This morning I was catching an episode of a favorite sitcom while working in the kitchen, and the relationship between the show’s father and son sparked some memories and thoughts.
In the scene, the two adult characters are sitting in the father’s living room after not having seen each other for over two years, and they are struggling to have even the most trivial and shallow conversation.
They have nothing in common, and can think of nothing to talk about. Both are clearly uncomfortable in each other presence.
Now, while I know that this was obviously exaggerated for entertainment’s sake, I also know a lot of guys who could relate.
My own father passed away several years ago, and while we were lucky enough to share some common interests, like cooking and fishing and really lame jokes, I think we were a bit of an enigma to one another, all the same.
Being raised by my mother, I seemed to have inherited a lot of her characteristics. A love of reading, of writing, and an (often overactive) imagination being among them. Dad was a much more practical, live-in-the-moment, kind of guy, and though supportive, I’m not sure he really “got” a lot of the things I did.
A bit A.D.D., severely dyslectic (back when the teachers just told you you were dumb – true story), and the child of a horrifically abusive home, our childhoods were about as opposite as two people’s could be.
He politely attended my plays, read some of my writing (even the poetry), and was tolerant of my much more charismatic views and practices of religion – being something of a sit-down-face-forward Southern Baptist, himself. However, I’m not sure that my dad and I ever had a single “deep conversation” in my life. Not about God, life, love, hopes and aspirations, or anything that went beyond relating daily events, or the latest off-color joke we had heard that week.
Now, I’m sure that a lot of guys would be able to say exactly the same thing about their relationship with their dads, but to stop there would be…unfair.
You see, despite all of that, despite the lack of what a lot of folks would consider meaningful, we were always comfortable with one another. We could always just “hang out”, watch a movie, go fishing, play cards, or just be in the same room together without feeling like something was missing, or suffering from the slightest discomfort.
We were pals.
While probably not the healthiest of father-son relationships, it’s something about my dad that I treasure now that he’s gone…that we so seldom let our differences be a barrier between us. Sure, we had our normal share of “teenage son vs. alpha male” moments, but by-and-large, he was always just “Dad”… a guy I loved despite the fact that he would never understand (or care to) a line of Shakespeare, or raising one’s hands is worship…and I was just his somewhat odd son, whom he loved despite the fact that I chose theatre as my college major, and never shared his fascination with cars.
But we both knew that we loved each other…and perhaps more importantly, that we liked each other.
I’m certainly no exception.
Still, I also hope that, while being more of a mentoring and guiding influence that my father was capable of, I can keep that closeness and comfortability with my daughter.
I hope we, as she grows older, can laugh together, play the occasional prank on one another, deal each other in, and just hang out. Because, when all is said and done, those are my best memories of my childhood.
So, while there are some holes in our relationship that bring bittersweet regret, they pale in comparison to the memories that make me smile. We weren’t exactly “Father knows best”, but we weren’t doomed to be “Fraiser” either.
I guess we were somewhere in the middle…and I’m okay with that.