The Big O had no tolerance for children calling him by his first name.
“I am your father and you will treat me with respect.”
Dad responded to my insouciance by teaching me two things:
- 12 year-old boys can fly.
- If you are going to fly be glad there is a pool to land in.
I would add a line about being like Icarus but it seems gratuitous and it is best to keep this moving.
Better to tell you about a time post pancreatic cancer diagnosis when dad was clearly depressed about his health and had retreated into silence.
He ignored my first two attempts to engage him and so I stuck my face inches from his and said “Earth to Alan.”
As a kid that would have been playing with fire but as an almost 50 year-old man it was different.
I stuck my head next to his and whispered words in his ear in a manner I never would have used. It got the desired response, but I didn’t like doing it or getting it.
It’s Not Fair
Your Texas grand kids are here for a very short time and I won’t let you not speak to or with them. So you figure out how to say a few words because we don’t know what sort of timeline we are working with.”
He glared at me and I knew I had hit him below the belt but I did it because I thought he would expect it of me.
We hadn’t ever discussed it and who knows if what we say when we are discussing hypothetical situations reflects what we would do in particular situations.
It wasn’t fair and it isn’t fair that he isn’t here to talk it out and to hear about my first day in the new position.
Can’t tell him it is essentially a promotion or that I beat out others for it. Can’t tell him the nice emails I got congratulating me or a million other things.
Feels awkward posting some of this but I want my kids to have a record of how I feel, felt and responded in certain situations.
Want them to know I am happy but exhausted because these first days can take much out of you.
Cue Chicago and thoughts I won’t elaborate upon here, some of which aren’t related to the prior topic and some which are.
Flash to memories of pizza joints with sawdust covered floors, jukeboxes and men with crutches talking about Vietnam.
Flashback to conversations in ’96 when dad is pushing us to get out of LA.
“You need to find a job somewhere else. You need to get out of town.”
It doesn’t happen. I tell him I still want to get to Israel but that move isn’t going to happen for years because we are going to take a different route.
He tells me I ought to do a better job listening and hearing what he has to say. Later we’ll argue about the working world and how some of it works.
“Put in your time and you’ll see good things happen but recognize you are going to be seen as the kid for a long time. Doesn’t matter how good you are.”
He was right and I see/understand it now.
Wasn’t trying to be a jerk or act like a know-it-all, he was just telling me that when you are in your later twenties and early thirties you look like a kid to people in their fifties and older.
It isn’t because people are trying to be jerks either.
The kids who tell me how hard it is to raise infants and toddlers are working hard and I appreciate it because I have done it.
But that having done it is big. It is different when you have teenagers and different when you are an empty nester.
Sitting on a couch flipping through the channels passing by Walk The Line, The Notebook and Phantom Of The Opera a wistful smile on my face.
The gut says I have got something good here and that my time has arrived but I am not ready to fully believe or commit because it could be too soon to say.
But there is this feeling, this electricity that reminds me of moments when I said I know things and I was proven right there.
Sometimes there was push back and I was told not to say such things and I understood it to be fear.
Planted my feet, turned on Badfinger and day after day walked in the direction I expected would yield the results I hoped for.
Thought about dad because of past conversations and a desire to tell him how that funny exhaustion is present.
“You know what I am talking about dad, you pointed it out a thousand years ago. It feels different this time, like maybe I stumbled onto something and maybe I really will find myself able to emulate you.
Don’t intend to put in 38 years, but I could hit 20 or 25 and that isn’t bad if you can use it to retire.”
The silence is as loud as ever and unlikely to change, but there is this sense that maybe if I whisper “earth to Alan” I just might hear something.