Thursday, June 16, 2005

Stories of My Father



This is my dad, or as I (mostly) called him, far. Today is his birthday.

My father was a pretty complex man. He was fiercely intelligent, generous, funny, quick-witted, proud, stubborn, had a wicked temper and a severe case of verbal diarrhea. With the exception of the last few years of his life, most of my memories of far involve him talking. He had an incredible ability to use words and could verbally run circles around anyone. He could persuade you that you were wrong, even when he wasn’t right. Far was not always easy to love, but he was never, ever boring.

There was a time when I thought he knew everything. Later I realized that although he did know an awful lot, he had mastered the ability to state his opinions with such certainty and confidence that you couldn’t help but believe he was stating facts.

He taught us the debate game. About playing with an idea, an abstract concept and pushing it as far as it could go. He taught us how mental gymnastics is one of the most satisfying past-times there is.

He believed in living life large. He taught me that if you’re going to bother having an opinion or emotion, you should be passionate about it. Some people say “less is more”. Not so my father. One of his favourite sayings was “more is better”.

Some of the best laughs in my life have come from being with him. He had a quick wit and wasn’t afraid to look ridiculous (often with props). Some of my fondest memories of him are him laughing so hard he was crying and the rest of us laughing/crying, too, even though we weren’t always sure what was so funny.

He believed in chasing your dream and was a bit of a rebel. A famous story about my father happened in New York City in the 1960’s and starts off with him being at least three sheets to the wind. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but somehow, he came by a fire truck – one of the big ones – climbed up and was about to take it for a spin (sirens on of course). Luckily, his friends persuaded him to come down before he got arrested.

My father was a flirt. Once, on a pedestrian street in Copenhagen, he flirted with the Queen of Greece. He always had a sparkle in his eyes and an appreciation and genuine like for women. Which was a good thing, since he shared the house with 3 of them (and two female dogs).

Thanks to my father’s belief that women are endlessly interesting, my sister Janne and I grew up believing that we were never in any way less because we were female. He taught us that we could do anything we wanted, then did everything he could to make sure that we had what we needed to chase our dreams and expected us to do so.

We’re Danish. This means that we don’t really talk about our feelings. I can’t remember my father ever telling me he loved me, but it wasn’t necessary to hear the words. He was the master of the touch on the shoulder as he passed, coming into my room just to give me a kiss and he spoiled us all rotten.

Far loved travelling and passed that love on to us kids by showing us the world. My first trip with him was to Greece when I was 11. As the plane took off, he pointed out to me how the sailboats were getting smaller and smaller, not noticing that I was busy clenching the armrest in fear. That was the last time I was afraid of flying. His love of new places, foods and cultures was so infectious that I quickly forgot the fear and never looked back.

My father loved a party and in my family, we don’t believe it’s a coincidence that when he died four years ago, he chose to do so on St. Patrick’s Day – one of the largest party days in North America. On March 17, we celebrate with him. As we do today.

Tillykke, far.



8 comments:

Mor said...

Thank you for bringing back all those memories of Far. I am laughing and crying at the same time and will join you in saying tillykke to Far, he was a spectacular man.
Mor

Michele said...

This is so beautiful! He was a wondeful man. I miss him.

Tillykke to Far. (please don't make me sing/say this).

stephanie said...

The best bit yet lady. Far would have approved.

janine said...

He sounds like a wonderful man You must be so proud of him. We lost my father in law 8 weeks ago and in many ways you don't realise what you have lost until they are not there anymore.

cassie said...

That is a fantastic homage to your dad.

Janne said...

Thanks Big Sis for bringing back some great memories (and for making me cry at work!!).

Life was definitely never boring with him around; he always knew the best way to embarrass me (especially as a teenager) in public, but also to make me laugh.

I got to see so much of the world thanks to him, whether through all the postcards he sent me when I was little and all the souvenirs he brought back, or all the family trips we took when I was older.

John and I were talking last night about it being dad's birthday and his mom's the day before. We both hoped that they were somewhere nice celebrating together.

Happy birthday Dad, Margaret & Grandma!

Anonymous said...

The hardest thing to write well -- well done. The sparkle was the first thing I noticed, so it was good to have it confirmed as habitual. Amazing photo, wonderful tribute. - rams

AlisonH said...

I did not ever get to meet your father, but I will never forget your brother-in-law's description of looking in his eyes near the very end and knowing, absolutely knowing, that your father knew and acknowledged his love right back at him and towards all of you. I treasure that.