Archived Story

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. Love, Ducky

Published 5:30pm Saturday, June 15, 2013

Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster

My father and I recently had a conversation about my twin girls, Gertie and Clara.

“Make sure you read to them every day.”

“I do, Daddy.”

“Point out the words as you read them.”

“I will, Daddy.”

“You’ve got to let them hold their own books, so they can pretend to read to themselves.”

“They do that all the time, Daddy.”

“And don’t forget to bring home candy for them in your pocket, you know, Lifesavers, Kit Kats.”

Now, really, would I forget to do that?

When I was a little girl, I would take a nap on the living room sofa until my dad got home from work. I’d wake up and see him standing there looking at me with expectation.

“Did the fairy come, Ducky?”

I’d creep over to the fireplace hearth where we kept a wooden bucket full of nuts and carefully lift the lid as if I were expecting to catch magic in action. I could see the shiny foil peeking out from between a mound of walnuts and almonds. She’d come! The fairy had come while I was sleeping and left me a miniature roll of Lifesavers. I’d thrust my little fistful of candy up to my dad to show him and we’d smile at each other like we were witnessing a surprising new discovery instead of something that happened every afternoon at 5 o’clock.

This went on long after I figured out that Daddy brought the candy home in his pocket. It went on long after he knew that I knew, and even after I knew that he knew that I knew, it went on.

It was a conceit that neither of us wanted to give up because a little bit of the happiness of every day was wrapped in that moment when he could surprise Ducky and I could be surprised by Daddy. Perhaps I’d outgrown the surprise, but I never outgrew the moment.

That’s how our relationship has always been. It is full of little rituals that pull us out of our identities as Ali Kloster and Al Kloster and turn us into Ducky and Daddy. Whether we were in the kitchen rolling Ginger Snap dough or in the woods breaking new snowmobile trails, standing next to each other at mass in quiet reverence or laughing over an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show,” which he simply calls “Barney,” it felt like we were most ourselves when we were together.

I know that over time the parent and child dynamic changes, but I never wanted it to. I grew up, got married, started a family, but I never saw a reason to let go of anything that made us, us.

When he makes pancakes I know that I say, “I like mine a little raw in the middle,” and he shakes his head at me and says, “Someday I’m just going to pour batter on your plate.” Then I laugh.

When I sing “Goodnight My Someone” for him I know that he’ll get tears in his eyes, and when I ask him how I did he’ll clear his throat and say, “I’d say it was about medium.” Then I laugh.

When I’m leaving Michigan after a visit I know he’ll say, “Don’t go blasting your horn this time, eh.” So I lay on my horn as I wave goodbye from the car. Then I drive away and I cry.

So much has changed. There is so much that is different. My dad is 88 years old and I am far from a child. I can’t luxuriate in the dependability of those rituals anymore because the years take their toll and turn moments into memories. I look for them and I long for them. Sometimes I can only find them in a greeting.

I pick up the phone and hope that I will hear him on the other end.

“Hey, Daddy,” I say to him as I always do.

“Hey, yourself,” he answers, as he always does, and all at once I am myself.

We chat about the girls, the dog, and the weather. I try to think of something that will make him laugh, and when he does laugh I light up inside as I always do. In that few seconds of laughter, I am Ducky and he is Daddy. I may have outgrown the surprise, but I’ll never outgrow those moments.

 

Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at alikloster@yahoo.com, and her blog is at alexandrakloster.com.