Saturday, June 18, 2005

The last lesson my father taught me

I buried my father last week. He was 62. I shouldn't need a wake up call to get in better shape, but this is certainly a loud one.

The last meaningful conversation we had was when we both flew to California for my grandfather's/his father's funeral in 1998. We met on the porch the night I got into town, did that awkward hug/slap on the back that men do, and then sat down and actually talked for the first time in several years. He shared with me that he had never been close to his father, that they too hadn't spoken in years, that they were friendly, but never friends. He told me he was hesitant to speak at his father's funeral because he really didn't feel like he knew him very well, and didn't want to dishonor his father's memory nor embarrass himself with a lack of information. Then he paused, and for the first time that evening actually looked me in the eyes. I thought, it comes. My dad is going to let his guard down, speak to me as an equal rather than a subordinate, and admit that he was sorry that we had perpetuated the cycle. Then I could do the same. He opened his mouth and said, "Well, good to see you, we should go to bed." That was the last time we spoke.

At the time I was angry at the perceived irony and hypocrisy, but I am starting to wonder if that was as close as he could come to admitting he had been wrong, and that I probably should have taken the lead and admitted my share of the guilt as well. That never happened, and now never will.

Sorry for the heavy note heading into Father's Day this weekend, but if your dad is still around, please, learn from our mistakes.