From Where I Sit: Dear Dad

When I received the phone call that my father had died, the words hit me like a hard punch.

I remember staggering back from the phone in disbelief.

We had moved to Virginia in 1988 from our native Oregon so I wasn’t able to see my parents on a regular basis.

As for my father, he phoned me regularly on Friday evenings each week at roughly the same time to see how we were doing and how were his grandchildren.

Growing up with my father wasn’t the easiest when I was little. He was a figure that left early in the morning to the sound of the Arthur Godfrey Show on the radio.

He would return at the end of the day and take refuge behind the daily newspaper on the couch until dinner was ready.

He worked as a designing engineer and had little patience for his daughter who did not excel at math.

When he’d hear me upstairs mumbling to myself, he’d holler up, â??What’s the matter with you…are you crazy or something?â?

I knew I wasn’t crazy so for years assumed I was the…or something.

Some of my earliest memories of my father were walking on the Oregon coast. My mother loved the beach and living in Portland, we weren’t that far from the thunderous waves and cool sand. I remember the red metal bucket he bought me with a sturdy shovel. I also remember jumping wildly as sand fleas found refuge on my feet. For my father, he wore navy blue canvas shoes with thick rubber soles. He didn’t care for sand between the toes and sand fleas preferred me.

My father came to this country from the Philippines in the early 1930s by boat. He embraced everything about America.

I don’t know all of his trials as I arrived later in their life with his career established.

There are defining moments for me…moments shared between a father and a daughter that I will forever cherish.

When I was about 7, I knew that something was ethnically different about me. I certainly didn’t sport blond hair and blue eyes while many of my classmates did.

I asked him one day, â??Dad, what am I?â?

Without hesitation he said, â??You’re an American…that’s all you need to know.â?

So, that was that and it suited me fine.

My father loved the Navy and rose to the rank of commander. During World War II he served in Washington, D.C. with the Lend-Lease Program.

Each summer he’d leave for two weeks, usually to California, where he’d attend some Naval training. He always brought me back something from these trips. Perhaps he’d hoped for a son but one summer he came back with a red, white and blue battleship that became the envy of most of the boys in our neighborhood. It had torpedoes and rotating turret guns and a host of movable parts. I loved that boat.

Another year it was dresses…a red plaid one and the other was blue and green with a wide white collar and bow.

When I was nearing high school, it was a delicate wristwatch.

Golf was his other passion. He and his cronies hit the course every Saturday for years. I’d watch him polishing those clubs and adjusting his golf cap just right. He had a closet full of cardigans. I never got a chance to play golf with my father but I have his clubs and aged leather bag that he carried.

My father was strict and demanding. He was often unapproachable.

A few days after he died in June of 1995 at the age of 89, I lay in bed with the window slightly open. There would be no more weekly phone calls from my father and I ached for those conversations. Then a gentle, but firm gust of wind blew in on me. It seemed to come out of nowhere. The leaves on the trees outside were still.

â??Was it you Dad or am I crazy or something?”

Anita Sherman is the editor of the Culpeper Times. You may reach her at anita@culpepertimes.com