Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Father I Remember

Every time I see your face, it reminds me of the places we used to go.
But all I got is a photograph and I realize you're not coming back anymore.
-Ringo Starr and George Harrison

It's ironic, maybe even a little bit tragic, that most of my fondest memories of my father are when I was very young. At that age, I was my Dad's pride and joy. I remember him carrying me upside down over his shoulders, calling me his "sack of potatoes". I remember him taking me to all sorts of places, my favorite being Santa's Village, a now closed amusement park in the San Bernardino mountains. I remember him taking a lot of interest in me, what I thought, and what I did.

I was recently listening to a Frank Sinatra CD I had given him years ago and I remembered something I hadn't thought about in many, many years;

I was 4 years old and in nursery school. I remember some kid calling another kid "stupid". That night, I mentioned it to my dad. He told me that calling someone "stupid" was a terrible thing to do and he never wanted to hear me ever do that. So, as a young impressionable kid, I had my first "forbidden" word. Of course, it didn't take me long to use it against my mother, which of course, resulted in a not too pleasant punishment. Some time shortly after that, I was with my Dad in the car. He had the radio set to his favorite radio station - KGIL 1260 AM. I heard a song I had never heard before, it was Frank Sinatra and he was singing a song that had the word "stupid" in it. I misheard the lyrics and thought the song went like this:

...And then I go and spoil it all by saying that you're stupid when I love you.

I thought this song was hysterically funny. My dad was amused that I found this song so amusing. For a while, whenever that song came on, my dad would point it out and say something like "they're playing your song". Finally, he bought the album. I remember him showing it to me in the store pointing out that Something Stupid was there.

As I grew older, it got harder and harder to amuse or please my father. He grew cynical and very critical of everything I did or said. We grew farther and farther apart and the older I got, the more I felt I had disappointed him. As an adult, I rarely spoke to him knowing that anything I said could spark his fury.

As he aged into his late 70's and early 80's, he got sick and became feeble. In the past few years, he wasn't the man I had known all my life. In many ways, I lost my father before March 15th this year. I refuse to remember him as the helpless old man he had become. Instead, I'll remember him as the stern, unyielding, son of a bitch that I both hated and loved.

And Dad, as you left this world and went on to the next, I hope that even though we rarely said anything pleasant to each other, that you felt you raised a son who is at least, somewhat worthy of your expectations.


Erik said...

Robert I don't know if it is appropriate to post on this but I wanted to say something here. We disagree on most everything but as a friend and someone who has known you for a long time (what about 15 years or so):

I have seen you. I have seen how you have matured over the years and how responsible as a husband and what a better person in general you have become. I guess what I'm trying to say I don't see how your father could be ANYTHING but proud of the person you have become.

Robert E Wilson said...

It is appropriate and thanks.

x-lydia said...

My sincerest, if belated, condolences on your loss.

By the way, it's very appropriate for memories of one's father to include that particular Frank Sinatra song, as Frank recorded it as a father - it was a duet with his daughter Nancy.

Robert E Wilson said...

Hi X-Lydia,

Thank you for your kind words. I knew about the song being a duet with Nancy but I didn't put that connection together so thank you for that.