03 October 2011

Dear Daddy...

October 3rd is my dad's Deathday. October is full of anniversaries, his death, my dead brother's birthday, my own. I was thinking how I could easily get drawn down into at least melancholy, at worst depression. Its been 13 years but I've feeling so close to dad as I finish up mother's things following her death in April. I have been so quiet. Living slowly and with purpose. There has been loneliness too.

Its pretty easy to live a life of gratitude when there are good days. It is easy to be grateful for beauty but what about pain? Ugliness?  Death? It is far more challenging to, say, look at the beaten, bloody body on the cross and feel grateful. Its easier to feel shame. Recently, God told me pretty clearly 'gratitude transforms pain into joy.'

Looking directly at today I am thinking about my father's influence in my life and wanted to say a few things about daddy and feel grateful...

He adored me. I was his beloved. I knew it, everyone knew it and I loved it. Everyone should be adored by someone and he was mine. The last day I saw him, 2 days before he died, he patted me sweetly on the shoulder, cooed to me and called me "sisto." God how grateful I am for that.

He was a feminist. He taught me I could do anything. He worked for the city of Oklahoma City in the 1960s as department head over Personnel Services under Mayor Patience Latting. He loved Patience Latting. She was the first female American mayor of a city greater than 250,000. Dad spoke so highly of her, always calling her by her full name. I grew up with Patience Latting as an icon in our home. I am deeply grateful for that. Turns out she was at the same facility mother lived. I was too intimidated to introduce myself to her.

I grew up going to flea markets with dad. The old school grungy, dusty kind. He had a booth of mostly military related items. I spent Saturdays roaming trash and treasures while he maned his stall. One day I saw this book in his booth, I was about 14, I guess, The Influence of Women and Its Cure from 1936 by John Erskine. Its filled with suggestions about how to keep women and their ideas from spreading around. Dad said he figured a feminist would come by and get all over that book. I told him "one just did," snatching it up.

I am so grateful my father was a feminist. Some of you may have to look that word up. Let me tell you, it changed everything.

He told me I had a good brain. There were no limits on my brain. He told me to look around in class and know I would make the A if anybody could. I do believe in my ability to think and learn. I had such crappy self esteem otherwise but my belief in my brain was the great grappling hook that kept me alive and kept me going.

I am so grateful he gave in confidence in my intelligence. That is a profound thing as the younger sibling of a brother with such severe disabily from retardation.

I am a Sooner. I was raised on Sooner football. There was Jesus and Barry Switzer and some days not in that order. I am a second generation Sooner, we have 5 OU degrees between the two of us.

Thank you for OU, dad. I still love college. And the Sooners...

Daddy gave me my first Nikon when I turned 16. It was a very expensive Nikon F2 SB he bought second hand from a local family owned camera shop. I remember my photography teacher being miffed about this great camera in my hands. I don't know how dad knew but he made sure I had the tool that became a life long passion. The Nikon I use now came from the same shop, the same Epperson's from which I bought my daughters first Nikon last Christmas.

I am so grateful dad helped me find photography early in life.

It may have been the dead birds I collected, but he knew I needed to study science. He started early on telling me to major in a hard (not soft) science and to complete my terminal degree before I got married. I did get my BS in Zoology and MS in Microbiology and another from the Physician Assistant program. Part of the failure of my first marriage is quitting my PhD program ABD (all but dissertation). Shoulda' listened.

Thank you dad for recognizing the biologist in me. I have such a passion for it.

Dad left work for the city and became a college professor which was his profession the majority of the time I grew up. When I became an adjunct professor of biology he sent me a card that said Bravo! and Congratulations! and he wrote inside "on the occasion of your first faculty position."

Thank you for paving the way to academia and teaching. It is one of the constants in my life.

Dad knew me so well. He pointed my in my own direction. Thank you daddy, I am so grateful for that. I miss you so much.


  1. I am so glad to know about your Dad! Thank You for sharing.

  2. That was beautiful Robin. Yours was the type of father I always yearned to have but didn't. It is immeasurable, the things a good father can do for a girl and one day a woman. I think if I had had a father who had done some of these things, I would somehow feel more solid in the world. Thankfully, I had a very good grandfather, alive until just 3years ago(I am 38). He, more than anyone in the world until my husband, made me feel the most loved and accepted.

    I am so glad that you have such memories and connections to your father and that you can measure some of what wasn't right in life against some of these wonderful things. It's all a mixed bag isn't it?

  3. I love this post, and I love learning about your Daddy. What an incredible man he clearly was!

  4. Robin,
    You write so poignantly. There is so much feeling behind your words. You just rip me up. He had such important effects on your life. I am glad that he let you know that you had such a wonderful brain. That is a huge gift! Most of all, I am touched that you were his beloved and "sisto." I love it!
    Big hugs, sweetie.
    P.S.Your last response made me lol. Just watch the tongue,ok?

  5. Oh girlfriend, I am thinking of you. What a beautiful way to remember your father and what wonderful lessons he taught you!! I, too, learned (and continue to learn) from my father how important it was to be a woman of character and to be educated and self sufficient.
    Love you my friend!

  6. I miss Poppa Bird a lot! He always lit up when we would start goofing around. Wonderful post!

  7. I have cried today......

  8. How beautifully written, Robin. I'm so glad you have so many beautiful memories. Memories are like the best gift ever because they seem to just get sweeter and sweeter every year.

  9. Oh, My Dear Robin...I love this pic of my Uncle Floyd. He was so strong physically and emotionally. Uncle Floyd took me in when I needed a home and loved me like his own. I love him so much and miss his beautiful smiling face and the way he made me feel so special when he called me 'Opsy'! Thank you for this tribute to a wonderful man. He is my hero..... Love, Kat

  10. I woke up this morning determined to remember to find your blog and get it on my reader. I've been meaning to do it for, I dunno, a couple of years maybe? Well, I gotta tell ya it was surprising problematic. Glad to say I persevered and it's done. I LOVED reading this post about your dad. The gift of a wonderful father is truly beyond measure. I admire the generation of men and women who raised us. The Greatest Generation.


You have no idea how much this comment means. I really thank you for taking time to connect with me. This is why we are here, isn't it?

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