TEARS FOR A GOOD FATHER
Today’s Parade section of the LA Times has a
story on the BackPage by Harlan Coben with the title I appropriated from him.
If you hadn’t read it, I recommend it to you. Like some of you of more mature
vintage, I lost my father almost eight years ago. And like many sons, I sadly
did not fully appreciate him during his lifetime. Don’t misunderstand – ours was
not the stormy relationship of which many novels are written. Nor did I ever
feel that he didn’t love me – he was always clear on that score. I always knew
that if I were to ask of him to give me anything that was in his power to give,
he would sacrifice his own needs to make my wish come true.
was more of communication and style. I grew up spending very little time with
him. He worked full time during the day, and attended the university at night.
After that, he always worked two jobs so he could save enough to have “a little
left for a rainy day.” Growing up during the Depression, then surviving the traumas
of World War II fighting as a partisan, he met my mother after suffering a
German bullet in his abdomen that exited through his thigh. She was from a well
to do city family, raised by governesses, and he a country boy raised in a
vineyard. Under different circumstances, they probably would not have gotten
together, but war produces many unlikely unions.
As much as
I knew he loved me, he had difficulty in talking with me, and when he did, it
was usually a lecture about his expectations of me, or advice on how to conduct
my life. (It’s scary how often I find myself doing the same with my son,
despite my best efforts at trying to short circuit this pattern.) I ended up spending 98% of my formative years
with my mother, as well as my mother’s mother and mother’s sister. Clearly, my
father was totally outnumbered in this relationship, and it wasn’t until much
later in my life that I realized how subtly and un-subtly I was influenced in
my perception of him by the (mostly) quiet warfare they waged with each other.
people can be incredibly intolerant of the flaws of others, and hypocritically unaware
when they harbor some of the same traits they find so disturbing in another. I’ve
reached the stage in my life that allows me to not only recognize the huge
flaws that exist in all of us, but also to have the capacity to forgive those
flaws in those we need to see as mostly perfect – our parents. Sadly, like many in demanding professions, I’ve
suffered through a long period of arrested maturity. Now that I can finally
recognize how truly wonderful a father Fate had given me, I no longer have the
capacity to fully express my admiration of him to his face. I can only hope
that my love for him came through sufficiently during the callow years of my
life, and the pride he took in my accomplishments that his support made
possible was sufficient reward for his efforts.
Finally, I at least have a chance to try and rectify with my son what I
perceived as short-comings in my paternal relationship. I can only hope he will
be more generous in his understanding of me.
Happy Father’s Day to you all!