Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I always thought Atticus Finch would have been a good dad for me. He was wise, patient, warm, understanding and honest with his children. He respected them and knew he couldn’t keep them in a bubble.

I should say, I don't sit around dreaming up hypothetical families for myself from literature, I actually had an English assignment to pick alternate parents once.

However, I’m happy with the dad I was dealt -- despite the time he made us all cry on Mothers Day because he wouldn't let us keep both kitties. And despite his insensitivity when I was 7 and told him I was running away and he gave me a nickel for my expenses.

Dad turns 58 today and I realize I make fun of him every now and then (i.e. here and here) but I have plenty of sincere things to say.

I think everyone has moments in their life when they are reminded of how much they love someone. But what’s interesting is how those moments aren’t necessarily manipulated or orchestrated to be memorable.

I have a few memories of my dad that remind me how much I love him, because they remind me how much he loves me.

I never doubt that my dad is proud of me. He always introduces me to people he knows and goes on to share facts about me that might be of interest to them or applicable to the occasion. He’s introduced me to colleagues, friends, composers, apostles, and other acquaintances. He was never the kind of parent that had me sit in the shadows while he talked to important people. I was never insignificant to him. He was proud to have me with him and proud to be my dad.

I remember walking down the halls of the HFAC at BYU and having him introduce me to every professor or dean we ran into. He would put his hand on my back and say, “Have you met my daughter Laura?” and then he would go on about something and say, “Isn’t she cute?” I always feel important when I’m with Dad.

When I was a freshman at BYU, I had no money. I lived at home and since my dad taught at BYU, I hitched a ride with him every day. We had more one-on-one time than we ever had before. Dad was really cool and let me use his office for whatever I wanted. He even cleared a bookshelf for me to keep my books. The hard part was matching my schedule to his so I didn’t keep him at school much longer than he needed to be there. I scheduled myself from 8 AM to 2 PM every day. That's a tight schedule, and it didn’t allow me any time between classes to eat. I was starving by the time we met for the ride home. One day, when all my classes were over, I came into his office and noticed “my” shelf was filled with muffins, juice, granola bars, fruit and chips. I said, “What’s all this?” and he turned around and answered, “The Easter Bunny came!”

The summer Jurassic Park came out in theatres, my friends made plans to go see it, and they called my big brother (their new best friend because he could drive) to go with them. Somehow everyone neglected to let me know about it. Kids have a way of figuring these things out and the excuse was “there wasn’t enough room in the car” or something lame like that. I was insulted, of course. My dad found me feeling left out and hurt. He said he was going to the movie later that afternoon and I should go with him. Of course that wasn’t my ideal situation. He told me I was “too dignified” for a lot of my friends. I never like hearing people put my friends down, even when they’ve let me down, but I was flattered that he considered me “dignified.” Ever since then, I’ve tried to live up to his compliment and make dignity part of my character.

One more: When I graduated from college I moved to Portland, Oregon. I had good times there, but overall I think I was frustrated with not knowing where my next paycheck was coming from and feeling like I had no direction. I had no money (again), no car, and no furniture. I had two of my best friends with me, but I wasn’t going anywhere career-wise and I wasn't making any connections in Portland. I came home that summer for my brother’s wedding and it was hard for me to leave Salt Lake at the end of the week. My dad dropped me off at the airport and gave me an envelope. When I walked up to the gate I opened the envelope and there was a check for $100 and this note:

I put the envelope in my violin case (I don’t know why I felt I needed my violin in Portland with me). At some point, I left my violin case in the restroom by accident. I ran around, frantically trying to track it down as they boarded my plane. I ran back in the bathroom and it was gone. So I ran up to Southwest Airlines and asked how to reclaim lost property. They directed me towards a room and told me to knock on the door. My eyes were red from stress and repressed tears as I asked the nice Southwest employees if they happened to pick up a violin. One of them looked at me (a little amused) and said, “Are you La-La?”

I was relieved to have my violin back, my $100 check (ironically, if you run away as an adult, your stipend goes up significantly), and the multiple choice question so typical of my dad.

Happy Birthday Dad! Thanks for always making the answer to that question an easy one.

*Just in case you were wondering...Scooter is the cat, Buddha was the dog, and Morlarin was my dad's invisible childhood friend.


Saule Cogneur said...

That second picture is wonderful. It almost makes me cry.

I think people often don't get their dads, even if those dads are good ones. I think fathers love tend to love their kids in a more subtle way than do siblings and mothers (not always obviously).

I wonder if Scout ever understood how much her dad loved her. I like to think that she did or at least would later on in life. Should I ever have kids, I plan to take a few pages from Atticus's book.

Alex said...

Your stories made me cry. You are a very lucky person to have such a great dad. I have a great dad too. But I loved those stories. Especially the note.

Jessica Marie said...

That was a great read. Thanks for sharing!

SRA said...

I was wondering, yes, so thanks for the clarification. And your stories are wonderful. My dad's b-day is in a few weeks, so maybe I should put a few anecdotes in my blog on his b-day...

Cameron's Corner said...

I might be one of the few to read the older posts you link to... but maybe everyone else has been your friend for longer so they've already read them.

When my wife and I were moving into our house, my family came to help and every time Betsy tried to carry something heavy, either me or my dad would take it from her. Finally, my mom whispered to Betsy, "Just let the men do it. It makes them feel good about themselves". So true.

I'd rather do the heavy lifting, but I also expect my wife to take care of me in other ways.

This kind of attitude is rare nowadays, but I think it's completely acceptable.

Laura Lee said...

Mike: I don't get my dad a lot of the time. But the times I wrote about are good enough for me.

Cameron: I love that you read my older posts. And I love that you are the kind of guy you described in your comment -- a gentlemen. We need more of you.

Jaime Mormann Richardson said...

Laura--loved this post. Maybe I could write a paper about how I want him for a dad. I remember you talking about your him when we were all at the LRC, and knew back then that he was a great dad.

Kelly Durham said...

Great post! Thanks for the old links, too. I hadn't ever seen the Marilyn Monroe Story Hour clip before. That is sure to become a family heirloom . . .

Johnny Metropolis said...

Hey will you write my Dad's birthday post next year?

Ilene said...

Remember Morlain plumbing in Tigard? That always made you think fondly of your father.

Very touching post. I always like how your dad treated me too. You are a lot like him in that you take genuine interest in people and makes others feel important.

Charlotta-love said...

Awww. Notes are the best. I remember going to bed one night and there was a note stuffed under my pillow from my dad. It was just a simple note with a reason why he loved me but it meant the world to me. I still have that note.

Janey said...

I love that you knew who your dad's imaginary friend was- when did he reveal his secret?!?? Amazingly touching blog

dre said...

Wow, enough comments? Well I wanted to share that I too share the joy of a father's office on BYU campus, but I didn't get the bookshelf. Rather a couch hidden to take naps on! And ever since I saw the Marilyn story book (orignal post, not going back) I have loved your dad and his sense of humor and that weird drink he made at your birthday party! So if you get Atticus Finch I'll take your dad. And I won't even have to change my initials!