Sunday, June 19, 2011

Looking Up To Dad

Looking up to Dad
... or ...
On Being Like Dad
... or ...
Always Learning From Dad
... or ...
A Father's Day Ramble

I can't say that Dad was 'always there for me'. He was a busy executive with a strong work ethic. He'd leave the house early in the morning and return about 12 hours later. He would often catch up on the news, reading the paper at dinner (which drove my mom insane) and this meant there was little conversation , other than growling at me, "Did you spill your *&^%&^$ milk again? When will you ever learn...." ! Weekends were often a whirlwind of activity; mowing the yard, working on projects around the house or catching a few moments of fun. On rare occasions Dad would come along to watch one of his kids doing something we loved, but I don't think he really invested himself in the event or activity - he was a spectator and probably had his mind on the zillions of things he'd rather be doing. But, Dad is Dad. He is the big guy. He is the one who could make me cringe with one stern look. Yet, he is the one we tried to emulate. I was motivated to excel in school and sports, and later in my adult life, not solely because it was what I wanted, but because I hoped it would bring approval from my dad. Being the youngest, maybe I also felt I had to jump higher through those hoops to be noticed.

Dad made this contraption to watch sports car races.
This picture was published in Sports Illustrated in 1957!

I had one of those "slap me in the face" "Ah, hah" moments as an adult when my grandfather happened to come visit my parents. My dad, who at this point was in his mid 60's, had recently purchased a painting. Like his father, my dad thought it important to collect nice art pieces. My grandfather made some comment about where the painting should be hung. The words had barely quieted into nothingness when Dad jumped up from the dining room table and moved the painting. Oh my God... my dad is just like me! He will do anything to please his father. My dad is still in awe of his dad and still works to seek approval from him. Dad is always dad. The dynamics don't change.

But, they do change, and it is bittersweet. Recently, my dad, who is 89, has been looking up to me. It feels very strange. I often wonder if it feels as strange to him. Dad's memory lets him down and he has "opened the door and invited me in" to help him. I am beginning to help him manage some of his day-to-day activities and I am the one who gets called to bail him out when he can't recall how to do something on his computer or can't remember where to find something. I see where the roles are sometimes reversed. I am the one asking if Dad remembered to bring his phone, or suggesting that Dad may want to wear a sweater out. Yet, still, at an age when I could be a grandparent myself, I often check things out with Dad to see if he approves. So, the more things change, the more they stay the same!
I am fortunate, indeed, to have these opportunities to do things with my dad. Happy Father's Day, Dad. Love you, bunches!


  1. This time, when the roles are reversed, can be very hard. But, you know, those of us who have experienced it, or who are experiencing it, are very lucky. It means that we had our Dad with us long enough to reach that time in life. For those of us who had conflicts with our family, it's the "making of peace" time, and for those of us who always had a great relationship, it's the "gathering more precious memories" time. I hope you find the remaining time with your Dad to be long, and joyous.

  2. Great post. My parents are 76 but I'm finding things are starting to change with them too. I hate it. I wish they could be the way I remember them 40 years ago. Besides going through menopause, that's the other thing I don't like about my age...their age.

    Cindy Bee


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