Fathers’ Day, June 18 2018

Yesterday was Father’s Day, but – with a 10k road race on Saturday with my daughter and then dinner with friends, and a 100k bike ride on Sunday with the L’Espresso Bar Mercurio team, a Father’s Day dinner to cook and capping the day off with aquavit with my son – reflecting on my own dad lost out.

My dad’s and my own life intersected for about thirty-two and a half years, and then he was gone. To put that into perspective, I’ve known my wife for almost 10 years more than that, about 41 years, and my four siblings for twice the amount of time as I did my dad. I worked day-in and day-out with my three partners in our consulting practice for nearly as long as I knew my own dad. And now it’s been about thirty-two and a half years since my dad died, so I’ve been without him for the same amount of time that I wasn’t, when he was here, alive and available to me. All this is confusing and a bit overwhelming. I feel like I came to know my mother and understand what drove her; I don’t have that same understanding of my dad.

I realize now that, even under optimal conditions, I could only expect about ten percent of my dad’s attention when I was growing up; my mother commanded about fifty percent, when things around the household were operating smoothly, and the rest of us fought for, or abdicated, our share of the rest. We’d see him for dinner, after he arrived home from work and had been debriefed on who did what to whom, and on the weekends when he oversaw the yard work — digging a hole for a septic tank, cutting the grass or raking leaves. His strength and anger frightened me while his projected authority in the world outside our family made me feel protected and safe. One day, when I was eleven or twelve years old and unconsciously whistling in my bedroom, he told me that I had perfect pitch. I’m pretty sure he said many other positive things to me, before and after that, but that’s the only one I remember. I so wanted to please him, from when I was a kid and all through the self-centred adolescence that strained our relationship. It was only after I graduated from university and married that I realized he had stopped worrying about my welfare. And then he was gone.

Time is passing. My memories are fading like paint in the sun. Yet dad’s presence persists like a knot in the wood beneath the fading paint. All I need to do is think about him or whistle a song.

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