Photo: Courtesy of Rosie Schaap
1. Thank you for bringing books into my life and reading to me—a lot—when I was very, very young. I learned to read sitting in your lap while you held books open right at my eye level. For that I'm eternally grateful.
2. Never order the filet of sole in a roadside diner that's far, far from ocean. (You were great at reading books, and at reading people, but pretty hopeless when it came to menus.)
3. Probably because I was 7 when you and Mom split up, I often behaved like an angry 7-year-old around you well into my adulthood: tense, agitated, easily wounded. (I'm thinking of when I stormed out of the movie theater and didn't talk to you for weeks.) I don't think you ever got to see me at my relaxed, cheerful best. I really regret that.
4. Nobody told a joke better than you. Your pacing was perfect—and you never forgot a punch line.
5. I remember that I rolled my eyes once when someone said about us, "You two are exactly alike." Secretly, I was flattered.
6. I loved going to see really lousy plays with you. Nothing bonded me to you quite like Molière's rhyming couplets rendered in Southern accents.
7. You're not gonna believe this, but sideburns are back.
8. You're really not gonna believe this, but, despite all my protestations as a teenager, I've become a devoted (some might even say fanatical) sports fan. Okay, so soccer wasn't your favorite game, but still...it counts for something, right?
9. I always knew you worked very, very hard, but I didn't understand until I grew up how lonely and stressful all that hard work must have been. Had I realized that sooner, I think I would have been more patient, more empathetic and more forgiving with you.
10. My favorite thing about you was how decently and courteously you treated people in your everyday interactions—coworkers, waiters and waitresses, salespeople, fans, the elderly panhandler on your street, the delivery guy, the parking lot attendant, everyone. You made eye contact. You listened. You said "please" and "thank you." You took people seriously. After you died, one of the best stories I heard was from a vendor at Shea Stadium. Not many people who bought hot dogs from him ever asked him his name; you did, and he never forgot it.
Rosie Schaap writes the "Drink" column for The New York Times and is the author of Drinking with Men: A Memoir.
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Published on February 18, 2013