My grandpa taught me to fish.
My fondest memory of him was the time he took me to the park to learn how. I was so excited, I could hardly contain myself. With all of my six-year-old bravado, I was just certain that I would catch a fish my first time out. After all, it was easy enough for Bert and Ernie, wasn’t it?
But I digress.
My mom, grandma, and aunts gently tried to help me understand that catching a fish wasn’t necessarily a given when going fishing per se, but I would not be dissuaded. I was going fishing, and I was going to catch a fish, of course!
Grandpa just smiled at me and said, “Yep, you’re going to catch a fish all right!”
And guess what?
I totally did.
At the park, in front of some boys who had been making sport of teasing the little girl with the Dorothy Hamil haircut, a fish was caught. And the boys went home empty-handed.
My grandpa thought this was the greatest thing in the world, and never tired of retelling the story each time I came for a visit– how I sure showed those boys a thing or two.
As I prepared to speak at his funeral last week, I was blessed with the opportunity to learn a little more about his personal history. One of the things that stood out prominently in my mind was the way he treated the women in his life.
Even though it was pretty unusual for the time, my grandpa loved having my grandma– his “Danni,” as he used to call her– with him while he was out hunting, fishing, camping, and even while working whenever was possible. This continued with his three daughters, who shadowed him as fields were plowed, calves were branded, gardens were planted, Christmas trees were cut for market, deer were scouted, and mechanical repairs were made. My mom recalls making truck runs with him on various errands, and when someone would ask about the little girl sitting alongside him he would explain, “Oh, that’s my little boss.” To which my mom would then reply, “And that’s my little daddy!”
As my mom has said before, the only thing little about my grandpa was his stature. His heart was enormous. His home was open to all, and many of my mom’s and aunts’ friends claimed him as a second father.
He always believed we could accomplish anything we set our minds to.
Doctor? Lawyer? World-class chef? Olympic swimmer?
No doubt about it.
This past week, as I have thought about my grandpa and the loss I feel in his absence, I am profoundly grateful for having men like him and my dad in my life.
Growing up, I never felt “less than” for being a girl. I never felt that I wasn’t absolutely equal in every way to the opposite sex. Not in school, not in church, not at home. My dad encouraged me daily in Chicago just as my grandpa did mainly from a distance in Phoenix. In their eyes, the world was my oyster and I could become anything of my choosing. Anything.
It wasn’t until I was much older and living away from home that I became aware that not everyone shared this same background. I was horrified to discover that some girls seemingly just like me, grew up thinking that boys were inherently better just because they were boys. Such a notion would have been categorically dismissed in my home. Even now it saddens me to read of others’ experiences (such as blogger C. Jane: read her story here) that are so glaringly different from my own.
You see, if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that God loves His daughters and sons equally.
That we are equally important.
Both of infinite worth.
There has been a lot of chatter going on in the Mormon feminist world lately, and while I empathize with much of it, more than anything it makes me thankful for the upbringing I experienced in my life.
Thankful for a father, who taught his daughter that she was in every way equal to her male counterpart.
Thankful for a grandfather, who modeled this same belief in his words and actions to his wife, daughters, and granddaughters.
Thankful that because of their examples, belief in a Heavenly Father’s divine love for His daughters is a complete no-brainer for me. It is simply a carry-over from what I have been taught by the mortal father figures in my life these (nearly) thirty-five years.
While in this world there is cultural bias, ignorance, and even blatant sexism, I rest assured that in God’s eyes I am eternally valued. Loved endlessly and divinely.
Just the way I am.