A lot of life, memories and stories invested in that word. Not all of it was positive, for sure. My endless attempts to meet up to his lofty expectations led to developing a perfectionist complex that’s taken decades for me to (mostly) unwind. And his occasional dips into worry over my ability to choose the correct path in life, five decades into it, can be immensely frustrating.
Taken as a piece of the entire whole of my life with my Dad, those are two pretty small items to be much bothered by. Part of growing up and taking control of your life is gaining perspective about your parents. You move from being awed by their raising you so well through their omniscience to awed by their raising you so well despite actually not knowing all the answers.
In a “broken” family, someone is always on the short end of the visitation. Almost always, back when I was a kid, the Mom got custody. So my sister and I saw Dad every other weekend. He had it “easy”, Mom was the one required to make us clean our rooms, help out around the house, study, etc. Dad simply could take us to do fun stuff.
And we did do fun stuff; lots of fun stuff. But Dad never missed an opportunity to advise, lecture, suggest, remind or educate me on various important life lessons. He is still at it today, though thankfully at a significantly reduced frequency.
Dad’s best lessons, of course, rarely came from those moments. Dad’s most valued and priceless lessons to me came from who he was and how he acted. It was stuff he didn’t have to say; the stuff I simply saw or knew about him.
Coming from an “earthy” family, Dad was a regular guy. He could talk to anyone and set no store in class; he measured a person by character, not characteristic. This is a trait I passionately believe in.
Dad is fond of laughing and he has a huge collection of stale jokes, but every now and then he comes up with a funny one. Dad’s best humor comes from his zest for life, which means he can find a lot of humor around him (not as much as me, I’ll admit, but doesn’t every child wish to outstrip his parent?).
Dad has a sarcastic wit (again, not as sharp or as overused as mine) and he still tosses a spear my way every now and then. Since I am more able (and willing) to fire back these days, he acts surprised by my sense of humor and how I employ it. He may pretend not to see it, but this here apple is pretty close to the ol’ tree!
I learned to fish with Dad. I learned about stars and constellations with Dad. He taught me about responsibility and integrity. He demonstrated for me tenacity and strength of purpose. I’m not sure if I got my patience from him, though; there are some times I could tell you…
Dad introduced me to classical music and stand-up comedy. He took me to my first symphony concert (Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1) and my first musical (Fiddler on the Roof). He took me to my first baseball game (spring training in Miami) and my first airboat ride.
Dad voiced his displeasure over my grades in college and nagged me about my career development. When I finally got my accounting degree, Dad pulled in some favors at the company he worked for to get me an intern job.
Dad will still pester me about stuff today, whether it’s my career (“Writing? Don’t you think you should look for a job?”) or fishing (which we really do need to get out again). And I just smile and nod and feel incredibly lucky that one of my best role models and favorite people in the whole world hasn’t changed a bit.
Dad. Yes, a lot of memories and emotions invested in that word. And how wonderful it is to have a “special” day to tell him how much I’m looking forward to more years of adding to that portfolio.