My Ride With Dad

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I am sitting on Dad’s lap in the photo that was taken at KiddieLand, an iconic children’s amusement park that stood for 80 years in the town where he grew up. I don’t remember the picture being taken, although I assume it was taken by my mother. My younger sister was likely beside her, sitting in a stroller. We were a normal suburban family having a Sunday outing.

My childhood was carefree and consisted of running through the sprinkler on hot summer days under the shadow of the planes going to and from O’Hare airport. During the long, cold winters we made snow angels and slid across the frozen creek in our rubber boots.

Lisa and her Dad

Lisa and her Dad at Kiddieland

Dad worked in the brand new world of computers. He left each morning dressed in a suit and tie, his pressed shirt ironed by Mom after sprinkling the starched cotton with water from a Coke bottle.

It seemed like Mom was always doing laundry. The rest of the time my mother could be found at the kitchen sink washing dishes or standing within three feet of it preparing what would be served on them. A couple mornings a week were spent coffee-klatching with the neighbor ladies while us kids played nearby. Often my parents hosted parties for their friends.

The year was 1965. My parents were in their twenties, living the American Dream in their heavily mortgaged house with two bedrooms and a finished basement. Mom felt lucky to have the only husband on the block who enjoyed decorating more than watching sports on TV. Our outings were modest, to Kiddieland or the zoo, and we took one annual family vacation to nearby Wisconsin. From my viewpoint they seemed happy together.

I was living a very different life by the time I got to my twenties. My move to San Francisco at twenty one years old, sight unseen, seemed bolder than any move they ever made at that age. Their moves were predictable and safe, yet carried so much more responsibility.

My years of living alone in my small apartment above the City saw lovers come and go with few thoughts of marriage or babies. Instead, I was consumed by my career in the entertainment industry and spent all my money on travel.

My twenties were a series of endless conversations about the meaning of life with the creative people I was drawn to. People who were the opposite of my parents. Together we smoked pot and drank cheap wine while feasting on the smorgasboard that life offered up. We had conversations that I suspect my parents didn’t have before they embarked on the life that brought them my sister and I at such a young age. They did what was expected of them, and they did it willingly. By the time they looked up to see who they really were, we were already there.

My dad stepped out of his closet at thirty one years old into a house full of people who depended on him. In order for him to pursue the lifestyle he felt in his soul was right, he had to change the lives of all of us. Most profoundly my mother’s. Mom found a strength she didn’t know she had raising us on her own.

In the past I used to be angry that Dad chose a life with my mother knowing who he was. Now, I understand I would not be me without him. Letting go of that anger has helped me heal.

That four-year-old me sitting on my Daddy’s lap at Kiddieland? She couldn’t imagine taking that ride with anyone else.

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