Saturday, December 16, 2017

I Just Need To Be Me

I'm 22,029 days old; or said another way, I'm 60. When my father was this same age it was February 18th 1986. My mother was my same age on February 25th 1988. (You can make your own calculations with this calculator.) I sometimes find it interesting to see myself from a different perspective -- a perspective where my dad and I are on equal footing with respect to age. It's something that causes me to squint my eyes a little and think really hard to recall thoughts of my father from back in the day.

My dad and I were alike in a lot of ways but in many more ways we were complete opposites. It wasn't until I was in the Navy and working as a radarman that I learned my dad had held the same position when he was in the Canadian Navy. You would think I would've already known that. 

I can count on one hand the number of times we sat down and just chatted about life in a meaningful way. I don't think I was the exception among my siblings in this regard but perhaps I was. It wasn't that he was a quiet man because he wasn't. He and my mother used to talk for at least an hour each evening in our front room after he got home from work. She'd fix them both a drink and he'd tell her about his day while she would occasionally get up and tend to what she was making us for dinner. At least that's how I remember it.

When I was brought home by the police after getting caught drinking underage (I was 16) he made sure I got up for work the next day despite being in no shape to do anything but stay in bed. I finished my 8 hour shift at Penny's Grocery and came home expecting the worst. "Your father wants to talk with you" my mother told me. I went to where he was in the front yard. His head was down as he kneeled on the grass pulling at some weeds. I'm not even sure if we made eye contact. He told me that if I ever wanted a drink I could do it at home. That wasn't really my idea of drinking but I promised him there wouldn't be a next time and that was that. The discussion lasted less than 30 seconds, and I resumed my life without changing a thing.

Still, what I needed from him was a more meaningful relationship; someone who would both challenge and encourage me. It would be years before I'd come to realize that.

He flew into San Diego, CA in April, 1978 while I was there serving out my enlistment. We had a day and half together, swimming in the pool where he was staying at the Sheraton on Harbor Island, playing mini golf and going out to dinner. It was good, quality one on one time and I will always remember it. I brought him aboard the ship I was serving on and showed him around. And I showed him my bike. He had bought me a white radio that clamped to my bike's seat-tube that I could listen to while I was riding. I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd never use it.

I stayed with my parents for a few months when I returned home from the Navy while I figured out what my next steps would be. My dad was still as busy as ever, tinkering with whatever project he had in front of him on his workbench or adding to his woodpile. He was a good provider and had he not encouraged me to take the job offer from the FAA there's no telling where I'd be today because I was determined to remain in school. There's much about him that I have to be thankful for. But as I write this I can't help but think that it's entirely possible that I live my life the way I do, engaging the boy in me because on a subconscience level I don't want to be like my father. I don't mean that in a negative way. Maybe I'm over-thinking it. I just need to be me, and that leaves little room for the guy I always imagined I'd be at my age.

Thoughts of my dad came and went this morning while I was on a ride with some guys. I was doing something that I never could've imagined him doing at age 60 but how cool would it have been if that was something we could've done together. We weren't the type to go deep in a conversation with each other but I have no doubt we could've connected on a ride where we're pushing each other, testing each other and respecting each other. Two men meeting as boys and letting the trappings of being adults and the walls we build around ourselves fall away.

A bike can do that.

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