When I was growing up, I never had much of a relationship with my dad. I could cite many reasons. But the most prevalent reason was how he was raised and the times in which I grew up. Dad was a product of the depression era. He was raised in an environment when times were hard. It was a “no nonsense” way of life. It was hard work and struggles just to survive with little room for emotions. Back in the day, a man might show affection for his daughter(s) but his son(s) was different. His son represented the hard work and struggles of life. A son was expected to become hard. To work and live without emotional tanglements. When I was a child, there was a nursery rhythm that explains better what I am trying to convey.
“Little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice”. “Little boys are made of hammers and nails and puppy dog tails”.
My dad was a good man. Like all of us, he had his faults. We never went hungry, we were always clothed and a roof over our head. When it came to affection or emotion, as his son, he was cold. I’m not being critical, just stating a fact. In his world, that transcended into my world, that was just the way it was. So, our relationship was not bad, but it was very casual.
As I grew into adulthood, I did nothing to try and change our relationship. It was what it was. By this time, I was OK with it. I had become accustom to it. In fact, for the most part, what I became as an adult in this respect, was what my father taught me. I was cool and distant. I prefer to think I wasn’t as extreme as he, but then, that’s just my opinion.
As my dad became older, his outlook on our relationship changed. I look back and I can see things differently. In retrospect, I see where he reached out in different ways in an effort to establish, or change how he and I interacted (or didn’t interact.) However, at the time, I wasn’t interested in changing anything. I was comfortable with things the way I had been taught they should be.
Dad aged, as we all do, but mentally, dad’s aging took its toll. His memory started to fade. No longer could he remember events. After a while he couldn’t remember his grand kids. Eventually he even struggled to recognize his wife. Never at anytime during his mental decline, did he fail to recognize me!!! When I would visit him and I have to be honest. I visited him out of guilt. I didn’t visit him because I wanted to and certainly not out of compassion or concern. After all, he and I never had a normal father/son relationship. But when I did visit, sometimes with my family in tow, he never failed to recognize me as his son. He might not recognize or acknowledge anyone else in the room, but he never failed to call me Son.
My dad has passed. Often I sit and think about what could have been. Many times I wish I could ask him questions, talk to him about things. I ponder the things he and I could have done together, had either of us made the effort.
Like my dad, I am now aging. I now have the same regrets he may have had. I now see the faults in my role as a father. I often wonder if my dad had the same thoughts as he looked back over his life. I see so much of him in me. I was a witness to his aging, as I witness my own. Many times I look back and say to myself: I wished I had done — so and so, or I wish I had said — so and so. I wonder if some day, when I’m no longer around, if my son will say the same to his self?
Life allows us to look back and re-exam our past. The problem is – generally we wait until it’s too late to do anything about it.