Contra Costa Times 6/17/06
“My dad is going to kill me!” my friends used to say when we got caught doing something we shouldn’t, like chewing gum or passing notes during Spanish class. I didn’t like to screw up and disappoint my parents, but let’s face it, no one is perfect, and my dad knew it.
“You never know when you’re going to need an adhesive!” he joked about the gum, then quickly moved on to the story about the time he wet his pants after being caught passing notes himself.
My dad is the nicest guy in the world, and those who don’t know that already figure it out after talking to him for less than a minute He is not just a nice guy, but he is the kind of guy that brings out the best in everyone. He does it with his confident optimism, his smile and his laughing blue eyes that connect with everyone he meets. Even the most severe, humorless or otherwise depressed individual can’t help but smile in return.
“Some people say I’m a cockeyed optimist,” my dad once said, “but it’s worked out fine for me!”
When we were a young family, Dad decided to become a stockbroker after having served in the Navy. A friend of his had told him he would be good at it, and by the time he went for his interview, he was so enthusiastic about the prospect of selling stocks that he told the manager, “I’ll pay you for letting me work here!” My dad brought me to his office frequently to visit and to play with tickertape. I loved to watch him move around his office with his bouncing stride, chest thrust forward, a pleasant look on his face. He juggled phone calls, orders and meetings, then stopped to talk to the characters who wandered off the street to watch the numbers on the big board before whisking me out the door for a sight and smell tour of Chinatown near his office in Oakland. We’d have lunch in one of the many quirky restaurants where everyone knew him, and had heard about me. “So this is that sweet daughter you’ve told us all about!” My heart is still full with the memory of how their words of recognition made me feel. After lunch, we walked back to Dad’s office””he said hello to every one he passed, including the filthy old man sitting in a doorway playing the flute with a mangy old dog and a hat full of coins beside him. When we got back to his office, my mother was waiting in the station wagon to pick me up. My dad gave me a squeeze and my mom a kiss before sending me on my way, tired and happy. I was someone special–I was Phil Bowhay’s daughter.
Growing up, each of Dad’s three kids knew that they were his favorite. Dad took each of us for hikes, one on one, through Redwood Park near our home in Piedmont. When he hiked with me, he would point out Scott Rock and Carrie Creek while in search for Lake Laura. He handed me eucalyptus and bay leaves to sniff, and pointed out the difference between poison oak and blackberry vines. We stood at the base of redwood trees and looked up until we got dizzy and threw rocks down hillsides and listened to them ping, pop and crack until they landed. Magic.
When I was thirteen and sluggish, my dad encouraged me to get up early, early in the morning before the stock market opened and go jogging with him. There were times when I was tempted to tell him I needed to sleep, but by the time he whispered “Ready?” I sprang up in anticipation of our time together, wrapped in the dark and the fog of our town, deserted except by father and daughter in our sneakers deciding which route to take today – uphill, flat or both?
A father like mine turns into a dream grandpa in time-and they don’t get any better than
“Grandpa Bowhay”. Each grandchild feels the love when he shows up on Grandpa’s doorstep in Carmel. Dad’s arms fly open and his eyes tear up as his deep voice laughs out his own personal greeting – “MATTHEW!” or “You must be Andy!” and “That couldn’t be John!” Then they are off for walks on the beach, trips to the wharf, with a stop by the bakery before coming home, damp, salty, sandy-happy.
My dad always made it look so easy to be a parent, but now that I’m the mother of three, I know he worked hard at it. I’m sure there days when he was a little too busy to have his daughter drop into the office, and that there were mornings that he could have passed on the pre-dawn jog.
My thirteen year old doesn’t care for running, but he loves it when I take him to the music store where he can fiddle with the electric guitars and drums. The place always gives me a headache.
But he’ll never know it-until he’s a father himself.