Growing up, I remember my dad as a strong patriarch…the leader…..the breadwinner…the decision maker….the chauvinist…..and anything else that was expected from a father in the 1960’s and 70’s.
Being the youngest child, and his only daughter, he absolutely adored me. Everything I did was amazing in his eyes. Everything I was, was amazing in his eyes. However, at the time, I was not really aware of this. Because of his demeanor and temperament, I was always frightened of him. I never felt the warmth or adoration. Either he wasn’t very expressive (which I suspect is the reason), or I only saw him as ”scary dad”!
I probably would have got away with murder, but not even once did I abuse this opportunity. I am sure that my brothers had a much harder time with my dad. There was the definite need (with some more than others) to prove themselves to him. Not a totally foreign concept in the father and son relationship. I was not burdened with this load, and think I kind of appreciated that at the time.
My dad was strong (his body and mind), hard working, smart, honest and honourable. He was also intolerant, cynical, impatient, incredibly sarcastic and could be so hurtful just with his words…..okay…..it is totally NOT necessary for you to point out how much alike we sound…..I get it!!
I always knew I was everything he was, even looking a lot more like him than my mom. I could list ALL the personality flaws and character traits we shared, but that would just make us sound entirely dreadful with no positive traits….which is impossible….I think….I hope????
His sarcasm could have you rolling on the floor, but it could also have you mortified….yes….I hear myself…again…..just smile and nod.
But, despite all this, what I always felt with my dad was protected and safe. I had no doubt that a decision made by this imposing man was well thought through, analyzed, scrutinized, investigated, and again, analyzed, and then finally the decision would be made. In essence, that is what every child needs and deserves….a feeling of safety….. I had that!!
Once I had children, my dad felt the need to feature in my life more. I too felt a need to connect with him more. So we certainly took our relationship to another level, but he got older, I got older, and his idiosyncrasies were highlighted…..sigh…..yes, as were mine. All the time, me being totally aware that these were idiosyncrasies we both shared, but that did not make him any more endearing or me more tolerant!
At this point, you would be quite correct to assume that I should then have tried to correct my own….um…quirks.., as I had realised how his quirks affected me….but nope…I never did. I just argued that this was our chemical makeup….end of story!
It worked mind you….anyone I have in my life came in knowing what I was, not being ambushed by another side at a later stage. I too enjoy the opportunity to allow people in my life for who they REALLY are. Not being charmed by something they are not….only to find out who they really are at a later stage.
My dad was a good man though, just his intolerance made it difficult and at times impossible for anyone to be invited into his life. But, like me, those who received the invite, were for all intents and purposes there to stay for good!!
There were a few comical situations involving my dad, that will live with me forever. A quote by Cesare Pavese sums it up so succinctly when it comes to my dad……”We do not remember days we remember moments.”
Just as an example of his intolerant manner and snarky humour, I will forever remember an incident that occurred when we were watching an episode of “Dallas”….. 100 years ago. For those of you who will remember, Dallas was aired every Tuesday Night. I think that this programme was the only other thing that managed to shut down our country as much as COVID has.
Now my dad’s daily TV habits involved reclining on his black leather recliner, and for the most part, falling asleep within minutes after a programme started. The second the ads or the credits came on he woke up, only to fall asleep as the ads ended and the programme resumed. Of course he never admitted this.
Anyway, Tuesday night arrived, me, my mom and dad, and two friends of mine sat down to watch Dallas. It was a very significant episode, as one of the main characters was going to be killed off. So there we were, totally engrossed in this programme…my dad sleeping…and said character gets murdered. We were beside ourselves, chatting and analyzing what we had just seen, and as soon as the final credits started my dad woke up.
‘’Who got killed off?’’ he asked. On hearing the news, he mumbled, “good I could never hear what she was saying anyway.”
We all collapsed on the floor laughing, and he remained straight faced, and waited for the next programme to start, before going back to sleep. To this day these friends reminisce about this incident.
Many years later, me being many years older, and TRYING to be wiser, I decided that I needed to start taking more note of what our elders are saying…..ask more questions….learn from their mistakes, be wiser from their experiences…..you know…. GROW…..
By that time, my strong, independent and giant of a dad had gone blind a few years earlier, was in the throes of Parkinson’s and Dementia, but still remained compos mentis.
At one of my bi-weekly visits with him, I decided that I had wanted…no, needed…. to procure an invaluable life lesson…become wiser…grow….and asked the burning question…..
”Dad, do you have any regrets in life, or would you maybe have done anything differently?” I asked, eagerly awaiting these words of wisdom, ESPECIALLY us being so similar and all. I reminded myself to listen, focus and absorb the INVALUABLE advice I was just about to receive.
“No”, he replied “it wouldn’t have made any bloody difference anyway”.
Well that was that then….no life lesson there!!
A while later, my dad’s suffering just worsened, until he was virtually in a fetal position on his bed when I visited. He could not communicate, and it was never clear whether he was even conscious of what was going on around him. How it pained me to see my strong and tough dad come to that. How he would have HATED that.
An acquaintance who I had seen when visiting a family member, had asked about my dad. I explained how much it had hurt me seeing him like that, and sometimes I prayed for him to be taken from us so that his suffering would end. She explained that he will hang on to life, purely because he worries about leaving people behind. She explained that I need to tell him it is alright for him to go, and that everyone will be okay.
A few days later I visited my dad, and was fortunate that my aunt (his sister) was visiting at the same time. It seemed kinder to discuss with her, in his presence, that when he was ready to go, he needed to know that we would all be fine. It just seemed less callous than me telling him he could leave us.
On leaving, I kissed his cheek, and could have sworn that I saw a tear rolling down his cheek, but it was far too painful to make sure of that.
The following morning I received a call that my dad had passed away.
Dad, I love you, I miss you and I thank you.