The Secret Side Of My Dad

Happy Father's Day!

Jun 17, 2011 by

I’ve always heard that it’s common for girls to not get along with their mothers, particularly during the terrible teens, but that was never the case for me.  I honestly cannot remember ever getting into a single fight with my mom.  Dad, however, was a different story.

Dad was Archie to Mom’s Edith.  He was a very large, intimidating man and was not the most patient person in the world.  Most people were afraid of him, but for some reason, I never was.  I think he liked that I would stand up to him, but it also frustrated him.  He loved to push my buttons, teasing me relentlessly until my temper flared and I would yell at him and storm off.   We had a couple fights that were doozies and it wasn’t completely uncommon for us to yell at each other and stomp off in different directions leaving Mom in the middle.

The thing that I’ve come to realize as I’ve gotten older is that Dad and I didn’t fight because I thought he was mean or impatient, we fought because I knew who he really was.  His crusty exterior masked a fluffy marshmallow center.   I wasn’t afraid to talk back to him because I knew he loved me more than anything and I never felt like I was taking any kind of risk by talking back.   I was safe.  Had I felt the menacing threat he presented was real, I never would have yelled or talked back.

When we talk about Dad now, our favorite stories are generally about Dad’s impatience with people and situations, but my favorite memories of him don’t have anything to do with our epic battles over silly things.   My favorite memories are of the marshmallow fluff side of Dad.  Stories that I don’t normally share.

When I was very young, Dad would come home from work and I would run up to him and ask him if he brought me anything.  He would reach in his pocket and pull out a roll of Cherry LifeSavers.   I cannot look at a roll of Cherry LifeSavers without thinking of him.

Dad loved scaring people by making loud noises, so I would try to scare him back.  I remember hiding behind the front door every day when he got home from work so that I could jump out, yell ‘BOO!’  Each time he pretended to be scared, but I always knew he was faking.  One day I decided to change my hiding spot and waited around the hallway corner when he went to his room to change.  When I jumped out and yelled ‘BOO!’ that time, he jumped for real.  I was very proud of myself for having actually scared him.  I tried that spot again the next day, but it didn’t work.

In the evenings, Dad and I would lie on the living room floor and play checkers.   We used the rule that all checkers were kings that could move in any direction.  Dad would go to great lengths to set up the board so that I could jump all of his checkers in a single turn.  Inevitably I would be paying more attention to a fly buzzing around or what was on TV and would completely miss the move.   He would make me undo the wrong move and point to where I could jump his checker.  I’d jump the first checker and go back to not paying attention.   He would say ‘LOOK!!  Keep going!!!’ and I’d jump the next checker and stop.   He would eventually just point to each place I should jump until I cleared all of his checkers off of the board and then he would reset the board and we’d repeat the process.  Again, I realized this was a setup, but it made him happy and I was fine with my ‘win’.

As I got older, the marshmallow fluff showed itself in other ways.  When I was in high school, an extremely large spider had me standing on top of the toilet in an empty house.  When Dad got home, he killed the spider for me and never once laughed or made fun of me, which was not his style.  I expected eternal torment, but he just admitted that yes, it was indeed a very large, scary spider.

After I moved into my own house, my dogs had mortally wounded a robin in my yard.  I knew the bird would not survive and should be put out of its misery, but this was not something I was able to do.   I was bawling my eyes out when I called Dad.   Although I lived about 45 minutes away, Dad did not hesitate to come help me.  He and Mom made the drive and Dad euthanized the bird while Mom and I went in the house and she tried to console me.  Of course when I realized Dad used my shovel to do the deed, I was appalled and asked him to clean it off.  His response was along the lines of ‘Go to hell’, but spoken in a lovingly, fatherly way of course.

Dad always told me I could do whatever I wanted, that I didn’t have to marry a doctor, I could BE a doctor.  Although I’m not a doctor, I’ve never doubted that I could do anything I set my mind to.  He always told me how proud he was of me and I always tried my best to make him stay proud of me.  He gave me the courage to try new things and the strength to stand up for myself.    I’m very proud to have had him as a father.

Love you Daddy.

About the Author

Sheila Strekal Has Written 6 Articles For Us!

I live in Cleveland, OH and work as a developer in Information Technology. Two dogs and a cat allow me to live with them, but only if I provide food. I have Activity ADD, so the things I do during my non-work hours change regularly. The things that have remained consistent are kickboxing and yoga. Kickboxing and yoga seem to be at odds with each other in a philosophical sense, but they are both wonderful ways to work out stress. My love of animals has also remained consistent throughout my life. Through the years I’ve had several people tell me I should share my writing, but I am an extremely private and somewhat shy person so the idea of letting anyone in scares the crap out of me.
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