Archive for the ‘Father’ Category

Unregretted decisions

Historically I have a difficult time making decisions because I too easily see the other side of an argument. Which is an unusual problem, because too often people are unable or unwilling to consider the other side of an issue! But there have been two decisions I have never regretted, never looked back on, never had second thoughts about.

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The first was a decision to surrender my appointment to a service academy. I was appointed out of high school, and went through the bulk of that first summer. Truth be told, I was admitted by virtue of mind and test tacking abilities, and the body was never, EVER, as good or good enough. The decision to leave was difficult, mostly because of the reaction I would face back home and the need to get into school someplace that fall so I wouldn’t be trapped at home. But although it was difficult, I have never, in all the years, regretted the decision. I still think I could have made a good military officer (more Al Haig than David Petraeus), but I’ve never wished I had stayed, never was sorry I hadn’t pursued that path.

The second decision that I never looked back on was the decision to have a family. Alright, it was a very small family, just one child, but the decision to do it was a long time coming. It took me years to get to “yes”. In fact, I think my then-wife despaired of ever having a child because of my reticence. And yet, once she arrived in our life, I never regretted, never looked back.

It’s interesting that these are the two decisions I have the most confidence in, because they have had very different outcomes.  The decision to leave the academy meant I ended up in a school that would take me rather than one I had selected.  It meant my major was decided through a certain randomness of taking copious ‘introduction’ classes in my freshman year rather than the history/political science/oceanography major I to which I had aspired.  And the major lead to all sorts of ramifications in my career path when an accident (TMI) and politics (Reagan recession) substantially altered my planned paths.  But all has turned out acceptably, as I have found a passion for environmental sustainability and planning that I would not have expected.

The decision to have a family….ah, now that’s a different outcome.  The divorce and subsequent estrangement from my progeny has produced years of sadness and pain, and even a nervous breakdown. That’s just from my side of the divide, from my perspective. I have to imagine it’s at least as bad from the other side, to grow up in half a family, to have life so dramatically changed.  And yet….and yet. I still don’t regret the decision.  Even through the emotional distance and disconnect, the love, pride, joy, hope that I feel for her outweighs the pain I’ve felt.

Two decisions.  Two turning points in life.  Neither regretted.  I suppose that is something  for which I should be grateful.

Memory Seen

I was walking along the sidewalk in a townhouse portion of the community a little while back, enjoying a transitional fall day, when I saw … a  memory.    It was a scene of something that I had long forgotten.  Despite the time that had passed, the rebirth of the memory was quick and complete, and surprised me in the remembering.  A young father was out with his little daughter.  He was dressed in casual office attire of khaki pants and Oxford shirt, she in the typical stretchy pants and tennis shoes of her age group.  She was on a pink bicycle with a white wicker Toto-type basket.  She had her training wheels on, and he was by her side, trying to help her learn to ride.  He was talking to her, encouraging her, guiding her, directing her, moving with her in the halting progress she was making down the sidewalk.

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image from www2.ljworld.com

Once, in what now seems likes eons ago, I was there, trying to  help my girl learn how to ride.  Despite the distance in memory, it was in reality only 6 years ago. Whether it was a lack of skill on my part, or her mother’s genes, I don’t know, but she neither enjoyed nor really learned to ride a bicycle.  While I spent most of my summers on a bike until I was nearly sick from the heat and exhaustion, my daughter was significantly less interested in riding.

I hope he has better luck in his teaching session than I had.  I also hope that, some day in the future, he will see a scene like this and remember the days spent with his girl.

As I remember the days spent with mine.

Father variations

As I was taking my walk yesterday, I had the occasion to think about fathers, and the wide variety of relationships that I know of with people and their fathers.

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There are some that I know that have had great relationships with their fathers.  Two high school classmates posted on Facebook about missing their dads who had passed away a while ago.  They (one male, one female) each talked about the strong bonds of love and of admiration they had for their fathers, the role model that he was, the influence on their life.  Yet another talked about planning to spend time at his father’s grave talking to him.  Others view their fathers as strong influences, as heros, as role models or faith models for them.  I rather envy them, that they had that sort of relationship with their fathers.

I know at least one friend on the other side of the spectrum.  I don’t know the family history, the details and events that formed the situation, but apparently something happened that resulted in a schism.  It might have been a single event, but more than likely it was a series of events.  The break is such a severe one that my friend no longer feels welcome or wanted in the house of the family of origin.  It’s sad to watch only because I know the pain that is experienced in that place.  And between these two are the vast majority of folks, I suspect, who had relationships of varying depth and intensity.

As for me…..hmmm.  I’ve had a father, and I am one.  My father has been dead for a decade plus now.  Un fortunately, he and I never did get along really.  It wasn’t that there was fighting or something obvious or dramatic, no massive fighting or yelling or anything like that.  We just didn’t communicate.  Verbally or nonverbally.  Dad was, apparently, singularly uninterested in talking with people.   I have, fortunately, come to realize that Dad was the product of his times and his difficult upbringing.  He grew up the son of a sharecropper in the South, and had a fairly hard life in his early years.  He pulled himself up to the ranks of middle class (I once told him I would never be able to rise as far above my birth status as he did) but the doing so left him angry and silent.  I wasn’t ever sure that he even wanted a child (and I’m an only).  I have realized that much of what drove me in school and academics and in my opinions of what is expected of me (and still drives me) in life is the need to find acceptance and value from him that, ultimately, I didn’t get from him.  All the certificates and degrees were designed to make me feel successful, even if the one opinion I most valued I could never get.

Acceptance helps in this.  One of the more cathartic moments for me was a couple of years ago when I wrote a letter to him.  I first tried to do this four years ago, but it was way too raw and difficult.  This past year I finally had moved to the point where I could sit down and write to him.  I was able to put down on paper, and thereby exculpate, what I felt growing up, what I had wanted from him, how our relationship had hurt and bothered me.  And, ultimately, I wrote to say….. I had forgiven him, because he had done the best with what he knew and what he could do.

I wonder what my own legacy as a father will be. I have one progeny from the marriage,   However, my daughter stopped seeing me three years ago, five years into the divorce.  The reason was never clear;  I think it was her way of exerting her own control over the divorce and the split of her world between her mother and me.   I think of it as her divorcing me as a way of expressing her own pain.  I had tried to be a good dad, in marriage and after the divorce.

I wonder, twenty years from now when I’m gone,  what her Father’s Day blog will say about me.