Monday, January 12, 2009

I like ice cream a whole lot/It tastes good on days that are hot/On a cone or in a dish/This will be my only wish

Last night I ate Breyer's Peach Ice Cream. Breyer's Peach Ice Cream brings out many different emotions in me. It is the most complicated of all the ice creams.

When I was young, my mom was in the University of Michigan Hospital for weeks and months on end. My dad and I spent a great deal of time in Ann Arbor. Not only did we visit her on a daily basis, but he also would take me downtown and walk around the shops. Usually we went to Ulrich's for a new book or marker for me. Once in a while we would get ice cream. On one particular visit that I will never ever forget, my dad and I got peach ice cream cones with 4 scoops each. It was the most amazing ice cream experience I ever had. I don't know what possessed my dad to get us four scoops; he was usually a kiddie cup kind of guy. We walked around the rest of Ann Arbor eating the giant cones, peach ice cream covering our faces and dripping down our arms. I remember how the ice cream would collect in his beard and then slowly drip off. It was one of the funnest days I've ever had.

Then and there, peach ice cream became a bond between my dad and I. Whenever we would eat peach ice cream, I'd say to him, "Remember that day when we got those giant cones of peach ice cream?" We'd laugh and reminisce. Peach ice cream is not the easiest to find. Breyer's makes the best but most stores don't carry it. Whenever I find it, I get it.

My dad spent the final two weeks of his life sick in the hospital. I was 38-40 weeks pregnant during this time but tried make the drive to visit him on a daily basis. There wasn't much I could do for him there but I would try and bring him little things to make him happy. On one particularly good day for him, he asked me to get him Breyer's Peach Ice Cream. I was thrilled with this task! He remembered that day we spent together almost 20 years before! He loved me and wanted to share it with me again. I hurried to the store...but no peach ice cream. I went to every store in the East Lansing/Sparrow Hospital one pint, quart or gallon of Breyer's Peach Ice Cream could be found. With a feeling of failure, I presented him with a quart of strawberry. I dished it up and fed it to him but I could see the disappointment he had for me. I couldn't even procure the ice cream he wanted. I felt absolutely worthless.

This wasn't the first time I had disappointed him. I disappointed my dad a lot through my life...choice of college, choice of marrying young without a degree, choice of many children, money mismanagement. I've never felt like he truly approved of me or was proud of me for some of the choices that I made. I've carried his disapproval around with me for about 15 years, never quite able to let go of the longing for his fatherly pride in me.

It has taken almost 6 years, countless hours of therapy and fervent prayer for me to realize that we don't always make choices that our parents will agree with. I have come to know that my dad had a profound love for me even though I disappointed him a lot. He wasn't adept at expressing that love to me in a way that made me feel valued. When we are reunited some day, he will embrace me in a father hug and not one moment will be spent discussing disappointment or failure. Until then, I will eat my peach ice cream and savor the memories of my dad on all our best days.


Danette said...

I have wept because of this post. Disappointing a parent is one of the worst feelings to me, and I too, have done it often. Thank you for this post. Really, thank you.

GramMO said...

I don't know if I cried more as a parent or as a daughter, reading this, Jennifer. It's odd to feel both sides and I just want to say, from the parent side, the disappointment a child feels is often the parent's disappointment in themselves. I'm sure both your parents are proud as punch of the wonderful daughter, sibing, mother, friend, woman, writer you've become. You're an amazing being. Thank you for sharing so much.

Sara said...

Relationships are so complicated, with each bringing to them a whole history of intertwined experiences. I would hope that in spite of all those histories, you would remember the feelings you had from the spirit as you made decisions in your life (college, marriage, children) knowing that those come from a perfect Heavenly Father who has a plan just for you, independent of anyone else's imperfect opinion. And I say that with no ill will to any parent, just as a simple truth. Those feelings are most important, even if they are tainted by the other feelings. Hugs, Sara

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