My father is a man of routines.
This Father’s Day, I managed a small triumph! I got him to try something different. Usually, we just go to a movie.
But I wanted to interact with him– do something where we could have fun, move around, be silly. Not just sit in a theatre for two hours and watch a movie together, although I love doing that, too. Thankfully, we couldn’t agree on a movie.
I got him to agree to mini-golfing with me, and go-karts.
For years, I’ve been asking. But he really hates to venture out of the predictable. He likes to garden, do things around the house, work. Go to eat, go to a movie. Never likes to go to the city. He’s a very simple man that way– devoted to his family, his home and his work.
So it felt like such a victory to convince him to deviate from the standard plan!
And what cracks me up the most about it is that he didn’t wait for me at all. He didn’t slow down for me– but zoomed ahead! So many times in my life, he’s sacrificed so that he could be there for me. I remember in sixth grade, we went on a family vacation with some of his lifelong best friends and their families to Crested Butte, Colorado. I was a first-time skier. I took some lessons and quickly picked it up. My father has always been athletic. He could have left me with the other kids and gone on ahead with the men and hit the slopes at his full capacity. But instead, he waited for me. He watched me. When I snow-plowed down the mountain and fell on my head (three times!) he was there to pick me up. I think we were there three days, possibly four. By the last day, I was able to tackle a black diamond hill with him called The Resurrection. I learned to zig-zag, and to deal with moguls. He finished first, but he waited at the bottom for me.
Today, it felt wonderful to see that my 72-year-old father can still enjoy the go-karts! I floored it the whole time, but I could never quite catch up to him. In some ways, it seemed an apt metaphor for my relationship with him. He tackles everything head-on and just keeps forging forward, impervious to all obstacles. He’s been a model of virtue for me– he doesn’t do short-cuts.
His legs are much longer than mine. As a little girl, I struggled to keep up– it seemed I needed to take six steps for everyone of his! As a toddler he would often carry me on his shoulders and I felt invincible. I felt safe and proud to be the offspring of this bear of a man. As I grew older and began walking, I would hold his finger with my tiny hand and skip along with him. It was like a game. My father has large hands– he always talks about how his father’s were so much bigger, “like hams.”
How he managed to go that much faster than me when we’ve got the same karts, I’ll never know. I tried to shout to him, but the wind carried my voice away. Although I was a little sad that I couldn’t see his face and challenge him and yes, zoom ahead, another part of me was just so happy to see him enjoying himself.
A man who does everything methodically, the most practical man you could hope to meet. He will wait for every car on the road to pass, I joke, before making a turn.
Today I saw a glimpse of who he was before he became my father– when he was John, a younger man with less responsibilities.
Afterward, he was bragging about how he had given the younger guys on the course a run for it! Passed ’em all up, he said. And I hadn’t even noticed the kids– and I think there were some other, younger, fathers on the course with their own kids. All I could notice on the course was my father. He’s been the hero in my life. And he was there for me, with me– but he was also competing with the other men, because that young part of him is still alive. I’m so grateful for that.
As adults, the hardest part is letting go of your parents– loving them enough to give them space and freedom.
Because you know they’ve invested so much emotional energy and yes, money– in your happiness. In your future.
At some point, you want to give back to them. You want to repay them by showing them that you can do it. That they don’t need to worry, because they’ve done their job right as parents.
You want to be their friend, and not just their child. I think that’s the ultimate sign of respect– it’s a more reciprocal relationship.
My mother died when I was very young– and thus, he’s been both father and mother to me. He was a single parent for a long time– 10 years– until he remarried. He’s been protective of me also because I battled health issues as a young child and have certain medical concerns that most people my age don’t have yet. It’s made me more deliberate, more cautious, in every aspect of my life. But it’s held him back in ways, too. He’s not resentful about it, because he accepted his job as a father with grace and full responsibility. He’s offered financial assistance at times when I didn’t want to ask, but needed the help.
But now, I just want to give him peace of mind.
My father has the gift of youth– and I want him to enjoy it.