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Saturday, February 07, 2015

Find Out What It Means To Me (And My Father)

When my father used to talk about the kind of husband my sister Patti and I would eventually find and settle into happiness with, he often described a sort of professorial man of academic bent who would be a hybrid Philosopher Poet, probably another English teacher or even a writer or college instructor who would be quite similar to us. He may never have said so, but I got the impression that this man would also be older than us as well, though not by too terribly much, and down-to-earth, but certainly not earthy or crude, my father's most hated personality trait.

As you can probably guess, neither Patti nor myself married such a man. Her husband is a business manager whose politics have always run somewhat counter to those of my late father, a blue-collar union man. Their discussions used to get passionate and heated, and my mother and Patti would practically have to drag in firehoses or, at the very least, send in the children en masse armed with storybooks and Overwhelming Cuteness to defuse the situation. My husband Rick is a carpenter by trade, and he has probably read a handful of books all the way through in his lifetime without growling, none of them recently.

It is important to note here that my father graduated high school, was drafted, and afterward went to college briefly on the G.I. Bill. He did not stay long. After the War, college felt alien to him, I guess, and Getting On With His Life meant something else entirely.

Anyway. The husbands/sons-in-law.

Both of them were obviously not what Dad had intended at all. But both of us heard, via our mother (Dad's favourite conduit) that it was okay. I can't speak for my sister in this case, but I can, of course, say plenty with regard to mine. My dad never doubted for a moment that Rick and I loved each other; I knew that. And even though we were So Incredibly Young (eighteen when we met; twenty-two when we married!), it was clear that we weren't making an impetuous decision.

No, the big factor for Dad was Respect. "Your father can tell that Rick really respects you," my mother said to me. "He can see that he cares for you, yes, but it's the way he listens to you and looks at you when you talk. He knows you're smart, and he's not intimidated by that. He treats you like it's a partnership. That's what's really important to your father."

My father was terribly hard on all of us kids as we were growing up, and there were times that I used to stomp upstairs to my bedroom and hate him mightily for hours, days, even weeks on end. It wasn't that I didn't understand why, either. He always made sure we understood exactly why he said what he said or was disappointed in or angry at us. (We were never hit, ever.) That didn't mean we didn't think it was stupid or ridiculous, or unfair, or so Not Like Anyone Else's Parents. But we did always feel loved, valued, and above all, respected our entire lives.

I'm glad. Respect should be an enormous part of Love.  I'm grateful that my parents taught me that and modeled that for me, and I hope that I have effectively done the same for Sam and Jared.  I hope I did as much for my students, too.  


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13 comments:

  1. Fathers can be very wise, but they are often, well, not "easy." My father was one who could convey his disappointment with few words and often only a look. Like your father, he wanted to ensure his girls were respected, as well as taken care of. He was old school in that regard. He knew that we were capable of taking care ourselves, but he wanted us to marry someone who would add to our security as well as bring us much joy. Mom and Dad showed us that marriage was wonderful, but full of challenges, challenges that you would do your best to work through and go on. Not all marriages do or should last, of course. As a friend likes to say, she and I hit the husband jackpot. I am grateful for that and the lessons Mom and Dad gave us. Finally, I love what your mother said about you and Rick. I think that's a fine definition of a what makes a successful marriage.

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    1. Shirley--All of this is so true, and your dad sounds like mine to a T. No one was more Old School than my father. He was ridiculously chauvinistic in so many ways, but he encouraged his three daughters to be independent, strong, and self-sufficient. Only as long as we didn't compromise our femininity. LOL. He was such a walking contradiction. Ironically, I am exactly like him in more ways than I often care to admit. (It's why I have so much to Work On.)

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  2. It sounded to me like he wanted you both to marry professor types because you were bright and he worried that other types of men might not respect and understand your smarts. When you found men who did, he was likely relieved. Your dad sounds like a great guy. :)

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    1. J@jj--He was, for the most part, a very great man. He had a great many faults, but the larger portion of them had to do with expecting far too much from those he loved. And being impatient. And wondering why the world couldn't be better than it was. I came to understand him perfectly much later in life, unfortunately, when I got a lot smarter. By then, it was too late.

      He sounds familiar, doesn't he? ;-)

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  3. You were very lucky with your father and your husband. Sounds perfect to me. I remember standing at the top of the stairway in my parents' house, dressed in white, and saying to my father, "I can't do this, I can't do this!" and he saying, "Shut up and start walking!"

    It was the right thing to say at the time and I will say my father always adored my ex-husband. They were close even after the divorce 20 years ago. Fathers and sons in law are funny things.

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  4. phoebes in santa fe--Yes. I am fortunate. Unless it was awkward/painful for you, an amicable relationship with your ex was probably a benefit, especially if any children were involved or if he lived close by. What a mess it can be to both create and unbundle families. It's all very confusing and emotional.

    You know, weddings themselves are so full of chaos, expense, and stress that I wonder why anyone has them. I had a big wedding thirty-plus years ago, and it had the huge buffet dinner with hundreds of guests, etc. because that was How It Was Done. Now I look back at it all with the half-dozen attendants on each side, the dresses, tuxes, and all the falderal costing thousands and I wonder why in the holy hell I did it. The expense, the pointless show, the stress...for what?

    If the entire objective is To Get Married, why not just have close family at the church, JP, or family home and be done with it? Save all that money and use it toward your future, which is what really matters? But that's Me Thinking Like An Old Lady, Already Married.

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  5. Father Knows Best. Usually. My Dad never got to meet the two men in my life that were the most important for me. A real shame, but I am comforte with the knowledge that I think he would have approved. :-)

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    1. I tried posting this first on IE, and got an errant cookie message. Went to Firefox, logged on, tried to post, was asked to sign in, signed in, and pasted what I thought was the edited version of my comment after all that crap. But it wasn't the edited version of my comment. It was the typo-ed version of my comment. Not much "comforte" there, lol.

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    2. Ortizzle--I'm terribly sorry that you are having problems posting here. I've gone in and checked my settings, but nothing has changed. And there doesn't seem to be anything in Blogger/Google on my end that should be initiating the trouble, at least that I can see. I'm trying to eliminate as many roadblocks to comments that I can without triggering a drift of spam.

      I gave up on IE a year ago, purely for speed and bugs. I use Chrome with the AdBlock extension. It works pretty well for me. It's frustrating, I know, now that Google owns half the Interwebs; they make you sign in for everything. Thank you for persevering. It means a lot.

      RE: Father Knows Best. I'm not sure my father really knew what was best For Me in most cases. He obviously knew that it was important for my husband to respect me and my intellect. But my dad was constantly trying to soften my rough spots and get me to be less outspoken. I think he worried that I was compromising my femininity. It was very frustrating because it was a mixed message in a way. He wanted me to be smart and strong, but not to show it. I thought that was just a lot of bullshit.

      As you mentioned, we are always comforted by our fathers' approval. That was why I was so confused. I wanted his approval, but I was really unsure as to exactly how to get it. Thankfully, you and I both went on to find men we loved and to whom our fathers would give their stamp of approval, one way or another.

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  6. It sounds as if he was a good father, and that is the most important thing. Mine was, too, but distant. I knew he was proud of me, because my mother told me so. My husband was and is a good father, but as a grandfather, he is a complete puddle of adoring mush.
    I love my iPad except typing on it.

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    1. Mary G--What would our fathers do without our warmer, more communicative mothers to be their mouthpieces?

      I think fathers were at a disadvantage long ago. They had to be Strong, Tough, The Man Of The Family. They weren't really doing the parenting, their fathers hadn't done it, so they were left ignorant as to exactly what/how to do anything with regard to hands-on child-rearing.

      Grandfathering is far different and more indulgent. Rick has always been a huge puddle of adoring mush anyway, so as a grandfather, he will be impossible.

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  7. My dad never talked and my mom ran everything. I never had any kind of relationship with my dad until after my brother died when I was 30, and even then it wasn't really that much. I always felt like an alien in my family while I was growing up, and after my college years were a failure, I moved across the country to be away from what seemed like constant parental disapproval of everything I did. Once my daughter was born, it was somewhat better with my parents, but you can't fix years of issues with "grandparent time". My dad died in 2006 so there is no chance of fixing that relationship, and things with my mom have have gone downhill rapidly, especially in the last three or four years, due to her deteriorating physical and mental health. That relationship is now beyond repair.

    This kind of history doesn't really help someone make good choices for partners, and so I never did. It's not that I haven't been in love, but I picked the wrong people, and the after the last failed choice, I made a decision to just stop trying. My daughter was very young so I just made my life about working and supporting her. At this point, now that my daughter is 22, I just don't want to do the work or make the compromises that having a partner entails. More power to anyone who wants to do it. It just won't be me.

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    1. LaFF--No, sometimes difficult relationships simply cannot be repaired. That's sad and unfortunate, but it's better to recognize it and move on with a strengthened life than hold out hope and be eternally disappointed. You are healthier emotionally for it, as you've wisely discovered.

      Being a good role model for your daughter and ending any chain of poor parenting that had existed is a noble cause and life's work. And plenty of work, too! You sound sorted out and like you have come to terms with it all without a huge suitcase of bitterness and anger waiting in the closet to be handed off to your daughter. That's a great blessing and due to good, hard work on your part.

      I'm all in favour of Letting Go With Love, whenever possible, the people in your life who simply cannot add benefit to it, no matter what. Being A Relative does not give anyone a pass to be a constant toxic influence. Sometimes you just have to cut people loose and continue on your way. It takes strength, but it is often the right thing (and the only thing) to do.

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