Saturday, December 26, 2009

Becoming My Father

It’s a pretty standard source of Baby-Boomer comedy that we occasionally stop and realize we are acting just like our parents. Sometimes we are horrified by the discovery; sometimes it makes us a little wiser or more compassionate. It has happened to me before, of course. Most often it shows up in little things, like the way I rest my head in my hand, with two fingers supporting my cheek, and a thumb under my chin. Or how I sound like my dad when I get out of bed in the morning. Now and then I run into one I purposely try to fight against, like my dad’s hermit-like tendencies. Most of the time it’s no big deal.

Dad and Mom on Their Wedding Day, 1940

I found another one yesterday. My son, five months into a two-year proselyting mission in California, got to call home and talk for 45 minutes on Christmas day. We gathered the family together, used two handsets so one could talk and one could listen in, used the speaker phone for a while. I didn’t talk to him nearly as long as anyone else did. Most of my conversation consisted of making a joke and asking if he was OK.

Part of it was letting everyone else go first (now, that behavior is from my Mom, and the jury’s still out on whether it’s good or bad). But part of it was discovering, as I was listening to my son talk to his mom and others, that I was so choked up I probably couldn’t talk anyway.

When I used to call home from college, I’d talk to my mom for 20 minutes, and my dad might get on for a minute total, ask if I needed money, if everything was OK. Later Mom told me that Dad was just too emotional to talk; sometimes he’d go back into his bedroom and break down. It helped to know that it wasn’t indifference that made my dad seem so aloof sometimes. Today, I understand it even better, and I feel closer to my dad. I know how he felt. So proud of your kids, too choked up to tell them. I’m not quite where my dad was, but I could throw a rock and hit it from here, I think.

So I guess I’ll try to do my generation one click better than my dad, and at least tell my son myself why I didn’t talk to him. It was because I had way too much to say.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Change in the Wind (With Apologies to Mary Poppins)

My mother used to recite a little poem to me, about a little girl with a little curl right in the middle of her forehead (and when she was good she was very very good, and when she was bad she was horrid). I don't know what Mom was getting at, since I was neither a little girl nor did I have a curl, on my forehead or otherwise. Maybe it was the good vs horrid thing.

Or perhaps it was by way of prophesy. No one would now mistake me for a little girl, but, darn it all, I do have a little curl right in the middle of my forehead. . .

. . . and quite frankly I'm tired of it. It's kind of like a front comb-over that just doesn't work. I am not afraid of baldiness; I long ago came to grips with what time inevitably does to the human body. I can deal with that.

What I'm not quite sure about is how far to go down that path on my next visit to the barber. I sort of want to just flop into the chair and say, "take it all off," but I'm not sure about the consequences. Sometimes things can go wrong.

On the other hand, I'm not sure half-measures are much better.

So I'm struggling with what to do.

It needs to be done soon, so I have Christmas break to recover. Any advice will be welcome.