Contributed by Maryann Conniff-Perez

“If you want to understand any women
you must first ask about her mother
and then listen carefully.”

 Anita Diamont – The Red Tent


This has been the premise we have existed under for all of our existence – Women – We are our mothers.  YES – we are, BUT we are also our fathers and to understand any women you must listen carefully to how she talks about her father.

My father;

From my earliest memories to today my father has had a major positive (or at least from my viewpoint) impact on the woman I am.  Of course I am a compilation of the influences of many, my mother, my siblings, my friends, my husband, but the deeper tread of me I truly believe is my father.

No I do not come from “Life with Father” or “Leave it to Beaver” nor would I want to.

I come from a family that under today’s criteria may even have been labeled somewhat dysfunctional.

Dad worked hard, came home –crashed in his bedroom – went back to work.  Then sometimes on weekends went in to a second job.

Mom took care of all of us

And then the relatives, Grandpa and the Aunt, who lived with us on and off – a whole different element to life in our house.

Oh and before I forget, my father has polio and gets around on crutches.   I say before I forget because for all of my life this has been just who he is, and not a point to make.   Until I went to school I had never even realized this difference.

IN the 50’s men didn’t have much to do with the early days of their children.  But I think our early days forged our bond.  During my 1st years of life my mother worked days and my Father nights, so diaper changing, feeding and rocking were part of his life as well as my mother’s.

BUT, where my real memories kick in are in my parents’ bedroom at night after my father came home from work.  A special treat was to be able to spend the evening with Daddy and watch TV in the bedroom.  During commercials you could share your day, your adventures and at some point, I don’t know when, my father started sharing his day with me.

He would tell me about the lab he worked in, bring me home pieces of copper at different stages – engaged my curiosity.

At this time he also started sharing his love of reading, reading anything.   My father would read scientific journals and comic books one right after the other and with as much enjoyment.   I started to love reading too and this is an important thread that links me to my father.  Encouragement to learn.  He always encouraged me to try, to experience.   There were no boundaries (or at least in my naive world) to what I could read.  And I will admit that reading let me escape from the normal, every day existence.

As I got older we stopped sharing (or so it felt during those teen years) but he was still there encouraging me, putting up no boundaries.

I once felt that there should have been more guidance, more direction given to me to structure my life.

But then I realize the experiences I would have missed then and now.

My father gave me:

a love of knowledge – for itself – not for commercial gain

a desire to experiment – and an understanding that there is no failure here

just a possible redirection

a need to be independent

Today as adults he is still there encouraging me – pushing me to experiment, to be what I want to be not what is expected.

My father has shown me through every stage of his life that we never stop learning, we never stop growing, and we should not let artificial walls stop our progress if that progress is what we want.

I am my mother, I look like her outwardly and we will always have a mystical bond.

BUT – I am also my father and happy and proud to be so.

Now a new awareness has emerged in my thoughts and feelings about my Dad.

As I re-read my thoughts from a few short years ago and reflect on my recent loss of “Daddy” (yes even at 59 years old he always was and always will be Daddy to me) I would not change anything just add to the GLADNESS.

The last year or two of his life was not a typical glad time for him or for me, as how could the thought of your own demise be.  BUT I am glad that I was his rock, his companion, his trust and anchor.  Even among the sadness it was a journey I am glad I had with him.  We talked about things I do not think he would have discussed with me, we argued as adults, we laughed as adults and he relied on me, his daughter,  which gave me strength as this was from a man who never relied on anyone – a new element of our relationship.   The aging process of a parent is hard but as in every step of our life together I am so glad to have had the opportunity to have him and to realize that I am GLAD that he was my father, never a doubt!


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