Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"The right way and the easy way are rarely the same way"--my father

I was born in 1969 to a 29 year old woman and her 49 year old husband--my father not only fought in World War II, but actually left home for China before Pearl Harbor and fought for the Chinese against the Japanese as a mercenary--the term badass does not nearly do him justice.

I was raised by a member of what Tom Brokaw rightly called"the greatest generation". It wasn't the best scenario for the "father-son" part of growing up, as my father was in his 60's when I hit the age for sports, mechanics, and all the rest of the stuff boys usually learn about with their dads. However, his presence was clearly and without dispute the cornerstone of what has become my work ethic, resolve, and life-view--I wouldn't trade those lessons and that example for anything. I love the memories of my father, and I love talking about him and telling the fantastic stories that pepper the incredibly rich tapestry of his life.

Unfortunately, our similarly rigid natures have forced us apart over the last decade, and while logic tells me to find away to reconnect with him before his mighty constitution begins to fail, I know in practice that such a thing is highly unlikely. As I listened to the voicemail from his assistant today wishing me a Happy Birthday from him, I flashed back to my fondest birthday memory from childhood.

When I was probably 12, I had a real birthday party on a Sunday afternoon. Because my parents traveled a great deal and were older, I was generally surrounded by adults as I grew up--even my siblings were much older than I was. However, one year for various reasons there were friends and associates of my parents around that had a fair number of children near my age, and I had a regular kid's party--except that there was a full staff on hand, gourmet kid's food, private security, and a camel for some reason, as well as about 50 different party games.

Well, at one point a good old fashioned "Lucy and Ethel", "Laverne and Shirley", "Three Stooges" food fight broke out. It started with pickle slice and ended up with the period-style ketchup and mustard bottles being used like flame throwers. The mess was monumental [I would find out much later at a holiday dinner during college that there was actually about $5000 in damage done], and I remember looking up in the midst of it to see my father standing in the doorway watching the scene silently, until my mother walked in and absolutely lost her shit--as soon as she started screaming my father turned without a word and left the room. Guests went home--I went to my room. Later that night, as my parents was getting ready to go out for the evening, my father himself snuck me a piece of my otherwise ruined cake, and the next day came and got me from school and we went fishing. That he did both of these things himself was amazing to me then, and still is today.

Now my father didn't fish, but he wanted to make sure there would be no witnesses to tell my mother. Surreptitiously deep-sea fishing with your grounded 12 year-old son may sound like an odd choice for a secret birthday trip, but it is literally one of the happiest memories I have. It took my mother a week to calm down, but my father's assistant later told me that my dad ran to his home office after he left the fight and collapsed laughing, and literally laughed until he cried.

I miss my mother, and she has been dead for fifteen years. I miss my father even more, and he is only a day's flight away.

3 Comments:

Blogger Janejill said...

Well I haven't read all your posts yet but I just want to say please please do go see your father - you love him and he so obviously loves you, and he probably will not be around for much longer. You have so much awareness of why you are apart; I never did with my mother , just resented and even disliked her. I was lucky (she wasn't) as she became bed-ridden and so I began to spend some time with her - not a lot but enough to love her again and feel loved by her. Surely you wouldn't regret it?

5:05 PM  
Anonymous restaurant Gal said...

I have to wonder, are you okay on this day, today? Thoughts are with you.

5:41 PM  
Blogger shaogo said...

You wrote this wonderful post two days before my father, also a member of Brokaw's "Greatest Generation" died. What an eerie coincidence.

You and I are lucky to have been raised by good and right men who served their country without question, meant it when they told their wives "'til death do us part" and were totally committed to raising fine children -- and involved in their upbringing, no matter how busy.

You're a fine writer and have some very good things to say. Thanks for a great blog.

4:58 AM  

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