Sunday, June 16, 2013

Benny

Sometimes it is hard to believe my Dad died almost twelve years ago.  Why?  Because I see him every day in my mirror.  I hear his voice when I get pissed off in traffic.  I sense his logic when I try to solve a problem.

I remember the arguments we had over everything from politics to race to morality to religion to music.  I remember him patiently teaching me how to use tools to build something or fix something.  I remember how he would sit quietly in a room full of people, at a family holiday gathering for example, and he would mostly observe, then say just one thing that might be the most significant one thing in the conversation.
I learned stubbornness and determination from him.  I learned tolerance and acceptance by doing the opposite of what he did.  Dad taught me how to find balance between conformity and ‘charting your own path’.  I doubt he knew he was teaching that.  He spent plenty of time analyzing ‘things’ but not much time studying ‘feelings’.  If he ever cried, I didn’t see it.

Dad was the classic protector and provider, as a husband and a father.  He made so many sacrifices in the name of planning for the future that he seemed to forget to live in the present.  He paid dearly for that when Parkinson’s Disease robbed him of a retirement he dreamed of and planned for decades.  His situation shapes my ongoing search for my own balance between the future and the now.
He told stories about his youth but I don’t know if he ever dated.  One family story is that he always had lots of girlfriends in school but nothing in those stories points to any one girl.  I’d be shocked if I ever learned he had sex with any woman in his whole life other than mother; not disappointed, just shocked.  I’m sure he would have been shocked if he knew any of those details about my life.

I never knew my Dad to be afraid of anything until his last few years.  At that point I believe his fear was that he couldn’t control things.  He had the Parkinson’s shaking pretty bad at times, eventually had bouts of dementia and probably depression.  He had to depend on people, something he hated.  Part of me is glad I lived far away and didn’t have to see him going through that on a daily basis and part of me wished I had spent more time with him. 
Anyway, Happy Father’s Day.  If your Dad is alive, call him, text him, email him, even better … visit him.  Spend time with him in person.  You will get at least as much out of that as he will.

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