WWDD

That means “What Would Dad Do?” That’s my dad, I mean. He’s been dead just about 20 years, and he was far from a perfect dad. But he never failed to be there when I needed his money or his time. He would leave someone else in charge of his business, pack up my mother and the car, and make the three-hour drive up to my house on the hill if I needed them to stay with my kids when I had to travel for my job. He bought me more than one car over the years, gave us money toward the house we bought, and substantially contributed toward my kids’ college costs. When my daughter got really sick at college, he dropped everything, drove out and bundled her into his car (he was closer than I), and even got a doctor to come to his house to see her.
And that’s why I drive across the whole state of Massachusetts to pick up my daughter and family (who don’t have a car) and then drive half way back again to help them look at houses for sale (where they hope to live, soon) and then drive back across that half I just drove them out across to take them back home. Of course, I do stay over a few nights, play with my sweet, sweet, toddler grandson, and read the books I never get around to reading at home. (This time it’s “Sweet Dream Baby.”) And that’s why I send more money to help out b!X than I really can afford.
I think that I inherited most of my personality traits from my dad — even the traits that laid dormant in him because no one ever enouraged them, like his creative urges. I remember that he tried “paint-by-number” paintings once, and he bought some reproductions that he thought were valuable art from places like the Franklin Mint and such, for which he paid exorbitant prices for stuff like Norman Rockwell plates and a replica of the Liberty Bell (including plexiglass case) and an odd concave enamel-on-copper supposedly three-dimensional winter scene. He thought they were an investment and would be worth more someday. In many of the ways of the world he was amazingly smart; he just didn’t know squat about art.
But he was smart enough and loving enough to try to be a good father in the only ways that he knew how. His own father, who is reputed to have beat him (and who was finally relegated by my grandmother to a room of his own on another floor of the apartment building that they owned), was hardly a role model.
For all of his flaws, though, my dad always extended himself to help me when I needed his help — even though I broke his heart by eloping and depriving him of his dream of walking me down the aisle of the cathedral-like Polish church where he spent so much of his energy volunteering, even though my teenage years were dedicated to flouting his authority, even though I turned my back on the religion that sustained him through all those difficult times, even though I divorced and lived a free-wheeling lifestyle that he couldn’t understand.
And so, driving back from Boston today in the rain — back to the demands of the care of an ailing 88 year-old woman (who is my mother and many of whose traits I have tried very hard not to emulate) — I think of what my dad did, what he still would do, what I choose to do.
For many of us, life is more important than art, family more important than frolic. But then, again, over the years, I have had more than my share of frolic, and I have been on the receiving end of much generosity.
Driving back from Boston today in the rain, I think about what my dad would think of me now, this tired, grubby granny who is still trying to grow up, who would really like, one day, to become one of those unerringly compassionate matriarchs, one of those serene and classy crones.

3 thoughts on “WWDD

  1. And another, having early and long ago
    lost the progenitors
    and any sense of what the originals were
    in manner, mind, heart,
    wonders what they would think
    of where their solo offspring has come,
    what he’s been, done, is,
    still wonders if he’s like either
    of the creators
    in manner, mind, heart.
    And puzzles over understanding
    the not-knowing is itself a knowing:
    of the still importance of his makers.

  2. uhmmm, I think I know what you mean, at least I think I have an idea of how what you’re describing applies to my life. Both bits, the one regarding the wish to assume more of the equanimous parent’s outlook, and the other one regarding the wish to lay those internal battles to rest somehow and just to be the ruler-in-equanimity of your life. Just your life, not anyone else’s. And isn’t that a huge prize? Imagine the vistas that open up, the real excitement that would entail? Well, I keep thinking it can happen, and I guess you do, too. So, gotta hang in there!

  3. But, Elaine! You already are “one of those serene and classy crones,” which is why you are adored so much and so greatly respected. You are a fantastic role model.
    We aspire to be like YOU, you silly woman.

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