The Heart of a Father

The Heart of a Father

My mother promised me that when I was eight years old, she would teach me to knit. I could not wait.

Unfortunately, my home life was less than ideal. My mother was less than affectionate, and my sister and I definitely preferred the company of my father, who was very kind and loving. This apparently added to the conflict between my parents, because the year I turned eight, she left us for another man. We woke up one morning and she was just gone. My father explained that they had discussed the situation and decided my sister and I would be happier staying in the family home with him. This was in the 1950s, when such things were just not done.

I remembered the promise that I could learn to knit when I was eight. Obviously, my mother was not available and, under the circumstances, I really did not want any contact with her. Apparently, learning to knit was something I had mentioned more than once to my Dad.

Imagine my surprise when he came home from work one day and announced to my sister and me that he was going to teach us to knit! He had bought a beginner’s I Learn to Knit book and needles and yarn for all three of us. I will never forget sitting happily on the sofa with my sister, Dad between us, all three of us learning to knit. In those days, “real” men did not do such things. Dad put aside the prejudices of the time to fulfill a promise made to his daughters. I cannot imagine the courage it must have taken.

Those knitting lessons turned into a lifelong passion for me. Today, I create and sell my own craft designs, and I give all of the credit to a man who was not afraid to be a person.

A few years later, over my mother’s objections (yes, she did come back, and made all of our lives miserable), he handed me a coping saw and gave me my first woodworking lesson, which also became a great enthusiasm for me. He taught me all manner of skills in a time when “girls just do not do that.” I am forever grateful.

After decades of searching, I recently found a copy of the I Learn to Knit book my father had purchased those many years ago. It is now my most prized possession, and I treasure it as a reminder of a wonderful man who ignored the prejudices of his times to fulfill a promise to his two little girls.

Originally published as HeroicStories #860

18 thoughts on “The Heart of a Father”

  1. What a wonderful man your Father must have been. I lost my Dad not quite 2 yrs ago and was a Daddy’s girl so I can imagine how you feel. There is a definite connection between Fathers and daughters.

  2. Now this was a REAL dad! I know they are out there but ALL dad’s should be like this gentleman and make sure that their daughters have a well rounded education and growing up. He provided his daughters life skills that have lasted their whole lives!

  3. The father in this story was a REAL MAN and I would challenge anyone to attempt to prove otherwise. A father is someone who takes care of his children in whatever way is called for and if that is learning to knit (or sew or cook, etc) then so be it. My son took of the job of being a father to the most wonderful child when he was only eighteen! She is now (11 years later) his daughter in every sense of the word and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

    More men need to learn from this man what it means to be a father. I had a dad like this and I miss him every day! She and her sister were very blessed!

  4. This is an example of wonderful, kind, caring, loving……..
    Thank God there are many of these kind of men in the world.
    They balance out the ones who don’t take responsibility.

  5. The world needs more of these types of dads.

    My father was one of those types of dads, but fast forward to the 1960-1970s. Hair needs combed. . . done. Outfit needs sewed or costume made. . . double done. Dress and grocery shopping. . . yup. Plus, my mother was there, too.

  6. It’s ironic that this story arrived today–this evening, on an impulse, I purchased a pair of knitting needles in order to teach myself to knit, something I’ve been wanting to learn for a very long time.

    Your dad reminds me a bit of mine. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but he never once said there was something I couldn’t do because I was a girl–or anything my brother couldn’t do because he was a boy. He bought me a toolbox for my eighth birthday, and every birthday or Christmas for several years afterwards, one of my presents was always a new tool, and he always showed me how to use it. He taught me how to change the oil in a car, how a refrigerator worked, how to put together a computer, and even elementary nuclear physics–all before I was out of middle school. But he also wrote the beginnings of a fairy tale for (and about) me, he encouraged my artistic and creative endeavors…and, funnily enough, he taught himself to knit, too.

    I’ll grant you that I’m only twenty-five, so it’s not quite as unusual as it was when you were growing up, but still, it’s rare, even today, for a father to be willing to do things like that for his daughter…especially when he has a son he could do them with, too.

  7. Everyday women bridge the gap that men leave behind when they leave their children (as they do in droves). There is little enough acknowledgement for the amazing things women do everyday in difficult circumstances for their children. This is a lovely story it is true and very nice to read. I think he did go over and above and it is lovely that you as a child recognised that. I wish in general however, instead of castigating single mothers (still in this day and age and making value judgements about them), we thought about the sterling job they so often do. So often single fathers are considered heroes while women are held responsible for their status and considered losers. Women are often the first to raise up men while dashing other women into the ground which is a shame. We still live in a very unequal society yet we often help men to keep those gains a lot of the time.

  8. I was a single father for five years to my two teenage daughters and son. It was the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Maybe the nicest thing one of the kids ever did for me was to send me a card reading “To someone who has been like a Mother to me.”

    It came on Father’s Day!

  9. reminds me of my dad in later years. He lived to the age of 94. My sister lost an eye or rather the sight in it to diabetes. Dad had macular degeneration and could not see very well himself but… he wanted to give one of his eyes to his youngest daughter. Made us cry.

  10. Who was the author/writer of this piece?

    My Mom was the one who made sure all of us (boys & girls) learned to cook. She was the main one to teach us gardening, minor home repairs, and the use of hammer and saw, etc. The workshop stuff my Dad didn’t know or do. The gardening and cooking he didn’t have the time to teach us as he was busy working. Both my parents imparted a love for reading, music, opera, and sports in all of us.

    They did all this without regard to the sex of any of their children long before the days of ERA.

    • My name is Terry, I live in Washington State, and I wrote the piece. I do not know why my name was not included with the article. Thank you all for your kind comments.


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