001. my dad, southern accents, and getting older

My Dad and Growing Older | Blake Blankenbecler.jpg

It’s Friday morning. I’m sitting on the couch sipping coffee wearing my Dad’s old t-shirt. It’s a red, tattered, and “hole-y” Taylor Richards & Conger shirt. I think it’s actually holy at this point. Both the shirt and me are close in age so it’s been perfectly worn in over all these years to feel more like a second skin, less like a piece of clothing. I’m very, very glad I absconded this shirt and slid it into my suitcase before Dad knew it was gone a few years ago. Dad senses he is never getting it back. I need to call my Dad, I miss him a lot. I need to hear his slow, southern drawl in my ear with the sounds of a bustling interstate in the background. Dad is always driving somewhere, always working to abate some impending disaster on his job sites. He says he has never worked harder then in the last six months. I’ve only ever seen my Dad work hard, so I’ll take his word for it.

Dad has worked at the same company for my whole life. Actually, ever since he graduated from NC State he’s been at the same company. Sure he’s had different titles, lived in different places, been in charge of different things, but he’s always been a part of the same, one company. He would be considered an outlier today, but for him and his generation it’s really not that unusual. It was just the way things used to be. And, more importantly, he really loves his job. I have a hunch he is too loyal to give up working with his friends for more money and prestige because he likes them too much. He may try to hide it, but spend any time with him and you’ll find he’s a big softie. Dad would out himself and tell you that too.

During the summers when my family descends upon Wrightsville Beach to stay at the beloved Landis Cottage for a few weeks, I’ll usually be the one to go with my dad to pick up the groceries for dinner. He rolls the windows down and we hum along crossing the bridges over the marsh to head into town. First the farmers market for peaches and corn and tomatoes and okra, then to the fish market for the fresh catch of the day, and then to Harris Teeter for the rest. Time slows down with the sticky summer heat and our burned and freckled shoulders being kissed by the Carolina sunshine.

We’ll be sitting in the car in the parking lot of Harris Teeter, Kenny Rogers serenading us in the background as he is on yet another call. Much to my mother’s chagrin, Dad and work never really cut ties on vacation so he tries to get the calls in when she’s busy catching rays on the beach.

One of his good ol’ boys will hop on the phone and say, “Snyder, what do you think about that?” Every one he works with mostly calls him Snyder. I love that.

He’ll turn his head, smirk, and with his Lexington, North Carolina accent drone on, ”Welllllllllll let me say this about that…” Every. Single. Time. It drives our family crazy, but it’s quintessentially my Dad being my Dad.

Always trying to make a point, never actually in a hurry to make one.

He’s always been there, saying this about that. I know one day he won’t be and that fact is one I can only hold for a few seconds. (I’d like to thank and also curse This Is Us, season 2, episode 14 for the traumatic reminder me and the rest of this country watched about this well known fact.) In all honesty, I don’t know much about death and thinking about my dad dying makes my chest get all tight and heavy and my tears can’t help but start to spill over.

There are only a few things that make me cry. My Dad will always hold high rank on that list. People are not permanent and yet it’s people and the memories we make with them who take up permanent residence in our hearts.

Right before my Dad was going to walking me down the aisle at my wedding this past June, I was weeping and laughing and weeping some more. I looked over at him and he was equally uncomposed, grinning and crying and grinning some more. Based on the current state of affairs that our tears were not subsiding any time soon, the last thing I told him with a teary-eyed smile was, “This is not good.”  The two of us were a mess. But it was good. It was so, so good.

Blake and Dad | Blake Blankenbecler.jpg

Our walk down the aisle was one of the best moments I’ve gotten to live. That moment will be one of those permanent things, residing in my heart forever.

As I get older and I come to the inevitable conclusion my time with my Dad and my Mom is not a permanent thing, it makes the work of being in a relationship with them feel a little lighter and less abrasive. I have not always been an easy daughter and I am not always an easy person to be in relationship with. “Complicated” would be an appropriate word to put here, or “unique” because that does sound less abrasive. Nevertheless, this shitty little fact of death makes me want to spend more time with them and make more time for them. I’m curious to learn their stories and their past; who they were before kids and mortgages happened to them, what they dreamed life would be like before life happened to them…

I want to know what they were like when they were my age…What things are just the same and what things are so totally different? I want to know if they see themselves in me and Christopher and Miller? I want to know their regrets and their proudest moments. I want to know what and who is on their list of things that make them cry. I want to know who the people are that take up permanent place in their hearts.

I had a thought the other day… I’ve lived 27 years of my life thinking I knew my parents and I hope that as I get older, I can have 27 more years with those two hooligans to actually get to know them. If I remember correctly, I did have that thought while on the toilet. That seems appropriate as I come from a very “digestively active” family if you know what I mean.

So theres that about this

I’m going to go and call my Dad now. He either won’t answer because he is in a meeting or he will pick up the phone and say, “Wellllllll hello little daughter!” to which I’ll respond, “Hellooooooo little daddy!” and we will talk about nothing and everything and it will be good.

Questions for your whole heart:

Who takes up permanent residence in your heart? What are those stories and memories? What would it be like to spend time writing some of them down and/or sharing them?

Do you find your heart treats your tears as a blessing or a curse? How come?

What story comes up as you think about your Dad? What's that story trying to tell you?

Wedding Photography by The Image is Found