Saturday, March 24, 2007

Who is/Who was my Dad?

I woke up this morning still thinking about . . . still feeling . . . nostalgic.

Who is/Who was my Dad?

Last night, just before we went to bed, I had Sarita read my "Please Come to Boston" post and the ones that follow.

"Did you ever pine for your mom that way?" she asked when she had finished reading. "Did you ever wish for a deeper relationship with her?"

I thought about it. Answer? Honestly? No. I don't think I ever did.

Was it because my mom and I were already close?

No. I don't think so. 'Cause I don't think we were particularly close. In fact, we weren't. We weren't far apart. But I wouldn't say we were close. We "just" kind of . . . coexisted, I think.

But not so with Dad.

So who was Dad to me? Why is it important to me that we somehow be "close"? . . . What might that even look like?

I don't know that I could answer all those questions!

[Maybe this is part of my attempt to pre-figure out what I might say, in eulogy, about my dad. As I said in A little more nostalgia, for some reason I have been feeling the strong need to think this through lately. . . . Is it because I am having a premonition of his death? . . . Because I have a premonition of my own death? . . . Because I want, if at all possible, while there is still the opportunity, to "get things right"? --Who knows? I don't really care "the reason." . . . I "just" feel the need. . . . And so I will seek to fulfill it.]

Sarita's question, as I said, got me thinking.

First, I think I ought to note that, despite whatever else I say, Dad has always engendered strong feelings within me.
  • When I was in kindergarten--and then for at least a year or two--I remember I would tell my friends: "I hate my father!" It was during a time when there was great upheaval in our family. We had just moved to Syracuse. I have no idea why, specifically I would say such a thing! But I know I felt that way and would say it out loud!
  • Sometime a bit later--I don't remember when (it could have been as early as third grade, but, then, in confused fits and starts for years afterward) I realized that the upheaval in our family was not "just" Dad's fault. . . . Oh. He could drive all the rest of us absolutely crazy. But it "took two to tango." And Mom definitely enjoyed playing "the martyr" against whatever "evil tyranny" he may have exerted over her. . . . --I think my point is: I came to realize he had plenty to answer for. But so did she. And it wasn't fair for us (Mom and the six kids) to blame him for everything that went wrong. . . . Still. He did drive us crazy. . . .
And then,
  • I remember (and this contributes to my sense that I began to come to this realization [that "it takes two to tango"] as early as about third grade) . . . I remember walking home with Dad from church "early." This was in Syracuse. And our house was a good three miles from the church. Dad was in his strong skeptical period. . . . He would come to church with us, play his cello during one portion of the service, then "take off" and return home. . . . And I would accompany him. [The reference in Manilow's "Two Ships" to his dad--"did he say,/'Hold my hand'?"--resonates deeply with me. Dad would say . . . he did say . . . by his actions, if not in words . . . --Dad would say, "Hold my hand." And we would hold hands. . . . We held hands at that time, back when I was in third grade, while we walked down Glenwood Avenue and then cut across the Bellevue Country Club golf course on our way home. . . . We held hands later, too, when I was 10 or 11, and we--he and I, just the two of us--used to go for walks on the Stanford campus. --But I'm getting ahead of my story.]
  • I remember later, after we returned to upstate New York; I had to have been at least 13, since we moved back between my 8th and 9th grade years: my parents dropped me off at Camp Pattersonville for a summer "junior counselor"/dishwasher job. As they got ready to leave, Mom waved goodbye. Dad kissed me. In public! . . . I was discomfitted, to put it mildly. Yet . . . (I thought at the time, and have thought many times since) Why shouldn't a dad kiss his son? . . . But why did Dad kiss me and Mom didn't? Was it that she was more sensitive to the "needs" of a teenage boy to show his mature independence while Dad was "insensitive"?

More later, I think.


PS. I should provide a link to an aerial photo of Camp Pattersonville. The light blue rectangle in the lower left of the photo is the pool where I learned to swim between first and second grade. (I wasn't quite 7 years old, but they let me into camp "young.") The light green open patch in the center is the playing field where we used to play Capture the Flag.

What amazes me, as I look at this map/photo, is how close to the New York State Thruway the camp is! . . . Yet it seemed as if we were on the "other side of the world."

If you zoom out and/or move south and east on the map, you will find the creek we would "hike" down once a week during camp. (It was a big deal to make that hike!) . . . Follow the creek north and east and you come to the Mohawk River.

As you follow the creek, you can see a number of old culverts and dips. For some reason, when I attended camp as a child, I was told those culverts had to do with the Erie Canal. Now as I look at them as an adult, I realize not only were they "traveling the wrong direction," but it makes no sense that someone would go to the trouble to build a canal when a perfectly fine river was running only a few hundred yards away!

Oh, well. The wild dreams of youth! . . .

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