Why I Had a Happy Childhood

Baby me and my father, Edwin Prince Kendall.

Things just hit you sometimes. Yesterday I was walking toward Rowdy the Rental Audi in the work parking garage, and I got a flashback of being a kid. I’d talked about missing my parents earlier in the day, which probably prompted the experience.

I suddenly felt the heavy weight of the humidity at my house in Gainesville, Florida, smelled the dark black earth, and heard the thump-thump of my dad, doing his favorite activity, known as “digging a hole.” If Dad was upset, frustrated, or just needed to get away from Mom’s antics for a while, he’d go out in the yard and dig. He used to joke that some of the camellias had been moved five or six times, for no good reason.

Here’s dad around my current age, telling me something I’m dubious about.

As a young person, my happiest times were when I was following Dad around while he was doing things outside. Sometimes I’d hold a piece of wood when he was sawing, or perform some other task a clueless person could do, as I watched him master pretty much anything he tried to do. I learned a lot about gardening, building, fixing cars, and life.

What struck me, and struck me hard, as I was walking in the parking garage, was that my REAL ambition in life was to follow my dad around. If I could have, I’d have hung around with him every day. He was so active, always with a project to do, always maintaining the house and yard perfectly…I never did find a boyfriend THAT good at maintenance.

Here’s Dad and me, just before I got married to Lee in 2008. He’s in his 70s here.

Much of my childhood happiness came from having a father who didn’t push me away, would talk to me about all the bullies, my academic successes, my athletic failures, and whatever I was reading. I am so grateful for those hours just hanging out together.

We also spent most evenings together as a family. We rarely ate out, so my dad, mom, brother, and I always had dinner together and talked and talked. Then we’d watch television, but we talked through that, too. I guess we liked each other (though, of course there was stuff that wasn’t great and I had to deal with in therapy, but hey, whose life is perfect?).

Just before we lost him at age 80. My “nuclear family” with Donita (step-sister), Canova (half-sister), Maury (brother), Lee (spouse), and me. In front are my stepmom Flo and Dad.

Of course I grew up and had to move away. Mom died after an endless and painful struggle with lung cancer. And then Dad married someone who, much like my mother, would find ways to get sick or need something, so he didn’t visit often. I visited them as often as I could. And what did I do? I’d follow him around. We’d get in the car and go run errands we made up. We’d go on long, long walks through his North Carolina neighborhood, just so we could talk.

I’m so glad I have such strong memories that I can go back in time and enjoy the happy parts of my childhood, and glad to have a parent who loved me so much that he’d let me tag along as long as I wanted to. I miss my father every single day. I’ve been saving up SO many things to talk to him about, just in case there’s an afterlife in which souls can chat.

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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