Thursday, August 20, 2009
Father and Son
Massive thunderheads tower over Southeast Texas tonight--beautiful, dangerous, unavoidable. They formed giant pockets of black boiling danger offset against other sections of sky that were clear, blue and free of drama. This happens when things change, when hot moist air filled with energy shoots skyward upon meeting cold dry air sweeping in from elsewhere. The change and the difference creates noise and electricity and energy, and sometimes even destruction.
The opposite of these storms is a dome of high pressure that remains static while air and weather rotates around it. In the spring time, it can be warm, mild and pleasant. In summer, it is stale and oppressive, baked with pollution and heat and suffering.
I love a good thunderstorm to clear all that away, but I found myself wishing tonight for some stagnation and stasis. I was wishing that things could just stay the same.
I don't like the role reversal that is happening between my father and me. I don't like being the protector or the adviser for the man I used to think was the toughest dad amongst all my friends' dads. (I was wrong, of course. He is small and slight of stature just like me.)
It is uncomfortable to watch him decrease and need my help, to see him stumble on a leg that no longer obeys him, to have him seek after my approval as if I were the parent.
We went to the gym this morning. It should have been fun, but it was weird. We've never really recreated to any great extent together. He only did yard work when I was living at home. And it would have been unfamiliar enough this morning if we had got on as equals, for we've never really done that either.
It's not some power trip or ego thing. It's just that since I left home in 1985, we've not spent much time together and have never since lived in the same city. I did my best to be pleasant (and I succeeded) but the dynamic was clearly of me being the dominant partner, and he seeking my approval. And I did not like the reversal at all.
And tonight, quite the opposite. After a very pleasant dinner out with both his sons and their families, I could tell it hurt his feelings when I so casually paid for dinner rather than allow him to buy as he would have twenty years ago. I wasn't a pig about it, but I just make it a practice to get the check if I let Superpounce order King Crab legs and desert. It still hurt his feelings.
Thirty years ago, it seemed that nothing would ever change. Grandmother and grandaddy went to the office every day until some time in July or August. We, cousins all, got in their van every summer and drove off on the Great American Road Trip to Yellowstone or New Mexico or some such place. Five generations of family would gather around the table for every birthday and holiday--FIVE generations of which I was the last.
Now it is gone. They are gone. And more of it disappears every day. Even the ones still here are not the same people. Great grandparents become a more and more distant memory. Grandmother and grandaddy are more vivid, but all that is left are pictures. I have parents who I scarcely recognize as having raised me. And they do not know who I've become or what enervates me. I am the father to my daughter and now to my father as well. And I can feel seeds of my own returning dependence--the exhaustion at day's end, the arthritic pain in my hands and wrists, the faltering steps when climbing out of bed before dawn.
Massive thunderheads tower over Southeast Texas tonight--beautiful, dangerous, unavoidable.