Thursday, May 17, 2007

My Father...My Future

No, I don't feel like I'm the "cursed son" doomed to repeat the sins of his father. It's just a catchy blog title. As I contemplate my impending fatherhood, I inevitably think back to my relationship with my OWN dad. And here's the thing: I didn't hate my father. (There were times that I hated him.) And...I didn't really LOVE my father. (There were times that I loved him.) Mostly, when I think about him, I feel a sort of...nothingness. It's not that I feel bad about lacking a relationship that is supposed to be so important, especially to a young boy. I just honestly don't feel much of ANYTHING. I'm not "glad" he's dead...but I don't miss him or want him back. My sister adored him; in her eyes, he could do no wrong. My brother...well, I don't know. I think he adored his mother, but he at least looked UP to our father. Are they sad that he's gone? Hmmm...not that I've ever heard of. Maybe that's the MORE telling thing: that these people, who grew up with him AS a father, show no more visible sign of his passing than I do.

I don't remember what I said to prompt this comment (I think we were talking about his weight), but I clearly remember my dad saying "One day, you'll look just like me." Ha. You may have had the last say on THAT one, Pop, because you're right: it's HARD to keep that girth off the middle! But, even if I quit running and give in to my temptation for fried chip-style snacks, there's one thing I DON'T have to copy from you: the way you related to you children. You may have been proud of me - I heard from OTHER people that you were - but you never told me that to my face. You may have loved me - I suspect you did, because you acted like it sometimes - but likewise, those words weren't likely to pass your lips. I'll try to take what you were, which was not a BAD man, but oftentimes an indifferent one, and I'll change that into the man I want to be: one who tells his daughter he loves her, that he's proud of her. Even if she wants to be a cheerleader, or a jock. "Hey, lookit that! That's MY daughter that made that catch/caught that rebound/blocked that punt!" I'll make sure she knows...but there are other things to teach her as well. Things that you DID teach me, and that I'll always remember...

Things My Dad Taught Me

1) He taught me to drive a stick shift. At the age of 14. We'd be coming back from summer band rehearsal in Ubly, and he'd pull over to the side of a lonely country road and switch places with me in his diminuitive Chevy Luv.
2) He taught me how to operate a chainsaw and how to effectively split wood. Granted I don't have a fireplace right now, but when he wanted me to hold a wedge on a giant slab of wood, I trusted him to swing a sledgehammer over his head and hit the wedge...not me.
3) He taught me to play pinochle. Okay, this took my mom as well, but when the three of us would go camping in his shitty-yet-cozy Starcraft pop-up, rainy days were spent sitting around the camper table dealing cards. I learned to count meld, bet on the kitty, and renege with grace. Too bad pinochle takes such a back seat to the much more idiot-proof euchre here in Michigan.
4) He taught me to cast with an open-face reel. I loved to fish, and I'd always used that reel with a little button on top. He taught me how to have much better control over getting your line to land where you wanted by holding the line with your finger and letting it go that way.

My dad may not have been the best father in the world...but he wasn't a bad man, either. Not a saint, not the devil...just somewhere in between. When I think of how my father felt about me, I remember that we used to go get wood at the Vassar farm by driving his ancient Ford tractor across the field to the bordering forest; dad would be driving (usually, but sometimes he let me) and I'd be sitting on the fender. We'd have to bounce across the furrows occasionally, and one time we bounced so hard that I fell off. I fell between the front and back wheels, a space of maybe 4 or 5 feet. I didn't even have time to THINK about the fact that that huge rear tractor wheel - maybe 4 feet TALL - was going to crush my chest; there just wasn't time. But my dad had time to stop the tractor. He was that quick. And when he climbed down to help me up, his face was white with fear. As a man who spent his life ignoring consequences, I don't think he chose that particular moment to consider what they might have been had he been a split-second slower.


Blogger Steph said...

Thanks for writing up this story and sharing it, Scott. Even if you think you're starting to look like him or getting the spare tire or whatever, from the pictures you included in your previous posts I have to say you are way better-looking than the old man.

When I read that your sister adored him, I thought--yep, here we go. Women adoring their absent, emotionally immature, cheating dads. I have a friend whose dad did pretty much the same thing yours did: was married to someone else, got her mom pregnant and then would have nothing to do with them--only he never became part of her life, he was just this ideal onto which she projected all her escapist dreams and her desire to be saved from her pretty lousy childhood. She held on to this (kind of in spite of herself; she was old enough to know it was a fantasy) until the day she got pregnant and her daughter's dad blew them off completely. Right before she had her daughter she told me she'd finally buried that old candy-coated version of her dad.

I'm glad you got the chance to see your father as more of a human being than that, imperfect thought he was. You seem to have a such a healthy perspective on who he was and what he can/can't be to you.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

I give you credit for being able to be so honest. I don't think I'd be able to do the same, so hat's off to you...

BTW, you're going to be a great dad.


11:23 AM  
Blogger L*I*S*A said...

I harbor many of the same feelings of my father. I can relate with many of the things you said.

For me, it boils down to one simple fact: While he was far from perfect, he was my dad, and he loved me. It's difficult to shut off feelings for another human being who loves you yet is incapable of truly showing their emotions.

I think what I love most about your series of posts is that you saw your dad as a human being with flaws, good points, bad points and points in between. That's all about being human. You remember all the good things and special times you shared with him. While he may not have tried hard to form a strong bond with you, he did manage to find those situations that remained strong in your mind.

You are going to be a wonderful, thoughtful, caring, loving and kind father. You will bring the best qualities of your dad and add to them.

Dad would be proud.

11:49 PM  

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