My Father’s Daughter By Holly Leber

Holly Leber

My Father’s Daughter

I have my father’s eyes. Sometimes I wonder if I share his vision as well.

Perhaps in some ways I do. We both have bad tempers we’ve learned to control. We both appreciate travel, Motown music and family history, and we both have a limited tolerance for nonsense.

Fortunately, his tolerance for gentle ribbing is less limited, because I enjoy giving him a bit of trouble when I can.

A few years ago, I played an April Fool’s Day joke that involved a convoluted tale about company bankruptcy. Dad, bless him, advised me calmly and reassuringly over the phone and email all day, until the early evening when I asked, “Have you looked at a calendar today?”

After rewarding me with a few choice (unprintable) words, he was clearly proud. And, I imagine, relieved. But, indeed, proud. After all, this is the man who taught me how to short sheet a bed before I went off to summer camp when I was 8, and who reenacted a scene from “Coming to America” on the balcony of an Israeli hotel room in 1993.

When my sister and I were young, our family spent weekends and summers in a little apartment in Westhampton Beach, spending our days on the beach, stuffing ourselves with pancakes from Eckart’s, and borrowing books from the Westhampton Beach library. Every Friday night, my parents would bundle me up in pajamas and tuck me into the backseat for the drive from Manhattan.

I think that was the beginning of my car-time bonding with my father. Over the years, some of our best conversations have taken place in a moving vehicle. There was the story of the hurricane in Rockaway that occurred when he was a child, and the image of my prim and proper grandmother climbing out a car window because the water was too high for the car door to open. And there was the frank conversation, when I was a young teenager, about being responsible when it came to “teenage issues” like drinking, driving and… not sex. As far as he’s concerned, ignorance (his) is bliss on that particular topic.

Dad taught me how to drive on a stretch of Dune Road, the summer I was 16. I can’t say it was a bonding experience. Teaching one’s first child to operate an automobile can, I’m sure, be nervewracking, and it showed. We got past it. Eventually.

I love my father dearly and have an immense amount of respect for him, but I am hardly a “daddy’s girl.” Frankly, he’s a pain sometimes, and I’m sure the reverse is doubly so. We didn’t always see eye to eye during my childhood, and oftentimes we still don’t, but I’ve gained an appreciation for his perspective on some things. I think I’ve become more like him as I’ve gotten older.

He is diplomatic, dignified and hardworking. He doesn’t like to show weakness or worry people. He worries, too much, about the people he loves. He is not fond of problems he cannot solve.

I didn’t grow up with a whole lot of homespun wisdom and platitudes about what it means to be a good person, or the importance of faith or love. My parents, especially my father, taught more by example.

He’s warm, but not the most sentimentally expressive person I’ve ever met. I recall anything too touchy-feely being categorized as its own brand of bullshit– psychological bullshit, feminist bullshit, sentimental bullshit… .

“We shouldn’t come visit that weekend because it’s Valentine’s Day,” he noted to me once. “Don’t you and (your boyfriend) have some romantic bullshit planned?” Dad is not a new-age, kumbaya man.

He’s also not a terribly atypical man. Like many men I know, he expresses himself more in actions than in words. He worked hard to make sure my sister and I were well-educated and taken care of. He helped care for my mother’s ailing parents as if they were his own. Several years ago, I had a health scare, and he told me that if there were ever anything wrong with me for real, he’d move heaven and earth to fix it. I don’t doubt that.

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