Dad

My father died of lung cancer. He started smoking when he was in high school and quit when he was about 60. It caught up with him and killed him.

Dad was remote to me. My siblings loved Dad. They all have fond memories. I don’t. I don’t have bad memories. I just don’t have many memories at all. He was away a lot on business when I was an adolescent and teenager, but even when he was around, he never took much interest in me.

My older sisters – simply by being older – were more interesting. By the time I was age X, my sisters had already put him through the adventures of a girl of age X. My younger siblings had the novelty of being boys. We were all good athletes, but, in the rural Midwest, girls’ athletics are recreation while boys’ athletics are life-and-death. Also, as my sisters and I moved out, the family at home got smaller and more intimate.

More than that, Dad and I never shared any interests. In everything important to either of us, we were opposites.

School and books were everything to me. Dad had been an indifferent student at best, more interested in basketball and girls. He went to two colleges but never finished a semester. I don’t remember him ever reading a book until after he retired.

When Dad was in school, teachers constantly compared him unfavorably to his older brother. My uncle was the most brilliant student ever to graduate from their school. Dad resented the comparison. I imagined, rightly or wrongly, that his resentment transferred to me. I won all the academic medals at school, was valedictorian of my class, graduated with honors from an Ivy university and earned a graduate degree in a highly quantitative discipline. But Dad never gave me a single word of encouragement or praise. He went out of his way to belittle academics and academic achievement. He mocked any perceived lapse in my intelligence. Only after he died did I find out that he held me out to my younger siblings as a model.

He never understood why I left town for the city, why I left the Midwest for the East. As I get older, I start to see some of the charm of my home town, but I could never live there. Conversely, he could never imagine living in a city.

When I was young, I didn’t understand why Mom married Dad. Mom is a lot like me, which is unsurprising: I’ve always tried to be as much like Mom as possible. Love is a funny thing. Dad and Mom loved each other more than any two people I have ever known.

Dad and I grew to appreciate each other over the last few years. I’ll miss him.

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One thought on “Dad

  1. Sorry for your loss. I’ve done lots of growing up, and my parents are getting divorced. I’m a graduate student in a southern college (I was accepted into John Hopkins but I couldn’t afford it). My dad talked to me about struggles of being with my mom openly to me and treated me as his equal. My mom really does try, but she is mentally ill. I’ve always struggled with self worth and thinking something is wrong with me because my mom would lash out at me, but I’ve come to realize she does actually love me but has a difficult time expressing it. I of all people should be able to relate, I had autism. Ironically that has actually made me more compassionate. I have suffered immensely because of the disabling effects of autism so I have a strong desire for justice and always speak up when someone is being mistreated because I know how damaging it can be. I will always be a few years behind in terms of social and emotional intelligence, but I feel like I have grown up alot since last semester and see the world through adult lenses. My dad even said to me, ” it must be the most frustrating thing to know you are smart and make bad grades.” And it is, I was labeled me tally retarded in elementary school and all my teachers knew I was smart but I made bad grades because I am not good at book learning but more so through application. For example, I barely passed calculus for the minimum requirement fo r my undergrad degree in a biological science, but I published my first scientific paper when I was 18 and formulated my own hypothesis. I have published lots more since then. It’s nice to feel accepted and respected by at least one parent. Thanks for sharing your feelings about your dad, as I’m experiencing true adult life for the first time, it’s nice to know there are others who have similar struggles that you do

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