My father found out he was going to have a daughter when he was a 40-something year old, 20-something years ago. I've never asked him how he felt about learning this. I never asked him about our relationship as daughter and father. I know he was at work a lot. To this day, most of the time he's at work or working. When he wasn't working, there was a lot of arguing in the house. Who knows what it was about; money, school, work, life... the normal things.
I am sure he hugged and kissed me enough, but I've never asked. I rarely think about it. The first time I remember him hugging me, though, was when I was 18. We had an argument, and due to hypoglycemia, I blew things out of proportion. We were in the car driving somewhere. He stopped the car on the side of the road, got into the backseat, and hugged me. Never before had I seen my father sit in the backseat of the car. He was ALWAYS the driver. We sat there and he hugged me for about 10 or 15 minutes. Honestly, what he said didn't resonate with me. I have no idea what sorts of words of encouragement and sentimentality he shared with me that day. All I remember is that hug, and how nice it felt.
Not being an emotionally-open person, him or I, we don't push those sorts of things. It is just how we are, I guess. Physical expressions of love, along with verbal ones, were always pretty limited. That's what we like, that's what we're comfortable with. Even seeing my father kiss my mother in public once or twice a year makes me squirm, still. I should think, "Aw, they're still in love after 35 years." Alas, I just can't get over the fact that I find saliva exchange of any sort to be repugnant. Necessary at times, but still germ-filled and icky.
My father enjoys a few things. Not too much, as he is a traditional curmudgeon, by all means. I know nearly everything that makes him genuinely smile, though. I could probably list them just using two hands. As for things he couldn't live without, I could list those on one hand and have a couple spare fingers. Let's simplify this, though... He loves animals, cars, music, baked goods, law, medicine, expensive things, and his family.
What inspired me to write today was one detail about my father's love for things....
When he looks at our dog (a big, fluffy Australian Shepherd) he says she is beautiful. When he shows off his black corvette with red leather interior, he goes on about how beautiful the car is. So on, so on.... The one thing my father has never said to me is that I am beautiful.
My father doesn't think of me as a car or as a dog. He doesn't think I need to be told I'm beautiful every time I wear a dress or put on some makeup or get my hair done. I'm his daughter! No matter what I'm wearing, I'm good! It is seldom that he compliments me at all, but the last thing I need is for my father to tell me he approves of my appearance more so than usual. What good does that do me? However, the other day, after I gave my brother a handwritten card for his wedding, my father said, "Hold onto that, it'll be worth something someday considering how well she writes."
At that moment, I nearly cried. That compliment, along with any time he says I'm intelligent or that I'll be successful, is irreplaceable. Those moments cannot be erased from my mind. They help me believe in myself and what I am capable of accomplishing. They inspire me each and everyday, even when things seem impossible. Not because "my daddy" said I could do things, but because a man I highly respect and admire believes in me. Not in any light manner, but deep to the core of his being, he knows I'll be okay. Which lets me know that, yeah... I will be okay.
My father isn't trying to be anyone else. He's not trying to fill a role or say what a father is supposed to tell his daughter. He knows I want to be intelligent, I want to be respected, I want to be viewed as a blossoming human being in society who is going to not only be good, but be GREAT. That is what his message is to me whenever he gets the chance. He reminds me what really matters. Not to get caught up in superfluous physical traits and not even to stress out about minor obstacles and challenges right now. He keeps me running and chasing what matters. We don't need to constantly call each other and recite pre-written vows of love. I just get him and he just gets me.
That's all we need.