Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Father

A lot of people ask me, "Why did you pick Japanese as your major?" Because when you look at me, it is kind of a random choice. I'm not Japanese, I don't have any Japanese ancestry (mostly European, I'm afraid, with a little Lakota and Gypsy mixed in for variety) and I've never been to Japan. Even more interesting, I got into Japanese when I was eight years old, long before my interest in anime and manga developed. For a while, I wasn't really sure how to answer that question because I honestly didn't know why I chose it or why the language fascinates me. But now I know.

Flashback twelve years ago. I've mentioned in previous posts about the hard times my family had and these are all true. I also mentioned that when I was little, I was often scared of my dad's temper. But even through all of that, I still loved him very very much. I wanted to be close to him. Heck, half the time when I was faking being sick in elementary school was so he would come and pick me up from school. Think about my favorite Disney movie, Mulan, and why I loved it so much when I was little. The premise involves a girl who so deeply loves her father that she goes to war for him. You can see why this would appeal to me. But I didn't know how to get close to him so I just paid attention to what he liked. One year he took my family to the Japanese festival at the botanical gardens in my city. It was absolutely beautiful, and my sharp eight-year-old eyes caught on to how much my dad liked Japanese culture. So after the festival, I promptly told him I wanted to learn Japanese.

My dad knows this story pretty well, he'll tell it that at first he didn't believe me and gave me a few language tapes to keep me quiet. Then he'll say how he noticed me wandering around the house repeating whatever the language tapes said. This is true. But I would also point out that the majority of my wanderings around the house were in dad's orbital--I pretty much haunted his every move with those language tapes to show him that I loved something he loved.

And for five years, every Saturday morning, my dad and I took Japanese lessons at Webster University. I relished the time spent because it was MY time with my daddy, and no one else. No matter how bad things were for my family, I knew in my little girl heart that my daddy loved me and cared about me enough to go through with those early Saturday mornings.

I also remember my dad taking me to a Daddy/Daughter dance hosted by the Girl Scouts. I remember mom buying me a new dress, forcibly brushing my hair till it was completely tangle free, and even letting me wear a little of her perfume. I remember my mother telling me that dad would knock on the door and pick me up, just like a real date. I was so excited. And he did, he knocked on that door, I opened it up, and he said, "Is Miss Kathleen Coffin ready for her date?" He held up a white corsage--my very first.

By the way, that Daddy/Daughter date has set the tone for all future dates for me, so if you want to ever take me out, you sure as hell better knock on my door to pick me up, none of this honking the horn or texting me when you're here crap.

Here's a few things I love about my dad:

1. My dad is an excellent teacher, a lot better than my mom. It was he who taught me my multiplication tables in third grade (even teaching me a super neat trick about the multiples of 9) and it was he who taught me to drive (because my mom had a bad habit of screaming like a banshee every time I did something innocuous like knock over a mailbox or slaughter poultry).
2. My dad has always understood the importance of my friends. Especially those who didn't have a good father influence, he was always fatherly towards them. When I didn't have my license, there was one night when I woke him up at midnight, requesting that he drive me to Regan's because she needed me. No questions asked, he got up, got dressed, and drove forty minutes out to her house.
3. My dad once drove five and a half hours to pick up the cat I so very desperately wanted, even though he wasn't to keen on the idea of me having a pet.
4. My dad understand my love of just plain macaroni and cheese and shares this love, even once telling me that he had it special ordered when he was in Vietnam. Sometimes he didn't have any milk or butter so he basically just boiled water and added in the cheese mix.
5. My dad has never been annoyed or aggravated by my abrupt change in academic plans, even one that involved me transferring and going to a school two states away.
6. My dad always comes to my defense. Sometimes this involves him going outside and 'having words' with the drunk neighbor that is screaming outside my window and throwing badminton rackets. Other times it involves him saying "HELL NO SHE WILL NOT" when a bitch teacher attempted to stop me from singing at my graduation--he and my mom drove all the way up to my high school, had a pleasant conversation with the principal, and bam, I was back on the program.
7. Most importantly, never once in my entire life, has my dad ever made me feel like I couldn't do something just because I was a woman. From the time I was six and sitting on his lap to now when I'm twenty and trying to get into Oxford, the mantra has always been, 'you can do anything you set your mind to.'

A note to my dad--I know you read my blog posts and a few of them really hurt you. Please know that it was not out of an intent to spite or make you feel bad. You're human, just like me, and we make mistakes, and frankly the good far outweigh the bad. You'll always be my daddy, and I love you very much.

--from your little green barrette.

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