My dad was surrounded by women his entire life. He spent his childhood with his mother and two sisters. He had four aunties who helped raise him. He grew up and married my mom, with whom he had two daughters. Hell, even our pets were female (except for Sophie the transgender cat who was anatomically a male but we insisted on referring to as a “she”).
There was no escape. He spent his life being spoiled and scolded, petted, pinched and prattled at, by women.
My dad loved sports, especially boxing and football. He swore like a drunken sailor. He was a decorated soldier in the Korean War. He loved smoking cigars, playing cards, and bullshitting with his pals.
Yet, after five minutes with the man, you knew he had spent his life under the influence of females. He was sensitive to the emotions of others (even if he rarely showed his own), and quick to empathize. He had mastered the art of placation, with a quick nod and “ok, ho-ney, I know,” whenever he caught our ire. He was a consummate listener, and people often found themselves sharing things with him they’d never dream of telling to another human.
So many of us, myself included, spend our lives worrying about how we’ll be perceived. Are we “man” enough or “woman” enough in the way we walk, laugh, dress, and make decisions? Dad never worried about what people thought of him. He had no preoccupations about how he would be perceived. He was just…Val.
When we met with the priest to talk about Dad so he could prepare the funeral service, we touched upon a random assortment of stories…including how Dad’s feet were so small that he could fit into Mom’s shoes, and sometimes he’d go outside to get the morning paper in her green lace robe and fur booties, which tickled the priest so much that he wove it several times into the eulogy. Laura and I sat there thinking we made this poor man sound like he became a cross dresser after Mom died.
I can hear his voice in my head hooting and yelling, “Sheeeit, ho-ney, who the hell cares? Those boots were WARM.”