I’ve only seen my dad cry a few times, but each instance is as clear in my memory as the last.
One of the most memorable times was on Fathers’ Day, five years ago. It was the Sunday before my high school graduation, and my family was getting ready to leave for a grad event at the local church. Not one for dressing up, my dad was at a total loss of what to wear to the slew of formal events that tend to go along with these things. Or perhaps he had it under total control – he just pretended he needed my help picking out outfits because he knew it made me happy. Either way, he needed a suitable tie, and so, for the first time since I was in kindergarten, I gave him one.
It wasn’t the tie that set him off. It wasn’t even the card, really. All I’d written inside was that I was going to miss him when I went away to university in the fall. I think, rather, that it was the mutual realization that I wasn’t his little girl anymore – I was growing up, moving out and starting my own life. And no matter how much either one of us wanted it, we would no longer be able to be a constant and daily part of each other’s lives. I think he just realized that it was time to let me go.
Rather than drifting apart as I moved further away, my dad and I got closer. As my life got more difficult, I realized I could depend on him even more that I ever did when I was living at home. I discovered that we’re more alike than I ever thought we were, from our obsessive fretting over insignificant things to our subtle ways of showing we care. I realized that he is one of the main reasons I chose to be a writer in the first place – his love of reading and, albeit hidden, love of writing encouraged me to pen my own thoughts, which eventually became my career.
I’ve always made a point of going home for Fathers’ Day, to remind him that no matter how grown up I get, I’ll always be his daughter, and he’ll always be my dad. This is the first year I haven’t been there to hug my dad, or to tell him how important he is to my past, my present and my future, and I have to admit, I’m a little cranky about that today.
I know it can’t be easy for him, either, spending the day without his little girls, who’ve both grown up and moved away to pursue our own dreams. But even if he wanted to hold it against us, he couldn’t – after all, he’s the one who showed us we could do whatever we put our minds to.
I was in the grocery store the other day when I eyed some brilliant red rhubarb stalks, freshly picked. They looked so good I had to buy them, even though rhubarb isn’t something I’d normally pick up. Then I remembered something my dad always makes this time of year, when the rhubarb patch in our backyard is in full bloom, yielding unlimited amounts of fresh, bittersweet stalks. Every June he hauls in a handful of rhubarb, cuts it up and washes it, the boils it down to a sweet, smooth spread. It’s delicious spooned on toast, or you can even pour it on vanilla ice cream for a super-sweet treat.
Strawberry Rhubarb Spread
Makes 2 large jars
2 large tight-sealing jars
2 – 3 cups diced rhubarb (about 3 – 4 long stalks)
1 cup diced strawberries
1/2 cup superfine sugar
In a medium saucepan, bring 1-1/2 cups water to a boil. Add rhubarb and simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes, or until it begins to turn soft. Add strawberries and continue simmering on medium for an additional 15 – 20 minutes, until mixture is mushy and slightly thickened. Add sugar, stir until dissolved, and remove from heat. Add additional sugar to taste. Let cool in saucepan, then spoon into tight-sealed jars. Spread can be frozen for up to 3 months.