Speaking to my brother last month, we got to talking about things we had inherited from our father. Now in his mid-30s, my brother’s shoulders and chest have broadened, taking the same shape as dad’s.
When we were growing up, my parents owned a small company, making German sausage from game. We regularly watched my father hoist a massive moose quarter onto one of those wide shoulders, and walk with it in his steady, straight, grounded way. It was those shoulders that became pistons when we were swimming in the lake, throwing us into the air so we would come splashing down in a rain of laughter.
My brother was complaining that it is now too easy to acquire the dreaded "paunch" that causes almost our entire family to fall under the “hefty” banner. I attempted to console my brother by reminding him that while he may have inherited dad’s shoulders, at least he didn’t get the legs, those tree trunks with huge feet attached to them. No - I got those, thanks very much. I got the super-sized calves and the quads and thighs of a weight lifter. I got the legs that pushed our Bronco along the side of the highway when we ran out of gas. I got the legs that can carry a shocking amount of weight and walk with it, at a slow and steady pace, for a long, long time.
We both got THE NOSE. That long, slim bridge off of which miniature ski jumpers could set new records. It’s a honker - this is how my dad refers to it. We all have honkers. I’m just glad mine does not make the sound of geese returning to the field every time I need to blow. For that, I am grateful.
I even got the ears, complete with a tiny mountain range of ridges running over the top. I have always liked this.
My brother didn’t get the eyes - I did. These are the eyes, with ice gleaming from their surface, that could stop us in our tracks when we were being naughty. My father never had to say anything. He just stood there, looming, for several seconds (which would feel like hours). Then he would turn and leave, the blanket of hush remaining between my brother and I.
We both got versions of dad’s laugh. I’m not talking the lower grade giggle variety (mine sounds like my mom’s), but the full-on, slap stick hilarity of maniacal cannon fire that sometimes lobs from our bellies and out our mouths, causing those nearby to consider whether to haul out the tape recorder or call the loony bin.
Both my father and I overheat easily. And we sweat like monsters, which I have always thought is fine when you’re a man, but truly a horrendous affliction when you’re trying to be a girl and you end up wearing a sweat bead moustache all summer.
I have also somehow acquired my father’s deep need for independence. My father would love to live “off the grid,” and be completely self-sufficient. I like to tease my parents about their continuing to vote conservative when they live what is essentially a Green lifestyle.
Father’s Day bits and pieces:
Once when I was small I was awoken by a terrible banging that was causing the walls to shake. Terrified, I wandered downstairs towards the heinous thunder. I opened the door to the family room, and there was my father…skipping.
I was a teenager when I learned that my father was not invincible. My parents were running the sausage business while my dad was also working at the sawmill. He went off to mill at 5am, got home around 1.30 pm, ate something and went into the sausage kitchen, which was attached to the house. More than once, he worked through the night before heading off to the mill again in the morning. One time I walked downstairs to see my dad lying on the living room floor as my mom attempted to rub the kinks out of his back and shoulders. He was groaning in agony, all those hours of hard labour burning down to his bones. I remember standing there in shock as the reality of my father’s mortality washed over me.
Never EVER go into the bathroom after my dad has been in. Ever.
The practical father of a sensitive girl, my dad was walking through the barnyard and saw me tenderly stroking the head of a calf. He stood there looking at me for a moment, before saying bluntly “Don’t get too attached,” and moving on. Of course, I cried. For two years in high school I became a vegetarian. This was out of my own confusion for my feelings as well as a way to rebel.
Once I was sitting on the couch with my dad, and there were some magazines that were scattered over the coffee table in front of us. Now, we are Germans. I sat there, laughing to myself as the tension rose between us. Then my father reached forward, brought the magazines together in a neat stack, and lined them up at a right angle to the corner of the table.
When I was 17 I was in a bad car accident. I wasn’t wearing a seat belt and my head when through the windscreen. My head poured with blood and at the hospital I got 12 stitches. The hospital called my parents and my father came to pick me up. When he saw me, he was completely calm, gave me a hug and ushered me into the truck. In a soft, serious voice he instructed me to walk right past my mother when I got home, and try to clean up a bit before letting her see me. She was already in a such a state of panic, and he wanted to shield her from seeing the worst of it.
Happy Father’s Day to all those men who care for children, and whose sturdy shoulders and good humour carved a better path for those who follow.
Doll & Lantern
3 hours ago