When the house phone rings at 8:20 on a weekday morning, there are really only two possibilities as to who will be on the line: Nick or my dad. If Nick is out of town, there’s a good chance it’s him, calling to say hello to the girls before they get on with their day. If Nick is home, it’s definitely my father.
Prior to his retirement last year, my dad did not call us on weekday mornings. In fact, I’m not sure that I can recall a single time when he phoned me while he was at work, ever, unless he needed an immediate answer to a particularly pressing question. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to speak with me, but rather that, when he was at work, he was working – hard – period, the end. Once I graduated college, we chatted fairly regularly, but always after 5 p.m., save for the pressing question times.
Together on his birthday this year, one of few we’ve been able to celebrate together since moving to Rochester nearly eight years ago.
When my dad phoned us that first Monday after he retired – just because he could, because he wasn’t at the office, didn’t have any meetings to attend, didn’t have an agenda that had to be considered – it was a fun novelty, but I assumed it was a one-off. Lo and behold, however, the calls kept coming; not daily or even weekly, but every couple of weeks, the phone rings at 8-something in the morning and my dad is on the other end.
He doesn’t want to speak with me, though. No, he’s calling to talk to Ella and Annie, and they know it. “Oh – it’s Papa calling again!” they’ll say as they scramble to pick up the phone.
Occasionally, if they’re in a particular rush to get out the door or are moving at a snail’s pace and are behind in their routine, they’ll hear the familiar ringing and whine, “Mom, we’re too busy! Do we have to answer?”
And every single time, my response is, “Yes, you absolutely do.”
And every single time, they do. And, when they hang up, they are glad that they did.
Kiawah, spring 2015
Because they know why their Papa is calling; I’ve confirmed this, just to be sure.
“Mom, why does Papa call us so much?”
Why do you think he does?
“I don’t know. Because he wants to say hi?”
That’s part of it.
“Because he wants to hear our voices before we go to school?”
That’s another part of it.
“Because he’s retired now so he likes to call just because he can?”
Yep, that’s another…
“Oh! And because he’s thinking about us and he wants us to know!”
Yes, there’s that, too. But you’re forgetting the biggest reason why Papa calls you in the morning.
I bet if you really think about it you can figure it…
“Do you mean because he loves us?”
“Well, duh. We knew that.”
So, to recap, their Papa calls them on school days because he is thinking about them, so that he can hear their voices, and so that he can tell them he loves them. Those are pretty damned good reasons to pick up the phone.
This past year since my dad’s retirement has been, hands down, my favorite of our relationship. Seeing him more often, being able to truly enjoy him and vice versa, has been an incredible gift. I’ve always known that my dad thinks I’m awesome; seeing him pass the same message to my own children is one of the greatest things I know.
At the girls’ final swim meet of the year, which was in February. Given that my dad and GrandMeg had just come to visit us over Christmas and had – unexpectedly – been able to attend a swim meet, I’d told him that they didn’t have to come all the way back in February to repeat the adventure. My dad’s response: “Are you kidding? We wouldn’t miss it!”
Because that’s what we all want, isn’t it? To know that someone thinks you’re awesome? That you’re the bee’s knees? To believe their feelings down to your core?
Annie and Ella are fortunate enough to have dozens of family members who think that they’re the bee’s knees. Their own daddy is no exception. Nick was away this weekend participating in his annual guys’ day tournament; we’re used to him being out of town, but being gone on a Saturday or Sunday is unfamiliar. When the tournament was first scheduled and I knew that he’d be flying back on Father’s Day, I assumed that he’d sleep in, hang with the guys, take a flight that best suited him, and return later in the day. After all, on Father’s Day, he should spend his time exactly how he wants.
Instead, he booked a 6:30 a.m. flight, landing in Rochester before I’d even awakened… because it was Father’s Day, and what he wanted most of all was to spend it with his kids.
He thinks they’re that awesome. And they know it.
I don’t know much about actual bee’s knees, but I do know that being the bee’s knees feels pretty damned fantastic.
Father’s Day surf and turf!
I love the way Ella is looking at her daddy in this photo.
Because I have been thinking of it all day, I would be terribly remiss in not giving a shout-out to another man who thought that Ella, Annie, Nick, his sisters (Nelle and Em) and their families and I were the bee’s knees: my father-in-law, Bill. Today* would have been Bill’s 72nd birthday. A double-whammy: Father’s Day and a birthday. I so wish he were here to celebrate with us – to see his oldest grandson turn five yesterday, to see his middle grandson sing Frozen songs, to meet his youngest grandson, who is just six weeks old.
We love and miss you, Grandpa Bill, and think you’re the bee’s knees, too.
(Which is probably a good thing, because you had bad knees.)
Happy Father’s (Birth)Day!
* This was written on 6/21 but, due to a scheduling snafu (i.e. time for bed!), won’t be published until 6/22…