The older I get, the more I have been enjoying the small, subtle ways I can see how I am very much like my Dad.
I do so love the memory of my Dad.
And not only the obviously admirable stuff. My adult self now, can see and really appreciate the things I share with my Dad that are… weaknesses, challenges. Character and personality traits that could easily be seen as flaws. That may very well be flaws.
I welcome them, even if Dad did not.
My adult self tells me that these “flaws” may have been the reason Dad was so mad at me that day in the fall of 1975. Why his anger was directed the way it was, on how all those “friends” I was giving rides in my Malibu to… were not really my friends.
I can’t be sure of course, but Dad may have seen something of himself in my behavior. Something he didn’t want to see, and was hoping he wouldn’t see in me. The anger I saw in his eyes was so uncharacteristically intense. There was fear there too. As if he was afraid I was on a path that he had vowed never to let me go down.
I’ll never know of course, but I like to think that his fear was unfounded. I like to think that there was some incident in his past, in which people took advantage of his generosity or some such thing. An incident that made him mistrust his own natural tendency to be the wonderful and giving, good man he was.
If my speculation is true, it only makes me love him more. For if it is true that the reason he got so mad at me was because he was afraid I was being too trusting, too friendly… it means to me that he saw me that way. As trusting, giving and kind. As the good boy I was. The way I have always wanted myself to be seen. Most importantly I would have wanted to be seen that way by him.
By seeing him that way, I can now see myself that way. To see myself in him, my love for him becomes love for myself. The kind of love for myself I can nurture now, even if it was not there at the time. Even if I did not consciously get his message (that he may not have been aware of) that true friendship is an essential element of a good life. I may very well have gleaned it from his behavior, his example. This may have allowed me to find the least destructive ways to distract myself from the “stupid, fat pig” self-image with which I would bludgeon myself, most of my life.
At the time, I was confused by my dad’s anger. I could have understood if he’d heard about the apples with a call from old man Warner, or something like that. I could have understood it if someone had seen the old station wagon loaded down with fifteen to twenty teenagers and called the school, worried that it was unsafe to drive around. But as he shouted at me, “These are NOT! your friends, Brian!!”. It felt to me as if he didn’t want me to have all those “friends”.
Of course that wasn’t true. I don’t remember at all talking with him about that day, but perhaps Dad was a bit embarrassed by how he’d lost it like that. Perhaps he was still torn by contradictions between the authoritarian impulses he felt from his own childhood training about how to raise children, and the brand new and modern ideas he was learning about every day as a brand new and modern educator.
As I got older, I could see his example of good friendship. He was a very well-loved man. My memory is full of examples demonstrating this, and I will be happy to share many of them here as I go on with my stories.
Conflicts or not, it makes me happy to see more than a little a bit of my dad in me.
He was a good man who knew what it meant to be a good friend.