My father is an electrical engineer by training, a computer programmer by profession, and a seriously nerdy man the rest of the time. I mean it, he is the Uber-Geek, the King of the Wonks, the apogee of the odd. If you ask this man for the time, he may very well spend the next twenty minutes explaining how clocks work and segue neatly into a discussion of the adoption of the Julian calendar. It will be Interesting. You will be Informed. You will walk away saturated with facts and mildly dazed.
That, in a nutshell, is my childhood. Anything I wanted to know about, I asked Dad. He read books about longitude, (that’s where the clock info came from) about pencils, about screwdrivers. Walking the dogs late at night, he would point the stars and the planets out to me. I asked him questions about anatomy, submarines, space, nuclear reactors, Batman. He answered them all.
He is a font of information, and as he will be the first to tell you, anything he doesn’t know he will cheerfully make up. (I hasten to add, his guesses are very educated.) Dad has weaponized these tendencies in recent years with the acquisition of an iPad, with which he is able to become an instant expert on anything at all.
As I’ve gotten older, my questions have become more complicated. I want to know how the heart works, but in a less practical, more philosophical sense. Even my dad doesn’t pretend to have the answers to those. It’s been scary, growing up past the point where Daddy could tell me how everything worked. Also, realizing that I know more about poetry, art history, and the publishing industry than he does was something of a shock. (An embarrassingly recent shock, at that.)
My father isn’t perfect, obviously. He’s rough around the edges. We all are. But he has the best heart. He would drive anywhere for me, for one of my friends, for our family. I have always known that he loves me.
When I was little, he read me books at bedtime. He read me the first three Dragonriders of Pern books, he read me the Narnia books, he read me Sherlock Holmes stories, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. He read me Chapter 7 of The Once and Future King approximately six hundred times. (I loved Chapter 7 the best.) During a few very memorable, very special months, he read Lord of the Rings out loud to my mother and me. Gandalf will always sound like my father, no matter how many times I watch the movies.
He would discuss the finer points of steam trains with me for hours, courtesy of my sincere love for Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. The Way Things Work and Stephen Biesty’s Cross-Sections were as familiar and comforting bedtime-reading as those illustrated books retelling Disney movies. My dad knew things, and still does. He played Myst and Riven with me sitting on his lap. He played submarine commander simulator games with me hanging out over his shoulder, offering “helpful” suggestions like “Ping them!” Yes, give away your position to the enemy! I knew exactly what I was doing.
A lot of my life has been like that. I know exactly what I’m doing, and Dad just lets it ride. He knows that I’m going to make mistakes, no matter how much he’d like to shield me from them. So I’ll make them, and I’ll recover, smarter and stronger than before, because that’s who he trusts me to be.
When I was 13, we started going to the movies. Throughout high school, I think we saw every silly action movie and superhero flick that Hollywood could throw up onto the big screen. I don’t think I can put into words what that did. Maybe it’s a post for another day. But where so many girls I knew found their relationships with their fathers put under stress by adolescence and impending maturity, I went to the movies with my dad, and we talked in the car each way, and we sang songs. And while some things change, some things are always going to stay the same. He’s still my favorite date. I’m still his little girl. I’m just a young, independent woman at the same time. Because that’s who he trusts me to be.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. We have tickets to the midnight show of The Dark Knight Rises. I’ll even buy the popcorn.