Monday, April 05, 2010
For over a year now, I’ve blogged mostly about Mom—her diagnosis and journey to death, and the after effects with which that all left me. But here, on this side of the reality of life without my mother’s hugs, I have been blessed these past few months to be reminded of just what a gift I have in dad. Calli & I have both commented in these recent months that it’s been a joy to re-define our relationship with Dad. Surely those of you that knew our mom have some idea what we mean when we say that. It’s not that Mom hoarded or controlled either of us or our relationship with Dad, but she was so very present in their marriage. She was the personality of their partnership. It’s not that Dad doesn’t HAVE personality, but Mom just had so much, so Dad eventually just let her be the relationship manager. She managed their social life, their family life, and their day-to-day life—just as any good “housewife” of her generation did. And it was all well and good with them. That was their dance for many years, and they had learned to dance it beautifully. But now Dad is without his dancing partner, and so he’s having to learn his own steps. And doing quite well, I have to say.
But I’m chasing a rabbit here. Let me back up. So my musings have been mostly about Mom—the things she taught me, the things she did for me, the ways she mothered me. I know how very blessed the four of us were to have had her as our mother. But we’re fortunate too, to have the father that we have as well. No, neither of them were perfect by any means, but both did the best they knew how to do, and that was pretty darn good.
As I pushed the lawn mower down the street yesterday to mow Dad’s overgrown yard--for some reason, the lawn service had been delayed and it was looking scruffy--I spent some time really thinking about the kind of father that he has been. And I realized that there are things that I know how to do that I am quite sure that Mom did not teach me. Things like how to change a tire or how to check my oil. Things like how to turn a screwdriver or hammer a nail. Things like how to balance a chemical equation or solve for x in a linear one. Things like how to make hummingbird food, or where to put a bluebird house. Things like how to start a lawnmower and how to mow a straight path. As I walked back and forth, back and forth in Dad’s front yard, making sure the tire of the mower was just inside the most recently-mowed strip so I wouldn’t leave any unmowed stalks of grass, I remembered him standing on the curb at 1409 watching me mow the lawn for the first time. He would turn me around after each pass and let me see my weaving path, encouraging me until I could mow a strip as straight as an arrow.
Mom always found it very odd that I love mowing the lawn. It was certainly not a “ladylike” thing to do, and most definitely not anything she had taught me to love. And yet I’ve always enjoyed doing it. True, there is a part of me that likes to do it because, well…because unlike laundry, it stays “done” for a few days. But I think there is also a part of me that has always like it because it makes me feel connected to Dad in some way.
Yesterday, when I had finished mowing, I went inside to get a glass of ice cold water. I sat down on the sofa next to Dad in his chair and together, we watched a few golf holes. I smiled as I remembered the times not too long ago when he would come in after working in the yard and sit down next to me to sip his glass of ice cold water while we watched a golf hole or two together as Mom cooked dinner.
Dad & I never really talked much prior to Mom’s death, and we don’t talk that much now, really. Sure, I see him almost every day, and we talk some, but when we do, it’s usually about when I’m picking him up for a Publix run or a visit to the doctor. He’s never been one for small talk, and that has only been compounded by his difficulty hearing. But no longer do I let the lack of words passing between the two of us disturb me or make me feel like we don’t “have much of a relationship.” We have the kind of relationship that many fathers of his generation had with their children…one formed around shared tasks, understood feelings that need not be spoken, and mutual satisfaction with a job well done.
It’s hard to watch your parents age and die. But as hard as it is, there is a rightness about going full circle that reminds me that it’s the way life was meant to be. My prayer is that I am blessed with many more “full circle” opportunities with my daddy before he, too, leaves this world for the next.