decided to combine them all!)

What I remember my father telling me about his childhood:

He had two older sisters who took up a great deal of his care-taking. He also had a younger brother who stole a lot of his thunder. The boys got into a lot of trouble together—including using their brand new Christmas air rifles to shoot the ornaments off the tree. His father worked in a factory, and died of brain cancer when my father was about twelve. My grandmother was a single mother for the rest of her life—she never remarried. My father had a lot of trouble in school. Nowadays, he’d be easily treatable as a dyslexic, given all sorts of accommodations, etc. But back then, he was just labeled stupid and was given looms and weaving to do. He didn’t finish much past the fifth grade, and still has problems reading and writing to this day.

My grandmother said the girls came to the house for my dad "in droves." He was sorta handsome, huh? He met my mother in his early twenties. She was nine years older, and since he believed he couldn’t have children, and she came with a ready-made family of two girls and a boy, it was a perfect match. I was a surprise – surprise! Their only biological child together. My father wanted a boy, but my mother says she was grateful I was a girl – because 1) he and I probably would have killed each other when I hit my teen years if I was a boy and 2) it gave my father the opportunity to see how the world is for girls and women.

I think both are probably true!

When I think about my father, I remember:

* The time he climbed into my crib when I was about three and told him, “You can’t come in here! You’re too big!”
* Making a snowman with him and using leftover brake light covers for eyes.
* Holding the flashlight when he was working on the car.
* He took my training wheels off and helped me learn to ride a two-wheeler
* He asked me what color I wanted to paint my room when I was five, and when I said, “Red, white and blue” he didn’t even flinch. My room was painted like an American flag, including stripes and stars.
* We joined a father/daughter bowling league – and I won most improved bowler (which wasn’t hard, when I started with a “9”… that’s not a typo. Nine pins, the whole first game.)
* He loved Elvis Presley and played 2001 The Space Odyssey soundtrack over and over. Later, it was Queen’s soundtrack from The Highlander.
* In spite of, or because of, his dyslexia, he valued education and never stopped reinforcing college – it was never a question that I was going to go. Which I did. I’m the first person in my family to attend college, let alone finish, and the only one with a Masters degree.
* When I doubted the existence of Santa Claus, he had his friend, Bob, play Santa for me – the on CB radio.
* He bought me my first car - $400 for a rusty 1968 Signet – and spent the summer repairing it when it broke down. And it broke down a lot.
* He initiated the idea of putting up all of the Christmas decorations on Christmas Eve, while I was sleeping. So I went to bed with nothing Christmas-y around, and woke up to the magic of not only the decoration and the tree, but presents, too!

My father and I - 1978ish.

My mother and father 2007

My Father Christmas 2007

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