My father hated ties. He hated wearing them to work so much that he would not even bother when he had meetings with clients, and back then, that was frowned upon, even for industrial designers. It was just something he never bothered to do. He was more interested in his words that he presented to his clients than how he dressed. That is something I’ve learned over the years, that appearances means little to my father if you have something important to say. But come one Christmas, his coworkers made a gag gift for him. They retrofitted an old fire extinguisher case, hung a tie in it, and labeled it with, “In case of meeting, break glass.”
On the rare occasion that he was forced to wear a tie, he cinched a bolo tie around his neck and flourished in the grief he received from coworkers and friends alike.
I grew up with this image in mind of my father, the tieless father. The father who would rather spend his days covered in grease fixing up car engine parts or designing the next sleekest looking MRI machine than sit in meetings discussing with clients for how to make those things happen. He has always been an independent doer than a following doer. To me, wearing ties always signified the difference between my father and his coworkers. It always separated him from the crowd, because he was never one to conform to the societal norms. He still isn’t.
And I think my mother has a bigger collection of ties than he does.
But what I think makes my father stand out is his capacity to be loose about planning. Both my parents were bit by the travel bug ages ago, and it had been my father’s dream to sail around the world. When we decided to make this dream a reality, my parents allowed my sister and me to help with the planning of where we would go. Knowing other parents, this would never have even crossed their minds to ask their preteens for help. But my father made it clear, for all five years cruising and beyond, that we were to be treated as equals, not inferiors, and that we had as much say as to where we would be going as much as my mother did.
My favorite Father’s Day story was when we were in Ensenada Grande, Mexico. My dad was sitting out in our cockpit, watching the world go by. Fresh-eyed from waking up, I brought up a pack of Uno cards and asked him if he wanted to play. My mother and sister were downstairs cooking up a feast, as they always do. We started playing, and as we were playing, noticed a couple bees coming in. We were a significant distance from shore, so the bees were looking for something: freshwater. With a Dick Francis book in hand, my father swatted the bee down. He told me that that bee was just a scouting bee, and if he got back to his hive, then we’d have swarms of bees around our boat. More came anyway. We abandoned the Uno cards, I grabbed my own book, and we spent a good part of the morning of Father’s Day swatting bees.
My father has never been the straight laced kind of man, the tie-wearing type. He has the skill set to tie a tie, but to wear one for him was unnecessary. His daughters knew him well enough and for Father’s Day we would always try to avoid the tie section of any given store and go for the chocolates and tools instead.
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