Monday, June 20, 2011

Dear old dad

Like many human beings, I have a mixed bag of memories when I mull over my parents. And so it is with me and my dad. I remember with admiration his undertaking camping trips. I didn’t particularly enjoy them (unappetizing packeted food, scary lightning storms, smelly sleeping bags, squabbling brothers), but even at the age of 8-ish I knew it took guts to chaperone three cranky kids on long weekends in the wilderness. The ski trips at the Sierra Club held more pleasures for me. But somehow those fairly fond memories were obliterated by the little rage problem that developed when I hit my teens. There was desperation that I take AP math and incredulity that I could not master the simplest concepts. There was the near fatal episode of employing me to help with some task related to income taxes. Let’s just draw the curtains on the outcome of that misadventure. There was the slap that flung me across the hotel room and left my ears ringing after I whined about my malfunctioning transistor radio during a family vacation (it melted as we crossed the Mojave).

The bad memories are the ones I left home with, so it took a few years to see my dad in a more favorable light: his willingness to take my son to wax museums and horror shows, to labor for days making dollhouse furniture with my daughter. But perhaps my best memories are the most recent ones. Frustrating though it is to watch him balk at hiring adequate home care or to see him muddle over his needlessly complex accounting methods, I feel a grudging admiration for his stubbornness and steadfastness. When I hear him repeat or retool an oft-told anecdote, I’m touched by his fertile mind and active social drive. And when I hear him getting up 10 times a night because of his enlarged prostate and then see him in the morning limping around the kitchen to get breakfast ready for him and my mom, I feel pride as well as sadness at his jauntiness in the face of the hardships and humiliations of aging. His last act—his geezerdom—is his best one. 

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