Sunday, July 01, 2012

'Daddy Looks Pretty'

I have this vague memory from my childhood of seeing my father walking into the dining room of our home in a suit and tie.

I forget the occasion or why my father was all dressed up. I forget everything about that day except what I said when I saw him.

“Daddy looks pretty,” I declared.

I wasn’t trying to be a wise guy or cast aspersions about his manhood. I was a little kid and I was using the only words I knew to describe how my father looked.

I haven’t done a Father’s Day post for a while now; it hadn’t even occurred to me to write one until that very morning and by then I already had another post ready to go.

I suppose I could’ve put that other post on hold and written something for my dad, but my heart wasn’t in it.

So I decided to disregard Father’s Day and then, of course, I started to feel guilty--something I’m rather good at.

When I was living in Pennsylvania I used to work Sunday through Thursday. I came home to Brooklyn most weekends and I recall one year I was leaving my parents’ house early on Father’s Day to get to work in Stroudsburg.

My father guided me down the driveway of our house, which he always did, and as I drove down the street, a Paul McCartney song called “Put It There” came on the radio. The song is about a father and son relationship and I started crying as I listened to it.

I berated myself, saying if I had a normal Monday through Friday job I could’ve spent Father’s Day with my dad. If there's a way to hurt myself, you know I'll find it.

My father’s been gone for five years now and Father’s Day has lost much of its meaning to me. I called my two brothers to wish them the best, but for the most part I don’t think about this day at all.

Show's Over

And then this week father paid a role in a very upsetting dream I had.

Now it’s no secret that I absolutely hate the cold weather. I dread the freezing temperatures and painfully short days. I hate hibernating in my apartment for weeks at a time and wrapping myself in thermal underwear and a dozen blankets just to get a decent night's sleep.

If I can’t walk out the door in a t-shirt and shorts I’m going to be miserable. It’s horrendously hot in New York right now and I don’t care. I can deal with the heat and humidity a lot easier than I can with blizzards and frostbite.

This winter-phoboia must’ve been cooking in my subconscious the other night because I dreamed that the summer was over and I was in the middle of autumn. I felt like Rip Van Winkle sleeping through my favorite time of the year.

Suddenly it was midnight dark at 5pm; leaves were falling off the trees and I had to bury my hands in my jacket pockets—my jacket!—to keep them warm.

As I struggled to make sense of what was happening to me, my father came walking down a nearby alleyway reciting some strange poem about the fall.

I can’t remember the words, but apparently it dealt with the quickness of the passing year. I woke up and I was greatly relieved to find that I hadn’t missed summer after all. But that image of my father lingered in my mind.

At first I thought he was mocking me. He was known to needle people about their insecurities and I assumed that he was razzing me about my fear of winter.

But I’ve been thinking about this dream more in the last few days and I believe now that my father wasn’t teasing me at all. I think he was warning me, telling to me to enjoy life while the sun is shining and the flowers are blooming.

I had a difficult relationship with my father, but lately I find that I’m thinking less of our arguments and more of the good times I had with him.

I’m finding it easier to think of him in his Sunday best rather than in one of his foul moods. I think the pretty is finally driving out the ugly.

So I know I’m late with this, but I’ll say it anyway: Happy Father’s Day, Dad.


Jay said...

What a touching post, Rob. I'm somewhat in the same position with Mother's Day since I had a difficult relationship with my mother. Strangely difficult, because I did admire her, and I acknowledge that she had a heart of gold, and I loved her .. but I could not spend much time with her without getting impatient. Why? I know she loved me dearly, but she often hurt me, deeply, but unwittingly.

I guess we didn't truly understand each other. So, since she died, I've been wracked with guilt and pain, and it's going to take a very, very long time to get past that.

Bottom line is that I think it's fairly normal that we have problems relating to our parents. Very few of us have 'perfect' parents, or have no reason to feel guilty for the way we have sometimes behaved, so don't beat yourself up. I think your interpretation of the dream is spot on; don't waste time thinking of the past and forget to enjoy the present!

Rob K said...

Hi, Jay! Thanks so much for your comments. I think we're conditioned by TV and movies to expect those perfect parents, when reality is quite different. Parents are just people who make mistakes and suffer from the same failings as the rest of us. And thanks for the advice about enjoying the present. Take care!

Ron said...

What a beautiful memoir, Rob!

You and I have similar parallels that run through our lives. I too had a much stronger and closer bond with both my mothers compared to my relationship with my father. I loved and respected him, but there was an awkward distance between us. We were a lot alike, so maybe that had something to do with it.

I so enjoyed reading your dream interpretation. And I think you're spot on!

Hope you're having a super weekend, buddy, and enjoying your summer!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, thanks so much for your support. Great minds--or is it twisted minds?--think alike! I think the fathers from our generation had trouble relating to their children. I think they had that whole "cruel to be kind" thing going on where you can only express love through teasing and wisecracks. Oh, well, time to move on! Have a great weekend, buddy!