Donna Frye on Remembering Dad

by on June 16, 2023 · 1 comment

in San Diego

Robert Frye in high school.

Donna Frye

By Donna Frye / San Diego Union-Tribune OP-ED/ June 9, 2023

Father’s Day reminds me of a lot of things, but some of the most memorable are the surprises my father brought into our daily lives. No matter their size, they were always special and appreciated.

When I was growing up in the late ’50s and early ’60s in Clairemont, Dad and Mom would take me and my brothers to the beach all the time. We would chase the waves and swim in the ocean. We hunted in the tide pools for sea creatures, and we found lots of tiny fish, starfish and crabs. We also looked for shells.

When Dad helped us hunt for them or suggested which tiny water body might yield a shell treasure, it was the most amazing thing. Almost without fail, we each would find a beautiful shell. They were always polished and clean and did not have any critters living in them. We were always surprised and happy that we found such pristine shells.

About 40 years ago, I was commenting to my parents about how the tide pools had become devoid of the beautiful shells we used to find as kids. They both seemed to be laughing while I was talking, so I asked them what was so funny.

“You really don’t know, do you?” Mom asked.

I shook my head and waited.

“Your father would buy the shells,” Mom said. She went on to explain how Dad would hide the shells for my brothers and me to find. It was a challenge because he had to keep a close eye on where he hid them to make sure my brothers and I would find them.

Learning about this did not diminish my memories of the shell finding. Instead, it made the surprise of knowing all the more special.

We still have the shells Dad hid for us.

There were other surprises, too. I vividly recall Dad waking us up early on many a Sunday morning with the news we were leaving soon to go to Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm for the day. We would go half crazy with excitement and joy. There were no advance plans; it was just get up and go.

Mom did not always approve of Dad’s penchant for surprises, however.

I remember once when Dad had to drive to Los Angeles for the day, and he took my older brother along with him. On the way home, the car broke down. Rather then have it repaired, Dad decided to sell it as is to the closest used car dealer he could find and buy a newer car, a Ford Galaxy convertible. I will never forget the look on Mom’s face when Dad pulled into the driveway with a different car. My brothers and I thought it was the coolest thing to ever happen and couldn’t wait to go for a ride in it. Mom was certainly surprised, but not in the same way we were. She came to like the car, but it took her a little more time.

It’s been almost 25 years since Dad passed. We thought we knew everything about him, but it turns out he is still full of surprises.

Just recently, I found a picture of him from high school. He is standing with knees bent and arms up, wearing red pants and a white sweater with a letter on it. As it turns out, he was a cheerleader in high school. None of us knew that about him.

We all were surprised to see Dad dressed in the red and white outfit posing like that, and we had some good conversations about him.

There is no doubt there will be more surprises from him in the future, which is really no surprise. Dad still has a way of doing that.

Donna Frye is a former San Diego City Council member, who would have been mayor if the will of  the voters had been taken into account, and a resident of Clairemont.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mat Wahlstrom June 18, 2023 at 6:20 am

Wonderful memories — thank you for sharing! Like the old saying, “Any man can be a father, but only special ones can be a Dad.”

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads here and passed.


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