This morning, very early, my dad left to fly back to his home in Germany. He had been with us for almost three weeks and as always the day when he flies back home leaves me in a bit of a sad mood. Since I moved in with David for good all those years ago dad has come to visit us almost every year. He usually comes for a month but for some reason he had decided that three weeks would be enough this time. That is, he decided this long before he actually got here and towards the end he regretted that he had not stayed longer. But eventually all vacations and trips come to an end no matter how long they are and the good bye is never easy.
My dad is truly one of the best dads anyone could ask for. Just like his father, my Opa, my dad is a humble human being who enjoys the simple things in life: a good book, a place in the shade, a cool beer, and a soccer match that has Germany winning 4 – 0 against Australia (sorry Down Under). I have not met anyone who can get this immersed into a sports game, it’s truly astonishing. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my dad wanted to be a professional soccer player, and although he made it onto a regional team he started working in his uncle’s grave stone shop and eventually became a master stone mason.
When I grew up my dad was a major presence in my life. Although he never wanted children and only became a father reluctantly – or maybe because my mother tricked him into it after nine years of childless marriage – he was ever present and a real hands-on dad. I think the look on his face in the picture above says 1000 words…
Like my mom he had hoped for a son but never let it be known. The Matchbox cars and train set I got for Christmas were a give away however. For as long as I can remember we have always had a really good relationship with very little conflict. There were times, of course, where we disagreed and got into a fight but overall I have always been very close to him. He was always the one I used to confide in if I was in trouble, which happened weekly occasionally during my childhood. He was active in the PTA at my school and took over the parent-teacher conference visit after my mom could not bear listening to my teachers’ assessments of me anymore. He had endless patience teaching me how to swim on our vacation in Italy and always handed me the keys to my mom’s car when she was out of town after I got my drivers license. He did not like most of the boys I brought home but mostly kept it to himself. He was extremely skeptical when I moved in with David. The two met for the fist time after David and I had gotten married and I am happy to report that they get along just fabulously. Come to think of it, David is really the first guy my dad accepted without reservations. Both of them enjoy each others company which is a blessing. I could not imagine it any other way.
My parents were married for 43 happy years before my mom passed away in 2001 and when I had to go back to California after her funeral I was definitely worried about his well being. Little did I realize then just how fast he would be able to move on with his life as a widower. Only a few months after my mom had passed away he went on his first vacation as a single man and met the woman that would become his second wife, my stepmom. He tried to keep it quiet at first and did not tell me for almost a year. Something I still smile about because I could not be happier knowing that he has found a new partner to spend the rest of his life with. Someone who loves and cherishes him. And love him she does, so much so that she has a hard time spending time with me and my dad together. Elfie never had children and has a bit of a hard time understanding that the bond between my dad and I is unbreakable and is in no way a threat to her. We have a long history of family dynamics, wordless expressions, and inside jokes that we share and that is something that will never change. Dad brought Elfie with him on two of his visits and it did not go as well as we had hoped for. So now he just comes by himself which might be for the best. Elfie is always welcome in our house but I insist that David and I are treated with respect. And it really does not matter to me whether she comes with him or not, my time with him is limited enough and the last thing I need is created conflict. What does matter is that she treats my dad well and loves him unconditionally, which she undoubtably does. Honestly now, who would have ever thought that I would have problems with a stepmom? David tells that it is really her who has problems with me, but the irony is not lost on me regardless.
I sometimes wonder what it would be like to live closer to my dad and/or to David’s family. Living 7000 miles away it is a foreign concept to me when my friends talk about going over to their parents’ or sister’s house for dinner. My dad and I agree that family should be enjoyed in small doses and I have to say that I do enjoy the time I get to spend with him when he is here as it is true quality time. Seeing someone you are close to only once a year teaches you how precious the time you have together truly is.
Today is a mellow day as I reflect on the last three weeks and the fun we had swimming in the pool with Nelson, talking about the past over dinner, joking about old habits that die hard, cold Franziskaner Weissbeer in the Yard House while watching the Lakers, bike rides on early desert mornings, nightly walks with Nelson and the neighbor’s cat in a stroller, BBQs with friends and neighbors, SOCCER!!!, eating the best Kettle Corn money can buy at the street fair, and finding these hush puppies that were his birthday present to me so I can think of him every time my calves scream mercy.
Auf Weidersehen, Papa! See you next year!
In his honor I typed the entire post while in the background Brazil is playing against North Korea in the soccer world cup. Wait a minute! North Korea is playing in the world cup??? The Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il lets his country’s soccer team out? Does he realize they could just not come back? Or does he think his country is so appealing that no one would take this opportunity to settle anywhere but there? Are they worried what will happen to them if they lose… more so than other nations? Is the goalie more worried than the rest of the team? Because Brazil just scored a goal which does not bode well…
Today’s Running Tip: Running with Dad!
If your dad is a runner and happens to live close by or even if he doesn’t and you are visiting him or vice versa, take time to go out with him, even if he is slower than you. Respect his age and enjoy getting to know him better. There is no better way to bond than through sports activities, espcially a long run!