“It’s weird that someone I’ve never actually met has become a better role model for me than someone who is still alive.”
My son and I have some of the most interesting talks in the car. This was a comment he made on the way to school the other day. I’m still thinking about it.
I’m trying to figure out how to word this post without putting my dad down. Let me premise what I’m about to share by saying, I love my dad. Over the years, I’ve watched him grow in his ability to express love towards me. For the first two decades of my life, I never actually heard my dad tell me he loved me. He didn’t know how to say those actual words to me. I’ve come to understand this was due to a combination of reasons. My father didn’t have a fatherly role model in his own life. His dad was an alcoholic who my grandmother divorced when my dad was only 12 years old. When his step-dad entered his life (the grandpa I came to call grandpa) my dad finally had someone in his life who was a good provider (but not nurturer) to both him and my grandma.
My dad came from a generation where the men were the bread winners and not the nurturers. My dad’s way of loving his family was by putting a roof over our head, making sure we had food on the table, and being a strict disciplinarian. And, for that, I am deeply grateful. I know some folks who are not even fortunate enough to have this kind of dad in their lives. Yet, the words I love you and snuggle time with my dad never happened when I was a kid. However, I do remember there was a season in my childhood when he would toss me over his shoulder like a “bag of wheat” and carry me off to my bed at bedtime. I would giggle as he held onto my legs, my head dangling upside down behind his back. When I was a young child, this game of “bag of wheat” was the closest my dad ever came to uttering those words I love you. I didn’t hear those words, but deep down I sensed them.
Today, my dad and I say those three words to each other at the end of every phone call. We talk nearly everyday. After my mom died, we slowly learned how to say them out loud to each other. Yet, my dad is still a challenging sort of man to love. To say this as nicely as I can, he tends to have a hard time letting go of past prejudices. He tends to be quick to judge people before taking the time to get to know them. You know that saying don’t judge a book by its cover? Well, my dad is an expert at judging a book by its cover. And, he’s not the least be afraid to spew those negative thoughts out whenever/wherever he feels like it.
Visiting my dad is bittersweet. I want to spend time with him (especially since his stroke two-years ago which has left him paralyzed on one side and confined to a bed or his wheelchair) but sometimes it’s mentally and emotionally exhausting to be with him for long periods of time. Each time we go back home for a visit, my son witnesses his grandfather’s judgmental/intolerant behavior. He also sees an old man who has no idea how to interact or engage with a child.
Today would have been my mom’s 78th birthday. As you know, I talk about her a lot. Her legacy will live on. It makes my son sad that he never got the chance to meet my mom. It makes me a little sad too. The comment he made to me in the car the other day saddens me …but, at the same time, it also gives me hope.
I’m sad that my son no longer has a grandparent in his life that is the ideal doting grandparent. My husband’s mom died almost a year ago. For the time she was alive, she filled that doting grandma role beautifully. I’m so thankful my son had the chance to get to know her and spend time with her. And, in an odd way, I’m filled with hope by my son’s comment in the car because it reaffirms my belief that the memories I share about my mom, his grandma, have not fallen on deaf ears. He’s heard every single one of the stories I’ve shared. Legacies can and do live on. Who we are and how we choose to live our life has the power to impact and inspire people long after we are gone.
I think the Bible might be one of our best examples of this. We can read about heroes of faith today and even though they are not here with us…they still inspire us to live better stories. Today, I’m grateful for legacies.