the circular runner

some thoughts from a new father

In life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on June 17, 2012 at 7:03 am

 

My father is crazy.  And by that, I do not mean that he is certifiable and needs to be locked up.  But I also don’t mean that he is a harmless eccentric, either.  The word, “crazy,” is often thrown around.  I hurl it at people all the time, often playfully.  Can’t say the same for my dad, though.  He is crazy, and that craziness is harmful. But where does it come from?

I am new father, my own son will be two months this week.  That and the fact that it is officially Father’s Day as I write this, has made me pensive about what it means to be a dad–well, both of these things combined with the fact that last weekend my father came up for a visit, and it was one of the more disappointing experiences I have had in a very long time. In the grand scheme, my father was a good role model for me.  I was a sensitive kid, some might say soft.  But my dad, a man who grew up fending for himself on the streets, was ok with my softness.  He encouraged me to be who I am.  If I think of one gift my father gave me it was that permission to be who I am, to define for myself what it meant to be a man.  I hope to teach the same lesson to my son–hopefully in word and in deed.

In general, I try not to change the people around me.  My father’s acceptance of me taught me to be that way.  But there are limits.  So, like I said, my father came to visit last week, and it was odd.  No, it was sad.  Yes, sad is the right word, and crazy, too.  My father-in-law who lives across country, flew in the week after my son was born.  My father waited nearly two months to visit though he lives in the same state.  This is disappointing.  More so after his visit, which was short and odd and…crazy.  When he arrived, he sat down in the kitchen with my mother, and he seemed tense.  I know this because he didn’t really talk, and when my mother asked him what was wrong, he got defensive.  “You two are talking English, what do you want from me?” He asked in a voice too loud for the situation.  My father’s been in the US since 1964.  He has college degrees from schools in the states.  He’s a smart man.  Yet, as he’s gotten older, he speaks less and less English.  He’s also hard of hearing but refuses to wear a hearing aid.  So, unless you are willing to scream in Spanish, communication is difficult.

My mother absorbs the difficulty.  She always has.  Which means that like a snowball, he keeps growing as he rolls on.  So he comes to the house, gets pissy that my two-month old son is nursing and not “ready” to receive him.  He goes out back and sits in the garden.  He acts like a child.  He acts like…a crazy man, by which I mean, he acts in a way that seems contrary to what he should be: a joyful father and grandfather.

I know how my father is, and I have always tried to accept it, as he accepted me. I guess I had taught myself not to expect joy from him.  But last week, when he acted like a sulky child and sat in my backyard instead of talking to me, and when he repeatedly wanted to leave early even after my wife brought my boy out, a sense of disappointment hit me hard.  I imagine it hit hard because though I can accept my father’s joylessness regarding me, it’s an insult when pointed at my boy.

It’s impossible to know for sure, but I think my father’s biggest problem, the root cause of his unhappiness, is that he expects too much from life.  This might sound…crazy, but really, don’t they say that the flipside of every romantic is a cynic?  I think my father enters every situation with an idea of what should happen.  Most times, life doesn’t work out that way, which is especially true in my dad’s case since he probably is always being a little too unrealistic.  So he gets disappointed and hence, he misses the joy in front of him.

I’m sure that my mother was telling the truth when she told me later that he had been excited to come see my boy.  But when the reality hit.  When the boy was nursing in the bedroom instead of cooing in wait of him, the disappointment was too much to recover from.

Does this sound crazy for a grown man?  Should he just grow the fuck up?  Yes, I’d say.  And yet at the same time, I am also aware enough to know that the apple doesn’t fall far.  I spent the today, the day before Father’s Day, quietly with my wife and the boy.  I napped. I ate. I held him. I walked around the neighborhood with him and his mother.  The day was great, but there was this part of me that wanted to gnaw away at my contentment.  It wanted GREATness.  It asked me if I wouldn’t be better off doing something else, something less domestic, more dramatic.  I can’t tell you exactly what that other more dramatic thing would’ve been. And though it’s true that going to Whole Foods at the end of the walk with all the other yuppy dads and ordering an ice-coffee is ver ordinary, not GREAT at all, it is great all the same.

I think today was a microcosm of what I hope for with my son.  I hope that we will have a great relationship.  There will be disappointments and there will be moments of amazing happiness, and there will hopefully be joy throughout.  But more important still, there will be joy for the all those middling moments in between.  I guess I can thank my dad for that wisdom, too.  Even if he doesn’t follow it himself.

 

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  1. I wish your Dad could find a way to expect less for in doing so he in actuality will receive more.. Now on to you Mr Brand new Father..

    Have a most wonderful first Father’s Day!!!!!
    🙂

  2. […] some thoughts from a new father (circularrunning.wordpress.com) […]

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