My dad was the quiet type, the classic aerospace engineer. A man who was hardworking, competent, and kindly helpful. He did not call attention to what he did, like mowing the lawn and fixing stuff and guiding a tearful 7th grade me through the horrors of algebra homework. I seldom heard him complain. I’m afraid I took who Dad was for granted.
But every once in a while I am struck with how his kind support and patience have formed my life. Most recently, the lightbulb moment came from an unlikely source, A & E’s reality television series Married at First Sight. You’ve probably seen the commercials. A panel of experts matches a man and a woman, who then meet for the first time at the altar. Not that this is a good idea, but it demonstrates how desperate people are to find love and commitment.
Okay, so reality television is often more scripted than real, with elements of something called “creative artifice.” Even so, the drama of Married at First Sight has been a fascinating look at human nature.
So what does Married at First Sight show have to do with my dad? A man from Season Two named Ryan De Nino, Mr. My-way-or-the-highway. If you’ve been watching the series, you can’t have missed his growing impatience with his bride. His selfishness showed itself in the early days of the honeymoon. When given the chance to ride a jet ski Ryan took off, leaving his new wife trembling at the dock. Yes, he was living the high life all right, grabbing the gusto while he could (since the producers were paying for the rental). Never mind that Jessica was afraid of the ocean, what was that to him? And when she overcame her fear enough to trustfully sit behind him, what did he do but gun the engine? All of America gasped when we saw her fall off.
I grew up in a sailing family, and I know how scary falling overboard can be. My dad would never have treated me—or any fearful person—with such callousness. I remember, for instance, my surprise at learning that our dingy also had a sail. How patient Dad was in teaching me. I was maybe eleven, frightened even to sail under the bridge, but he showed me how. “Atta girl,” he’d say, as I gained skill and confidence. Soon I was master of the tiller, sailing solo back and forth in the marina. I learned to love solitude sailing like this.
It was from Dad that I learned to love reading. In fact, it was he who suggested that I become a writer. I was in high school when he said this, how did he know? I like to think he’d be pleased that I have books published. And wouldn’t he be laugh-out-loud astonished to learn that I teach 7th grade algebra?
And so we celebrate Father’s Day. How I miss my dad, the kind and patient man who did his best to protect and encourage me.