“A father’s love can make or break a girl… He is the hero of her childhood and often a wall she pushes against during her adolescence. He is often both the rule-maker, laying out laws of discipline and competence, and the rule-breaker, helping his daughter take risks… and explore uncharted world. He often exists at the extremes of her psyche… He carries from his closeness with her an abiding – even if unconscious – sense of prediction about how his daughter will turn out.”
This quote is taken from a book called, strangely, The Wonder of Girls by Michael Gurian (Pocket Books, $26). My father cut this quote out from his local newspaper. He handed it to me silently, as if he needed to say nothing. He needed only to let me read it. As he watched, my eyes inexplicably filled with tears. I don’t know how I would have made it this far without my dad. Mum and I are good friends now (after years of fighting) but dad and I were always on the same side. He’s the one who told me, “There’s always room at the top.”
We all know about sons and mothers. But I think all women have exceptional relationships with their fathers as well. It is more of a subtle secret thing. Women feel very strongly about their dads, the symbol, right or wrong, good or bad, of their ideal man. Or maybe the opposite of their ideal man. Just the other day, a girl washing my hair (okay, she was 24, so not exactly a 12-year-old) told me that her father, who had divorced her mother when the daughter was 7, had sworn at her over the phone. “My dad, he never hit me or swore at me before,” she said with a hard edge in her voice, “But this time… I told him, that’s it. You don’t call me and I don’t call you.” The daughter saw herself as the peacemaker between her mother and her father. Now she was cutting him out of her life. I could hear despair and hurt in her voice. Her ideal man had let her down and now she was angry at all men. Maybe it isn’t a causal connection but a bad dad doesn’t help.
All parents try their best it is only that sometimes relationships with their children are just too hard to handle. Happily, when it comes to father-daughter stuff, it isn’t how you fall it is how you land. You can fix your relationship with your father right up until death. For instance, the night before last, I bumped into the wife of an acquaintance. Her father had died just before Christmas and I had meant to send a card. I said, “I am sorry about your loss.” She said, “I am lucky because we had a good relationship for the last ten years. If he had died before that time, it would have been different. But I feel okay about it. I miss him but we are at peace.” If a woman doesn’t make peace with her father, there will be a part of her – the part that wants to be loved, shown how to be strong and allowed to be weak – that won’t ever feel quite right.
Of course, I would say that, being one of the lucky ones. I have a great relationship with my father and he is a great man. I believe that he thinks I am better than I really am (his daughter is impetuous, spoiled, a coward and a cheat as well as neurotic and arrogant). It is as if he wants me to shine and to shine through me. He even forgave me for running off to Britain when he had expressly told me not to go. Maybe he knew what I was going to do before I did it, hence the profound meaning for both of us of that quote, “an abiding sense of prediction of how his daughter will turn out.” That phrase gives me a chill and reminds me that parents might have an intuition about their children’s future.
My father – who is now 80-something – has always been extraordinary. One winter, our huge back garden flooded and froze, making a perfect lake for ice skating. As we drove up to the house in dad’s work car, a little Japanese thing, dad went past the front door. He drove the car right out onto the ice. There, he whipped the car around, revving the engine and spinning the rear end this way and that. Feeling a bit queasy from the violent movement, I went into the house, leaving him twirling the little yellow Datsun around like a dervish on ice. Then, from inside the house I heard a loud WHAP – the sound of cheap car metal on packed snow. The car stopped revving and limped away from the ice. A few minutes later, I heard soft, consistent banging noises from inside the garage. What was going on? My dear dad had dented the side of his own car against a rock hard snow drift; he was now beating the indentation out with a mallet. You have to love a man like that. [email@example.com]
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.