What I have learned from my father? Wow! I could write a weekly blog just on that topic. My father, a very intelligent man with a history in scientific and academic publishing, has knowledge of and opinions on a myriad of subjects; not limited to his field of expertise. (Biology and Chemistry). Highly educated, well read, determined, head strong, and insightful, he has been the best man I have ever known. That is not to say we have always seen eye to eye on things and not to say my Father/Daughter relationship was as perfectly wonderful from day one as it is today. Some of those traits I listed above may sound familiar to those of you who know me well; I am certain that head strong, determined and opinionated caught the eye of my mother as she “previewed” my blog this week. So, when a father and a daughter share many of the same personality traits (and some striking physical ones in my case as well), it should not surprise people to hear my say that our relationship has always been good, but has gotten much stronger as we’ve gotten older ( and as I did some more growing up!)
The only and eldest daughter of three, yes, I was my father’s little girl. My earliest memory of my father is from when I was just a little over two years old. He took me out for the day, probably because, as an early talker, I was wearing my mother out. We went to…the mall! Never my dad’s favorite place to venture; going with a 2 year old in 1980 must have been some experience. Why did we go there? Because I wanted to go on the “rides.” Those little machines that took a quarter and bounced up and down? Yup; in 1980 that was my idea of a perfect date! The memory is hazy, but it is there, in my mind and heart; me and Joe Degnan at the mall!
Over the years, I gave some of the things he liked to do the old “college try”, as it were. Camping?! Um…I went. I endured. Was I a happy go lucky camper? Not in the least. Baseball? I went. I learned. I enjoyed! And so, there was a common interest. My dad did the best he could too; my three lines in a production of Carousel in high school. He came ( twice). He endured. He brought flowers. Was I made aware that musicals, especially those Rogers and Hammerstein ones were not high on his list of enjoyable events? Why yes, I was. And yet, it was my father who took me to tour the NYU campus when I thought I wanted to attend school in the city. It was my father who worked with me on my college applications, who listened to stories of my first work experiences, who provided me with background knowledge on any subject imaginable as I began teaching. (Dad, what do you know about Mount Everest? About the scientific possibilities about Jurassic Park being a reality? About how long a 9 year old could survive in the woods on her own?) Never did he ask “What on earth are you teaching?” He sat, he explained, he explained again (again, and again!) until I understood.
As I compose this, at almost 40 years old, am I still my father’s girl? Yes I am in many ways. He texts me if the weather is going to be bad in the morning. Each January, he reminds me about what I need to prepare for my taxes. He beats me to the garbage barrels and takes them out for me. When I work late, he waits by his window (my parents live across the street) and walks me to the door so I am safe. He checks my smoke detector batteries. He worries, he worries, he worries! And he does all of this not because I cannot do it on my own or because he thinks I need to be taken care of; but because he knows that my own life roles, as mother, as Head of School, as educator put a great deal on my plate at any given time and he wants to help. He is the backbone that allows me to be the woman I am; the woman I hope inspires many of the young ladies I see every day at Saint Dominic Academy. My father is truly a wonderful man.
Sitting in my office at Saint Dominic Academy, I am surprised to look at my desk calendar and see we are at the end of January already. This year, like every year before it has moved at lightening pace and it continues full on; heading into our Spirit Week and, this coming Friday, February 3rd, our 35th Annual Father-Daughter Dance. Of all of the traditions I have come to embrace as an administrator at Saint Dominic Academy, this one has a very special place in my heart. Saint Dominic Academy is the first school that I have been connected with, either as a student or a teacher, who hosts an event like this, and what an important event it is. For in a school that celebrates women, that empowers women, that rejoices at generations of strong alumnae sending their daughters to our doors for education, it is equally important that we give our fathers and father figures a moment in the spotlight and recognize them for being the wonderful men that they are; men who are not shying away from the idea of raising an outspoken, witty, educated, empowered daughter, but men who are saying “Yes! I am proud of my daughter and I know she will change the world!”
On February 3rd, my father and I will join the young ladies of SDA and the men who are committed to making the lives of those girls truly wonderful. I will look forward to thanking, in person, every father and father figure in the room who has done so much for the young ladies I am blessed to see every day. And I will thank my father, and encourage all of the girls to do the same. (I bet nobody thinks I can do it without crying!) Ladies, these men help to make us empowered women; how very lucky we are to have them.