Thursday, June 12, 2008

I Am My Dad

At some point in our adult life we should realize that we are our parents. A man is his father and a woman is her mother. Even if you despised them and swore you'd never be like them, you are in more ways than you think.

My dad and I didn't have a lot in common as I was growing up. I was an artist, religious (even as a pre-schooler), scared of a thrown baseball and not athletic by any stretch of any man's imagination, a pacifist, hippie, writer and musician. My dad was agnostic, a football player in high school, joined the Navy, was a Boy Scout Master, read "Guns and Ammo", was a hunter and fisher. He ridiculed my long hair, my religion, my girlfriends and my politics (I registered as a concientious objector to the Vietnam War). I ran away from home to avoid having to get a haircut on the eve of my high school graduation. My mother found me and told me to come home, my father would leave me alone. "Father and Son" was my anthem. In short, I wasn't my dad.

We had a cordial but strained relationship for the next few years. I went to college to become a preacher. I know it was difficult for him to introduce me to his friends. One year when I was in my late twenties, I decided I'd go deer hunting with him to try to bridge our gap. He lent me a .308 British infantry rifle that weighed welll... more than anyone would want to carry all day. I think it was calculated to humiliate me in front of his friends. I ended up being the only one in the party to shoot a deer, and I think he was truly proud of me that day. A couple years later, at age 51 he had his first heart attack. As they wheeled him into the operating room for his bypass, he squeezed my hand and said, "Pray for me."

But to digress...It was a ten hour drive to the hunting area. Along the way I saw my dad in some new light. It wasn't quite "revelations" because I knew these things, but I guess I just never really took them in. Along the highway we stopped at gas stations, little grocery marts and a small diner. Everywhere we stopped the people greeted him by name, and he them. My dad shot the breeze with them and they caught up on a year's worth of history in ten or fifteen minutes. He spoke to the new people working at the places as if he'd known them from childhood. He knew waitresses, cashiers, cooks, gas station attendants, forest rangers... and they knew him. He was the quintessential "Good Old Boy". But I knew that, I just never saw it as a virtue until then. Several years later, one of my employees said to me at the end of a day, "Do you know everyone on earth and does everyone know you?" It dawned on me, I was my dad.

Over the next two decades, the realization that I am my dad has become more and more profoundly real. Even my kids have pointed out to me I have the gift of "good old boy gab" he has, I actually have some mechanical abilities I never knew I had until I was forced to use them to raise my family, I avoid conflicts and give people the benefit of a doubt like he does, I let people take advantage of me and give too much sometimes, I stick up for the underdog and make excuses for people's shortcomings and failures, I'll help you even if I had other plans and not say anything, I avoid asking for help if I need it, I talk a mean game but let offenses slide, I bear my pains and sorrows in silence and solitude, I collect stuff and never throw anything away but will give it to you if you need it, my hands are beginning to shake like his do, I even sleep in a chair like he does, hands folded over my belly. Over the last two decades, I've realized I've been blessed to be like my dad.

He is living on borrowed time after two bypass operations and a stent inserted in his heart. He has an artery that is inoperable and waiting to close up for good. I'm blessed to be able to tell him I'm glad I'm his son. I know he's glad too. I never would have thought we'd be like this, but here we are... Father and son, two generations of Good Old Boys, on his front porch last weekend. I'll miss this when its gone.


9 comments:

Elizabeth said...

What a beautiful tribute to uour dad, and also to you, s-p.

You are blessed in your dad and he is blessed in his son !
I love the photo.

Cherish every day !

David Bryan said...

Talk about parallels -- the agnostic who grew up in small-town, rural West Texas and hunts and fishes for fun, knows everybody and drops everything to help someone who needs it...and whose son is an artistically-inclined churchmouse who'd rather read and sing and play guitar than lift weights or throw a ball around. That's my dad and me. I'm finding we have a much better relationship now that I'm a family man myself; I think I've really surprised him with how much DIY stuff I actually can do around the house just from having watched what he did during the "visitation weekends" and halves of summer I was with him.

What a great tribute; thanks for this, and may God bless all the remaining days together. May there be many more.

Philippa said...

Lord have mercy...you even smile the same!

I feel the same way after my visit with my Mother today.

Thanks s-p.

teri anna said...

That's not all. After your ordination, somewhere in the fellowship hall at Sts. Peter and Paul, I heard a familiar laugh. I turned and expected to see you there. Nope. It was your dad. :-)

Jesse Robinson said...

What he forgot to mention was that his son, the grandson, is the one who took the picture.

s-p said...

Yes it was. And perhaps some day we'll be blessed to sit on my front porch, shoot the sh--, and be gray together.

James the Thickheaded said...

SP:

Dad's are always a special gift. Much as at times we want to trade him, give him back or whatever... one day realize the feeling is mutual and begin to negotiate armistence, disarmament, or whatever... and begin to laugh and cry together. We think of how we might have spent our time together better and been thankful for those that remain where we just might get it right. I'm amazed he's even reading your blog!

Thanks for this ... 3-gen's of Steve... I mean as someone who's worked with his Dad 20+ years and always felt a bond with those "under the same rule"... these small things say a lot.

November In My Soul said...

As a man who grew up for the most part without a dad I can only imagine how grateful you must feel. Learning to be a dad took me some time and I hope that one day my children will feel as you do now.

Juvenaly said...

I can agree with November. I grew u with the best mother-father anyone could have asked for. I can only hope that I can be the father that my kids will look back on and be proud of. I thank God every day that I have people *wink* to show me what it is like to be a good dad. Thank you for sharing this Steve.