I have my dad’s smile.
It was a common refrain for me to hear growing up: “You look so much like your dad!”
And it’s true.
I have his eyes, his hair (all on my head, thank goodness; he can keep the beard), his bone structure and body type, and even his sinuses (ask both parents how many times they nursed me through horrible bouts of sinusitis growing up). If ever I claimed to be adopted, people would simply do a quick scan of dad and the jig was up. Without a doubt, I am my father’s daughter.
Did I mention I have his smile?
However, I didn’t inherit my dad’s teasing sense of humour. What I seemed to have developed all on my own was a dangerous seriousness towards life. Oh sure I could laugh at funny things (when I chose to), and there were certainly enough of those moments in our family growing up. However, I wasn’t naturally able to see the lightheartedness of things.
Dad is a natural tease. I’m not a natural tease-receiver. In taking everything so literally and so seriously, I was consistently melting down into tears because Dad didn’t seem to take my angst seriously. In trying to get me to laugh at what was going on, I felt he was making fun of me. Of course, from Dad’s perspective, he couldn’t understand why this child wasn’t able to shrug off life’s left curves and laugh at the darkness. He was trying to help me! And suddenly his eldest child was in a puddle wanting nothing more than to hide away in her room.
We even had a song for Dad when Mom was sensing the teasing was getting a little much for us kids. It was from Sharon, Lois, & Bram’s “Elephant Show” (sung by Eric Nagler as a guest performer), and it became a family mantra:
Daddy stop teasing, it’s not very pleasing
It’s always confusing when you don’t know what’s true.
I know that you love me, and that’s why you do it,
but Daddy stop teasing whatever you do.
Mom always tells me that the major reason she fell in love with Dad in the beginning was because of his ability to make her laugh. Mom’s a serious person, too, but she was able to learn to laugh with Dad. He wasn’t making fun of her (most of the time 😉 ), and he definitely never berated her. He was simply able to inject good humour into any given situation, and through that was able to express love and affection. Healthy families need to laugh together if we’re going to survive whatever’s thrown at us, done to us, or given to us.
It is a beautiful and necessary gift, this thing of laughter.
It was just that I seemed not to have inherited that gift beyond the smile. It’s been something I’ve had to learn and hone over the years. I’m still a terribly serious person — even when learning to laugh. And there is a deep and meaningful place in the world for us serious and intense people (although I would like it if my intensity could dial it down now and again). But when I look into the mirror and smile, I not only see my Dad’s smile now but I can see his humour. It just took longer to grow into than the rest of me.
I even see my Dad coming through in how I relate to my young nephews. It’s hard NOT to tease them! And it is a learning journey to discover each nephew’s response to humour (especially teasing), and how much is okay or when I’ve crossed a line. I mean, what else do you do when a five year old boy marches down stairs with a goofy grin on his face and underwear on his head? (that five year old is now eight, and has the same goofy grin that I love so much; and I’m confident he’ll ditch the Captain Underpants look eventually…maybe…when he’s forty?)
Laugher isn’t my first go-to when difficult things come to pass. However, Dad’s life and laughter have shown me that it really is okay to do just that: laugh. I may need to laugh on my own, by myself, without anyone watching before I share that laughter with the world, but the spark is there where it wasn’t before. There is more of my Dad in me now than there was twenty years ago. That’s a legacy and a gift.
Now when people tell me that I look like my Dad, I can smile and say “Yup! I sure do!”
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.