The Goddess Speaks
Old-fashioned dad a tough act to follow
"Hello, dahling," he always says when he greets me, wearing one of the shirts I bought for him. He hugs me so tight it takes my breath away. I shelter in the warmth of the arms holding me, my heart breaking because he will soon leave me for another six months of travel and adventure with his girlfriend.
I will miss the lunches brought to the high school where I teach, so carefully planned with his home-baked bread, and a serious tuna salad made from my mother's recipe. He lays out place settings, napkins and icy drinks while my students watch with amusement. After lunch, if I'm lucky, we'll dance a step or two around my classroom, and I'll remember how he taught me to dance to Frank Sinatra.
My father is 87, and I know that every hug is a gift stolen from the inexorable march of time. I feel so lucky that today he is still well, intellectually active and reinventing himself after my mother's death six years ago.
A generation of men like my father, who call women "Dah-ling," who stand when a lady enters a room and open doors as you approach, is passing into history. My father is the ultimate example of what it looks like to take a respectful approach to social interaction.
Nowadays that genteel and careful respect is being replaced by synthetic personalities on MySpace and truncated text messages of the "Hey, how RU, CU L8tr" variety. He might be two generations behind the times, but my father still disarms every female lucky enough to cross his path.
Even in the emergency room, lying on a gurney, my father had the nurses completely charmed as they changed IV tubes and discussed symptoms. I guess an old-style gentleman who thinks all women are beautiful and interesting is so unusual that meeting one is a singular event.
Antonio Banderas, in the movie "Take the Lead," taught Harlem students to waltz to "Fascination," but my father was putting that song on his stereo for the two of us 40 years ago.
As the celebrities on TV competing in dance events learn quickly, ballroom dancing requires a relationship of respect and trust. My father taught me that a long, long time ago.
My father's world does not include a shouted, "Hey, anybody got a tampon?" across a crowded classroom. What ever happened to manners? I cannot imagine my father's generation having so little regard for personal privacy.
Courtly manners and old-fashioned gentility are endangered, and I for one am sorry to see it happen. I would like to suggest that there is still room in this sorry world for a man who treats everyone he meets with respect and good manners.
Dad might have been a hard act to follow, but I married a man who takes my elbow on the street and who can waltz, and my daughter searched until she found a man with manners. Now we only have to teach our son-in-law how to dance with his "dah-ling" to "Fascination."
Cris Rathyen teaches English at Moanalua High School.
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