Friday, September 03, 2004

Dad and Me

I feel like I want to impart some sort of musical bumper into the post tonight. The talk radio hosts have it sooooo good. We bloggers get words. But they get sound as well. Lucky B*st*rds.

Ok think of some funky groove for a few seconds. Not like the theme from "Shaft." More like that funky Peter Gunn theme Rush plays as a bumper at times. Got it? Good. Hold it for about seven seconds.

And now on to the post (No, I don't think that was quite the same either. But I spared you a download of some godawful MP3 file. Count your blessings.).

Flotsam and Jetsam...

No way will I be able to attend the NARN/MOB gathering at the State Fair tomorrow. The new baby is being baptised at 5pm. Having beers and schmoozing with other bloggers a couple hours beforehand is not a great idea. Anyone so inclined is heartily encouraged to plug Bogus Gold to the masses in my place. Actually, I hereby deputize all readers as the "Bogus Gold Posse" (feel free to print up tee-shirts or something). Go get 'em! Or at least try to plug Bogus Gold on the NARN show. There's a free beer at Keegan's for anyone who manages to get it in.

Also, I am (note the bumper music text above) on a little emotional high tonight. The Time magazine poll has been seen. And it doesn't even poll people who saw the final night of the convention. That eleven point lead could be understating the final bounce. I'm psyched! And I'm wondering if this is what it felt like to support Reagan in the '84 election (I'm too young to remember. In '84 I was entering high school.).

But... there's other stuff going on too.

The 'rents (that's "parents" to those of you who are, like, literate) are staying here this weekend. Odd stuff. My attitude toward my parents has changed wildly over the course of my life. I assume this makes me typical.

Went to the airport tonight to pickup my dad (Mom arrived via car from a different location. Yes, they are still married and live together. But dad travels with work - at least until he follows through on his constant promise to retire.).

So I'm standing there in baggage claim straining to see the distant crowd heading toward my location. Time is passing. I spot a white haired gentleman in the distance who might be him. This reminds me, oh yeah. Dad has grey/white hair now. In my mind he's still greying around the temples, but those days are well into the past by this time. Funny how your memory fails to call up the most literal image of your dad from your last visit sometimes, and instead reaches back to a more comfortable image.

Anyway, that didn't turn out to be dad.

So I stand and wait. I see a man walking with a pronounced limp coming toward me about Dad's size. I think, that's right. Dad walks with a limp now. Seems his knees have grown arthritic with age. And there are those pins still in the one leg from the time he fell down the stairs and instinctively chose to protect the tray of steaks he was carrying rather than his body. I had unintentionally blocked that out too. Dad used to co-coach my YMCA "Biddy Basketball" team (the other coach was current Illinois Congressman Ray Lahood. Small world.). No mobility problems in him back then.

But no. That didn't turn out to be dad either.

I eventually found dad wandering through the baggage claim area. He had been outside for the past twenty minutes waiting for my car to pull up. I explained how we had agreed to meet in baggage claim when we spoke on the phone two nights ago. He countered that he had told me that he had no checked baggage, it was all carry-on. Back and forth a few times. Neither one of us admitted we were wrong, and neither one of us held it against the other. Now THAT'S my dad.

But he is getting older. Went to bed tonight before 9pm. Dad and I have been known to stay up well past midnight arguing politics and religion and bonding over our disagreements in a way that makes absolutely no sense to my wife. But tonight it wasn't even a possibility.

It's odd watching your parents grow old. Takes forever to learn to see them as fellow people. You grow up seeing them as some sort of magical/powerful basically different species. And then you discover they're not. But that turns out to not be the end of discovery. Understanding them as parents, and not just fellow people, is more complex still.

The biggest moment of this for me came after I became a dad. Funny how transformational that event is in so many ways no one talks about or prepares you for. To me the biggest thing about that was how I suddenly was able to see myself in the shoes of my dad. And to really understand what fatherhood meant. There is no simple way to describe how that affects how you see yourself as a son from there on.

As a dad, you're clumsy and clueless and in so many ways unworthy to take on the role. But your kids have no other dad, so you just have to try. You make mistakes and you do selfish things, even though you quickly regret them. But in general you just continue to try. It's the most humbling experience a man can have.

And once you've been there, you don't see your own dad the same way any more. You may like him, or hate him, but you understand a part of him that never existed to you before.

I'm fortunate. I both like and love my dad. And truth-be-told, I think he feels the same about me. But we're strong American men, so that sort of admission only comes late at night, and after several rounds. But the nights are getting shorter. And dad can only take so many rounds anymore.

It's honestly not sadness I'm feeling as I think about it. It's just another part of life from which to learn. Consider it introspective rather than melancholy.

Well, anyway, I should be off to bed. The grandparents love their grandchildren to pieces. But when the grandchildren rise at the crack of dawn to smother them, those same elated grandparents are going to need a wee bit of assistance.


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