Dispatches from the Suburbs of Hell

Heaven is for the obedient. Hell is for the wrathful. What of the ones in between? We wind up in the Suburbs. Our sin is individuality. Our punishment is boredom. But at least we're in good company.

Location: New England, United States

Friday, November 24, 2006

Growing Maudlin

This Thanksgiving went off with nary a hitch. 14 people at my Mom's house, way too much food, football, and politics. And once again, Mom could not get through saying grace without crying.

Early Thanksgiving morning, my mother calls me, and asks if I wouldn't mind picking up some ice on my way over. Of course I'd do it; I told her I'd get anything she needed (last night, after she said she was all set). But it got me thinking. I'm one of the few people she can count on. We have such a huge extended family, and so few of them are actually reliable. Many of them mean well, of course, but just can't get their acts together in time. But I'm one of the dependable ones. I'm always willing and able to get some ice, to drive my grandmother to the hospital, to be a pallbearer when a cousin OD's...

In short, I've become my father.

As I get older, I understand my Dad more and more. He's quiet, he's smarter than you'd think at first glance, and he's rock solid dependable. If you need a hand with anything, he's ready and willing. If you need advice, he's got it. He's pushing 60 and he's got the vigorous mind and body of a man half his age. He's amazing, my father. And it's to my overwhelming regret that I didn't realize it sooner. I was always closer to my mother growing up, for whatever reason, so I never saw what a great man he is. My mother was always the one in charge, the one out in front, while my father labored in the background to make things work, unnoticed and uncomplaining. I never noticed. And I regret that now. I wish I could take all those years back, get closer to him, try and be a worthy son to him. As energetic as he is, he's slowing down now, though he'll never admit it. He's still climbing ladders and hanging out of windows all by himself, and my greatest fear is that one of these days he'll just slip. He could die, or worse, get some kind of debilitating injury. To not be able to get around would be a fate worse than death for a man like my father. And without him, the family would just fall apart; without him what would we do?

I remember trying to be a different man than my father, trying to be brash rather than quietly dependable. Somehow or other, despite my best efforts, I became him anyway. Now, ten years down the line, with a girl of my own, I see myself growing into his role: a strong foundation for a romantic partner, a reliable base to ground her while she's off conquering the world. Funny how genetics works. And funny how I found it doesn't bother me all that much to play this role. In some way, my father did give me something, and it's my duty to honor him by doing my best with it.

Even if it's just buying ice...


Blogger Noreen Braman said...

It's normal for a certain time of life to try and be as different as one's parents as possible, and then as you experience life, you start to realize, little by little, that you just might have inherited some things from them, and that is actually OK. The most we can hope for is inheriting all the good qualities and ending whatever familial bad qualities we didn't like.

7:01 PM, November 24, 2006  

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