“Then, why do you write about your mom and not your dad?” my son asked recently during one of our occasional reflective conversations. Our original discussion had gone off on a tangent, as often happens late at night and/or when he has an impending homework assignment. This tangent involved an analysis of parent/child relationships and how I had a close and loving relationship with my dad. Stumped, at first, to find the right response, I gave the very typical, “Good question” and then proceeded with an answer that I knew I would expand upon in this blog. After all, I only once focused completely on my dad a few years ago when I wrote about him on his birthday. And, today, his Yarzeit, the 26th anniversary of his death, is certainly a good day to celebrate the time that I did have with him and the relationship that, I’m sure, we each treasured.
As I explained to my son, I think that the innate female bond that I had with my mom also created typical and maybe even exaggerated tensions. And, I imagine, that the same might be true with dads and their sons if it’s a gender thing. So, naturally, there were times I felt more support, praise and “material gain” from my dad. It was easy to please him. My mom was a prolific and expert cook. And, since my dad could not even boil an egg, making him the simplest sandwich resulted in great gratitude. I remember standing in the pre-teen department of East Brunswick’s Bambergers begging my mom for a white and pink sweater that I, of course, thought would change my life. She said she had reached her spending limit, but, to avoid my potential terrible tantrum, she agreed to call my dad. Using the salesperson’s counter phone, she attempted to confirm the purchase denial, but was told to let me have this one additional item. It was much more than this. My dad was the instigator of Sunday “I don’t know where we are going” drives. He would love to take us on short mystery drives. And, he was the one who announced one year just before Christmas, “We’re going to Florida next week. Be packed and ready for the drive.” I look back on photos and memories of my college graduation and I can guarantee that my dad’s smile was bigger than anyone else’s.
One of my most poignant and telling stories is a request my dad made just days before he died suddenly at age 59 of a pulmonary embolism. My parents called from their Florida vacation to check up on me and I told them that I had just gotten back from a visit with my (now husband) boyfriend and his mom’s cancer was quickly consuming her. My dad’s response was immediate, “When mom and I return to NJ, we must meet her. I would really like to know her, especially since it seems like you and Scott might be pretty serious.”
I am sure if I wanted to, I could write about the bad times. Neither of my parents were close to the perfection I sometimes describe. The truth behind my blog is the feelings I am left with. For me, this pollyana-esque journal is more natural and satisfying.
As I’ve often noted, I find a similar theme as mine in so much of what I read and hear. I just started reading Orphan Train and in the prologue, the narrator says, “No substitute for the living, perhaps, but I wasn’t given a choice. I could take solace…or I could fall down in a heap, lamenting what I’d lost. The ghosts whispered to me, telling me to go on.”
I am lucky to have the whispers of both my father and my mother.