My childhood home was my dad’s castle. He took pride in its upkeep. Being very handy, he always had some project or other in progress. The yard was one area that was under constant transformation. He added a patio and sidewalks to the back of the house (not all homes had these). When he was done, we were allowed press our feet into the still-wet concrete and write our names with a stick.
He erected a privacy fence on the side of the patio facing the road so when we sat at the handmade picnic table to eat, kids playing in the field next to our house could not stare as we ate.
Dad took special pride in the trees and rose bushes he planted and treated more lovingly then he sometimes did his family. The grass was regularly fertilized and mowed.
The house was regularly painted, old paint chipped away and new paint carefully applied. From all appearances, this was a home to be proud of and most likely, one might think, the family inside was also as carefully groomed and well-loved.
We were taught to say “yes ma’am” and “no sir,” to eat with our mouths closed, and do as we were told. We were given chores to do to teach us responsibility. But the effort that Dad took to assure his home was pristine and a showplace could not always be duplicated with his family. It was not that an effort wasn’t made by my mother.
As much as my dad wanted us to be the perfect family, we could not live up to his unspoken expectations. We sometimes lied, we missed bedtimes, we forgot to do chores. We were normal kids who sometimes screwed up. And although I knew in my heart my dad loved me, he had a hard time showing it.
It wasn’t until later in life, as we grew into adulthood, that Dad softened and was able to fully show his love. He was proud of the adults we had become and was the first to give praise for accomplishments. Perhaps he wasn’t able to relate to children as easily as he could when we were older. It is hard to know.
My dad is gone now, and I think of him often. Having children of my own, I know parenting is a challenge and he did the best he knew. I try to focus on the good memories and know that I will always love you Dad.