Monday, May 05, 2008

Fathers and Daughters

The relationship between a father and daughter is an important and compelling one. If it's not a positive relationship, it's impact tends to echo throughout your life. If it IS a positive relationship, the kind of bond that exists there often surpasses almost all others and creates a connection felt your entire life.

He's the first man in your life. As a woman, that relationship often effects how you feel about men when you reach adulthood. In a world where the war of the sexes rages on and feminism is still often still treated like a negative concept, a dirty word, your father is responsible for protecting you and being the first man to see your value and to acknowledge your potential. It's a big responsibility. From your first day in kindergarten when your pigtail gets pulled or the first time at recess when the boys won't let you play - the male of the species becomes far more complicated. If you are lucky, however, it starts out simple - with the unconditional love of one man.

I was my father's first child. I look just like him. Same hair, same jawline, same eyes and the same pale papery-thin skin. Same strong, gregarious personality, same pragmatism, same sarcastic sense of humor and love of the written word. From day one we've been crazy about each other. We've both made mistakes over the years. We've failed each other, but more often than that we've come through for each other. It was hard learning that he was human. Harder learning that he couldn't always live up to the standards he had raised me to maintain. In time I learned to accept him as a fallible man instead of looking for the return of the god of my childhood. Whatever mistakes he made, however many years we spent apart, whatever changes the years brought in us - he gave me my base in life. I always knew he thought I was beautiful and that I was loved by him. I knew what was right and what was wrong because my father told me these things. I grew up with this powerful sense of honor and heritage because of his influence. He is imperfect. He finds it difficult to talk about emotional matters. He is tremendously intelligent. He is more widely respected than almost anyone of my personal aquaintance. Later in his life, he is still full of dreams and plans. He is a part of who I am and an aspect of what I want to be. Obviously, I'm still crazy about him.

When I was 15, I made him a mix tape. I spent months on it; aquiring the songs I needed, arranging and rearranging them, working on the hand drawn art for the case. The songs were about fathers and their children. About love and being loved for who you are. About everything my father meant to me. I gave it to him and he was quiet. He thanked me. He kind of smiled and looked unsure what to say. He said he'd listen to it when he had the chance.

Years later he told me that he kept the tape in his top desk drawer wherever he went, whenever he moved. He kept it in a drawer and just looked at it. For three years. He said he knew it would be emotional for him. He liked just having it. He wasn't sure he was ready to listen to it. He never told me what made him finally listen to it, but almost three years later (which would have been just after I left home), he told me that he had listened to it for the first time.

Loudon Wainwright III has a sweet song that - for me - captures the magic of the father/daughter relationship in a beautiful way. And I cry every time I listen to it. In a good way.

...Maybe it's time to make another mix tape.

by Loudon Wainwright III
Listen to Daughter here

Everything she sees
she says she wants.
Everything she wants
I see she gets.

That's my daughter in the water
everything she owns I bought her
Everything she owns.
That's my daughter in the water,
everything she knows I taught her.
Everything she knows.

Everything I say
she takes to heart.
Everything she takes
she takes apart.

That's my daughter in the water
every time she fell I caught her.
Every time she fell.
That's my daughter in the water,
I lost every time I fought her.
I lost every time.

Every time she blinks
she strikes somebody blind.
Everything she thinks
blows her tiny mind.
That's my daughter in the water,
who'd have ever thought her?
Who'd have ever thought?
That's my daughter in the water,
I lost everytime I fought her
Yea, I lost every time.


  1. Makes me wish I didn't have such a bizarro love/hate relationship with my dad.

  2. Oh, hon. I didn't mean to make you feel that way. On the flip side of this coin, you have a close relationship with your mom and seem to really understand each other and I wish I could know what that is like. We love each other, but my mother and I are like night and day.

  3. The bit about the mix tape has shattered me. Beautiful.

  4. Thanks. :)

    ...originally I wrote about his reaction... but then I decided that that was just for me. Too personal.

    Anyway, He liked it.