broadsideblog

Getting To Know Dad

In men, parenting on October 25, 2009 at 11:48 am
A father and daughter walk

Image by Solmaz Zohdi via Flickr

There were years, plural, we simply didn’t speak to one another, locked by anger and hurt into our comforting cages. I still remember, and wish I didn’t, a screaming fight in an outdoor parking lot in Antibes at midnight when I was 19. An argument on a crowded public street in Toronto. My college graduation neither parent attended as I tried to dance around their mutual rancor.

Many times over the decades I’ve come to the very precipice of walking away for good from my father, a complicated, proud man with more talent, energy and creativity than a dozen men combined. An award-winning filmmaker, he wears me out with his energy, at 80. We went to an antiques fair this week and reveled in handling objects, like the 6,000-year-old oil lamp in the shape of a dog or a fine piece of Georgian silver, chatting to the dealers and reminiscing fondly about the Egyptian basalt fragment of a lion’s head we saw at the last show we attended here in 1996. That’s typical of us, both obsessive about beauty and history.

“Your Dad’s a hard act to follow,” my late step-mother once said, and it was true. It took me many years to find a partner who offered my Dad’s best qualities (insatiable curiosity about the world, a well-worn passport and the desire to use it frequently, work he’s passionate about and does well that combines ideas and advocacy, a roaring laugh, stylish elegance) without his tougher bits.

We’ve just put put him in his car, a black Jag, and hugged goodbye as he drives to his home from ours, north from New York to Toronto, about 10 hours. This morning we took a gorgeous photo of him and posted it, with his headline and profile, on match.com, hoping to help him find a good woman to enjoy life with.

My sweetie lost his father when he was only 26 so he enjoys borrowing my Dad whenever he can. They’re very different people in some ways, so it’s sometimes lovely and sometimes I need a stiff drink to cope with their misunderstandings and clashes. They’re both strong-minded guys with specific worldviews, so it’s bound to happen. We really need this time to get to know Dad, because the past few years were an ugly and terrifying marathon that began, in March 2005, when his wife was diagnosed with lung cancer; she died two years ago on my sweetie’s birthday, which we celebrated this week.

When your Dad is 80, even in blessedly robust health, you might still have decades or you might have days. I’m lucky to have whatever time we’ve got.

  1. Been looking through your stuff because I like the occasional personal stories and may use some (with your permission) in a book I’m finishing (“Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves: Telling Stories in an Age of Blogging.”) I don’t know how you keep up a daily drumbeat of four and five blog posts. Many are really good. Don’t get discouraged by the low numbers. I think you’ve got a good handle on this new world.

  2. Thanks…I find a lot I think interesting. I may be a compulsive communicator :-)

    Please email me privately to talk about re-using my work. I’m flattered but also protective of it.

    I’m enjoying blogging, and the challenge remains how to be true to me and my POV and be sexy/interesting enough to keep the numbers up. I know where my heart lies. Hoping enough people come on by and join me there.

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