“Want to go to the bookstore, Heather?”
Growing up, it was a question that only my father could ever ask me, though truthfully speaking, he could have asked me to go anywhere with him and I would have immediately been on board. “YES!!” My unofficial uniform of the 1990s, LA Gear sneakers and a windbreaker, would be on within minutes and then I’d be standing by the back door of our house ecstatic to go on the journey.
Saturday mornings back then meant going out with my Dad to our favorite bookstore together. He would drive us there in his convertible with the top down and my favorite cassette blaring to a deafening point: Eurythmics’ Greatest Hits. I knew all of the lyrics by heart and so did he. Together, we would sing every song out loud as the wind whipped my hair so badly around it’d look like a bird’s nest by the time we arrived in the parking lot. But this did not matter to my father who often proclaimed me to be his “VLG” which stood for “Very Lovely Girl”, a phrase he still continues to use today.
We’d sit at the bookstore for hours, reading blissfully into the later hours of the afternoon and sometimes the late evening. Nobody ever understood the importance of books in my family like my Dad. He would feed my need to read and leave me alone to drift off into these other worlds that only books could provide. He knew a lot of things about me like that.
My father is a self-professed “man for all seasons” who in so many ways is larger than life to me. He has lived lives that I don’t know much about. He has a law degree, but has such a passion for topics outside of law that he could have easily been a political commentator on Meet the Press, a writer for Saturday Night Live or had a hand in working with luxury real estate. When he was my age, he had lived in Paris, Amsterdam and Germany. Hands down, he has one of the funniest senses of humor I know and loves to try out his jokes on me – “the audience”, as I am also affectionately known – as because I laugh at just about everything he says. He listen to any kind of music genre once and loves traveling and exploring the land of a city on foot.
I am my father’s daughter, through and through, and it is impossible for me to imagine not being one. The relationship I have with him is one that we have both decided goes beyond just family ties. It’s true friendship. It’s love at arm’s length. The kind of love where you are just a slight reach away from being there, but with just enough distance and space to keep from getting too close. There are very few people in the world that place as much pressure on me to succeed and do well as my father does. I push myself on a daily basis to make my family proud, but my Dad especially because his disappointment in me would ultimately lead to my own disappointment in myself. Maybe you can say it’s a case of doing better next time, but why not strive to do well in the moment you’ve got? Like today. You could be everything you dreamed of today and nothing like what you wanted tomorrow. What you do today could revolutionize a world for someone else entirely that could shape their entire future.
My Dad knows I am my own person. He has never tried to push me into becoming a person I am not either, though there were times where it was suggested I try something out to see if I liked it or not. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. But I do try. His suggestions never fall on deaf ears, even if he thinks that his daughter might be too cool for school to listen. I read all of the news articles he mails to me, quietly Google whatever movie he’s talking about to me that I don’t know about while I’m on the phone with him and even have a book on my dresser that he suggested I read about four years ago that has long been one of my favorite memoirs around.
There is an episode of The Simpsons (one of our favorite shows to watch together) where Lisa gets a moment to look into her future at a Renaissance Fair and sees herself as being a very accomplished young college student who is getting married to a handsome British guy, Hugh Parkfield. Her family continues to be an embarrassment and their acts of welcoming Hugh to the family end on poor notes. Homer gives Hugh a set of cuff links to wear at the wedding that have been passed down in his family for years and Hugh accepts until he sees that the cuff links are little fat pigs. Disgusted, he refuses to wear the cuff links and Homer’s feelings are hurt. Lisa confronts Hugh to see why he won’t wear the cuff links and he confesses that once they move to London he doesn’t plan on seeing them again and neither will Lisa. And even though her family is far from perfect, Lisa still loves them and refuses to marry Hugh. By the end of the episode when they’re back in the present and Lisa and Homer go walking off together talking about how he ate a record number of fudge, tears are rolling down my face. Sometimes I feel like that episode was written just for me.
No matter just how old I get, whom I might one day marry, or how much of an embarrassment something silly it can be at the time, there’s just no way I’ll ever give up the relationship I have with my father for something else if it means compromising what we’ve got together. It all falls down in comparison.
A VLG for life, that’s me.