importance of "throwing like a boy"
by jane lawson
My 89-year-old father died last month.
Where do I begin to describe the feelings I have about him, about the
importance of our relationship, and the transition that his passing
has for me?
was always surrounded by women. He was raised by his mother and her
two sisters, married at 20, had three daughters, and was cared for by
three women after his wife of 50 years (my mother) died.
always prided himself on looking good to the neighbors. Yet he was "all
man". He was a natural athlete and excelled in at least four sports.
He loved to drink a few beers with the boys. He was greatly disappointed
that I, his youngest child, was another girl. He strived to make a boy
of the ways I could really get his attention was to excel in sports
and at school. He reveled in my accomplishments and relived his youth
through my early successes in tennis. We had this ritual where he would
say, Janie, show them how you can throw like a boy! And
I would dutifully mime a pitchers full-armed throwing motion for
whoever happened to be around. He believed that girls would only limply
push a ball out from their bodies without the full benefit of the shoulder
movement unless instructed by a man on how to do it correctly.
loved being his son and was only vaguely aware that my older
sisters, who also played tennis seriously, had other interests as well
and were not as committed to pleasing Dad.
course my fantasy time with Dad came to an end with adolescence. I was
a moody teen, and Dad and I grew farther and farther apart. By the end
of the sixties, we couldnt have been more polarized politically
and emotionally. I have experienced his disappointment with me (and
mine with him) as a nagging voice inside my head for years.
yet, those early lessons he taught helped mold me in ways that are hard
last week of his life was a time of tremendous importance for all of
us. Dads condition had been deteriorating for some years, and
my sisters and I were able to have enough advance notice to gather from
around the country to spend all of those last precious moments with
I arrived in Ohio from Asheville, Dad was in bed in the nursing home
weakened and emaciated. My sister Anne was at his bedside, holding his
hand. Dad saw me and reached out to me, saying, Look! Theres
my baby girl! It was a moment Ill never forget.
the next few days, my sister Lynne also arrived and other family members
and friends came by to say farewell. Sitting by his side, day after
day, I couldnt help but feel like we were going through a type
of birthing. It felt like labor. There was the strongest sense of peace
and love radiating around our father, unlike anything I had ever experienced
before. My sisters and I were able to touch him, kiss him, thank him,
sing to him, pray together, laugh, and cry. We could feel the presence
of our mother in the room. It was incredible.
Dad and I had our share of issues, those last days were
a gift that helped me to let go of the lingering resentments and anger
that had been brewing over the years. I could clearly feel the love
that existed between us. I could appreciate the sacrifices he had made
to provide for me.
orphaned at 53 is a bittersweet feeling. I miss him now, more than I
did when he was alive and we were living in different states. Writing
this on Mothers Day, I want to say, Thank you, Dad, for
all the gifts, the good ones and the challenging ones. Thank
you for helping me to become the woman that I am now. Thank you for
inspiring in me the will to succeed. Thank you for giving me the sense
that it is important to be strong. Thank you for loving me even though
we disagreed on just about everything. Thank you for teaching me how
to throw like a boy.
MEd, LPC, MBA is a Licensed Professional Counselor and movement therapist
in private practice in Asheville.