Sunday, August 16, 2009

My father and I connect over family, history & politics, for the most part.

He was talking to me (in one of our semi-weekly phone conversations) about all the crazy things he did with me as a kid.

He says he was drunk most of the time, but I don't recall any change in his behavior until he really "got into it" and then he was pretty sedentary and sometimes obnoxious.
Mostly, when we were doing things, I wasn't aware of him being in an altered state.

One of the things I remember, is taking the flat-bottom john-boat out on the Colorado river in flood stage. I don't know why this was a good idea.

We shot out of the boat dock into the streaming chop, torn downriver until we could struggle to the other side. Then, with clumsy geometry, and me at 9-10 years old climbing the riverside trees to pull the boat along, we pulled ourselves upstream, to shoot back across, paddling like hell to hit that boat ramp on the way back across the vicious swollen river. I think I had poison ivy welts for weeks.

Keep in mind that rainfall in Texas happens a couple times a year, in 5-10 inch increments. Formerly dry creekbeds kill people every year, much less racing rivers.

I think we went out for Pit BBQ in celebration of having not drowned.

Somehow, I was already inured to this kind of thing. Some of my earliest memories are of being strapped to my dad's back, with a fly from a flyrod whizzing around my head. I remember trying to see the colors.

He told me about another adventure in which he put me on his back, and hiked up a waterfall.
When he looked down, he told me, he almost fainted. I don't remember. I remember getting better at rock-scrambling.

At age 9, he put a pistol in my hand, and taught me to shoot. He was very proud that I 1. didn't kill anyone and 2. hit my targets (I remember refusing to shoot turtles).

I think my lack of fear had some roots in his late 60s model VW Beetle which had no floor in places, all rotted out. I remember the road passing by, under my feet. I knew I could fall out, but I knew I wouldn't.

He also told me the story of teaching me and my friend Terri how to use a recurve bow in our back yard. He said we spent all day out there. I think we wanted to be Jedis. We were 13-14, the age all girls should be learning to use weapons!

Central Texas is also Snake Central, and he told me about a little snake that came up on the bank where we were fishing, and that he picked me up and held me over his head until it slithered past. I remember being outside the boat in another incident with a snake being very interested in the bait I was reeling in, and his lifting my fairly sturdy (nearly 100#) 10-year-old self out of the water and putting me in the boat.

My dad was this great, bald & burly creature with long arms and hands like slabs of butcher-block, smelling of gasoline, mown grass and WD-40.

As I grew, I got to nearly his height, with his length of waist, arm, and hardness of bone & muscle. My hands are still small, and my features more dainty, but I am still the kid who climbed the trees to pull the boat upstream, picked up the pistol with confidence & curiosity, and hopped in and out of boats without thinking about it.

I told him today, he had raised a fearless kid, and the subtext went unsaid.
He raised a fearless woman. Without meaning to, just being a dad, and doing what he did.

Whatever else wasn't perfect, he did that for me.

Since then, I've found myself dealing with fear, and fearful situations, in a way I realize most people are unable to step into.

I think my dad is starting to figure out what he did right.
It certainly wasn't anyone's model of how to raise a "young lady" and to this day, I can't set the table or fold a napkin.

I can, however, plant & raise, or find, something for that table, cook it well & competently, and do it all as ethically & humanely as possible.

Other Dad-taught talents include talking to owls & coyotes, knowing the wingbeats of a duck or dove, and being able to catch fish anywhere there is water.

It simply doesn't occur to me to be fearful, most of the time.
Even when I maybe should be.

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