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Posts Tagged ‘Unconditional Love’

My Daddy Jim was the only dad I knew.

I had a biological father who died before I turned one. He was a pharmacist and owned a drug store. I had a stepfather at 12 who died my freshman year in college. He was a lawyer and a judge. You could say I had an abundance of smart, successful fathers, but only one real, true Daddy – my foster father Jim.

Daddy Jim had an eighth grade education. He left school early to work, in order to help his large Irish Catholic family. It wasn’t uncommon then, there were no child labor laws. He joined the Navy, and because his eighteenth birthday fell between two great wars, he never knew combat. He was a teenager when he married my foster mother Nell, and they only had one child.

Their daughter Jackie was a nurse when they scooped me up after my Year of Living Dangerously. Jim was over 50 years old when suddenly he and Nell filled their empty nest with a baby. Me.

Daddy Jim gave me the capacity to love.

I’ve given this a lot of thought; girls raised by a nurturing and loving father have a better than average chance at finding love. After all, some fathers can be driven by their careers, their hobbies, booze or even extra-marital affairs. The young women they raise might think that love can mean detachment, or even abuse. Intimacy can be elusive.

Over Father’s Day weekend, I made a list of the memories I have about Jim:

He Gave me the World – He would read to me from a newspaper. Since Nell didn’t drive a car, Jim would take me shopping for food. I learned how to talk with the butcher, and the baker – how to connect with others. He would take me swimming and ice skating at a pond.

He Would Comfort me – Whenever I was sick, he would hold my hair back. He would always stay with me until I fell asleep. We would stop for ice cream sundaes after Mass every Sunday. Whenever I asked him what he wanted as a gift for Father’s Day, he’d say ‘nothing.’ But I’d get him a new pair of slippers anyway.

He Liked to Surprise me – Every day when he’d return home from work, he’d have a tiny surprise in one hand or one pocket, and I’d have to guess. How did I always guess the right hand? I can’t even remember what these gifts were, probably a flower or a fancy rock? Maybe a nickel? It didn’t matter. What mattered is that I knew I mattered to him. Jim once built me a doll house made of popsicle sticks!

He Taught me How to Play – Whenever I was “bad,” he’d chase me outside all around the house until he’d catch me and give me “paddy whackins.” It was like play-spanking because we’d collapse out of breath with laughter. And every day after dinner we’d play cards for pennies. This was serious stuff. He taught me not to cheat, and to save my winnings in a piggy bank.

He Helped Around the House – In the old days, it was highly unusual for dads to do housework. And even though Nell was a full-time-homemaker, Jim would wash the kitchen floor every Saturday morning while I watched cartoons. We’d dry and put away the dishes after dinner, before gin rummy. He’d clean out the ashes in the coal bin and pick up the dog poop in the yard.

When Jim retired from his government job as the “Transportation Man” – the person who coordinated the trains in and out of Picatinny Arsenal, he was given a watch. I wish I could tell him how much he meant to me, so much more than a watch, or a pair of slippers. He died before Bob and I married, and he’d forgotten who I was at the end.

He was the embodiment of unconditional love. And I was so lucky he chose me as his daughter.

Pop Bob at the Farmer’s Market

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