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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

When dads were grown-ups

Father's Day

When I think of my dad, I see him lying on the white shag carpeting in the living room, asleep in a plane of hot sunlight. Outside, he burned, but indirect light delighted him. His back was broad, pink and freckled, hairless. Sometimes my sister and I would quietly set his hair, which was longish, in pinker foam rollers, as he dozed.

He was a quiet man of the Silent Generation. That’s what they were called before Tom Brokaw rebranded them the Greatest Generation. I think he’d have been uncomfortable with the label “greatest.” Modesty was more the order of the day for folks who weren’t on the Mad Men master-of-the-universe or the harsh-and-brutal-life track. And that was most people we knew.

Dad smelled of graphite, pipe tobacco, and Ban deodorant. On special occasions, Old Spice. He always wore a fedora, sometimes a bow tie.

He designed houses and could build or fix just about anything. An impatient man, he was careless with power tools, and more than one digit had to be sewed back on.

In his old age, he was gentle, happy most of the time, still working into his late 80s. He grew kinder over time, and his mind opened instead of closing.

But in his youth I think he was a son-of-a-gun. At his funeral 15 years ago, his cousin said, “Your dad: what a wild man. What a joker!” I didn’t know the man he was talking about.

Vague stories had floated up over the years, but I never pursued them. After my mother died I unearthed a couple family secrets hidden in the tarnished lockbox. Mild by today’s standards, they still shocked me.

Half of me wishes I knew the whole man. The other half is glad that he chose, as most people did, as most people still do, to become a grown-up. To be disciplined in his heart, his mind,  his personal and professional life, his behaviors. To seek honorable dullness over selfish pursuit. To relieve his children of the responsibility of being the grown-ups of the house.

He’d have laughed in bewilderment over 46-year-old men sending underwear shots to young women. A die-hard Republican, he’d be ashamed to hear candidates claiming their opponents had never done a single thing right: that just doesn't make sense. He’d be glad to see collective bargaining shot down (we all have our flaws), but he’d be dismayed by the trickster behaviors and personal power grabs of state politicians.

If I asked him how to live life, I think he’d say “Get up in the morning and have a nice breakfast. Polish your shoes, go to work, and do the best job you can do. Kiss your mate whenever you can, your kids whenever they let you. If something’s not right, refuse to be part of it, even if it costs you. Love those you are given to love. Be passionate about baseball and politics. Keep learning. Be nice, damn it, most of the time. And stay away from the sun.”

Thanks, Dad, for being my Grown-Up.  I’ll never get the shoe polish or baseball thing down, but I’m getting pretty good at the rest.

 

 

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