Monday, December 31, 2007

You Should Have Known Your Grandfather

Yesterday, Sam and I rode together to a more distant grocery store, in search of more tomatillos than we could expect to find on the shelves of the Brookside Market. We listened to my music way too loud, and I observed that his inability to appreciate arena rock (Def Leppard, "Photograph") mirrored my own inability to appreciate my father's Glen Miller.

Probably it was just the lingering sentimentality of listening to Slaid Cleaves, but the thought struck me. It's been 17 years since he died and a quarter century since he had the stroke that stole his words and took my real father away. I still miss him painfully, though less frequently as the years pass.

Yesterday, though, I felt the stab that my children never really knew him. The stroke had rendered him awkwardly speechless before they were born, and their memories of him are strained and almost nonexistent. Ali remembers him playfully trying to take her teddy bear, and being kind of frightened. She would have been 3.

I have a photo of Dad holding Sam as a baby. Sam is stretching to get off his lap and on to some adventure, and Dad is holding him with his one good arm and smiling warmly.

I see my marks on my children. They are random and essential. Some of them I'm happy to pass on, and others are quirks a more generous geneticist than God would have opted not to extend.

The best stuff, though, comes from my father to them. I see Dad's Irish sense of humor in them both. In Sam I see his love of words and language. In Ali, I see his ability to understand people at a deeper level - to look through the behavior of the moment and ponder what makes people tick. In both of them, I see a work ethic and acceptance that the world was not designed to make things easy for them, though it has plenty of joy if they accept it. They both received his slow temper.

My father knew me. He could spend hours discussing pacifism with me, or baseball, or work. He knew my siblings, too, and treated us all individually. I never felt like I had to conform to his interests - he was willing to adapt to my own. His pride in our achievements was sunshine, and his patience with our shortcomings was tolerance, but never acceptance.

Time did not allow my children to know my father. They would have loved him, and he would have loved them. Stuck between their generations, I see how both would have grown and thrived in that absent opportunity, and I realize how amazingly lucky I am to have had such a father, and such children.


Blogger Busplunge said...

I posted about my father yesterday also.

You write a nice post.

btw, congrats on being #1.

12/31/2007 9:31 AM  
Anonymous Keith Sader said...

Dan, I think the same thing every time I see my children.

12/31/2007 10:58 AM  
Anonymous logtar said...

This is an amazingly beautiful post. Next year will mark the second anniversary of the death of my grandfather who I did have the luck to get to know. He was my hero, my mentor and so much more... I miss him greatly but the fond memories I have of our time together are as tender as those qualities you see in your kids.

I still do not belong to the club of having lost a parent, but my wife has and it is very difficult to see at the times she feels like she lost a limb and I selfishly feel bad that I never got to meet her father.

12/31/2007 11:03 AM  
Blogger Melinda said...

Nice post. It's nice that your dad conformed to you and not the other way around. Too many people don't give their kids room to grow and be themselves at all times.

Logtar, you're quite lucky. Enjoy your parents, even if they sometimes get on your nerves, for as long as possible!

12/31/2007 12:10 PM  
Anonymous arewethereyet said...

You are the history. Keep trying to live the right life and your children will know their grandfather. My children see their maternal grandparents often and now I have that unique joy of being a grandmother. I pray one day to be worthy.

12/31/2007 1:23 PM  
Blogger Spyder said...


I'm sorry that the hubby never got to meet my grandfather, or his brother my great Uncle Omer. They are the two men that I judge all men by.

1/01/2008 3:09 AM  
Blogger meesha.v said...

That's one of the regrets that I have. My Dad died many years before my daughter was born and he was great to be around.Damn,I wouldn't mind few more years with him myself.

1/01/2008 10:12 AM  
Anonymous GMC70 (fmly Anonymous Me) said...

Dan -

A lovely post. And as other posters have written, you are indeed passing your father on to your children, who you are obviously and deservedly proud of. Being the person your father made you is the way you pass that on.

1/02/2008 12:00 AM  
Blogger Midtown Miscreant said...

Nice. I wish I had written it.

1/02/2008 11:55 PM  
Blogger Ambitious Fledgling said...

This is why I come here.. a good mix of sweet and sour. =)

1/03/2008 12:05 PM  

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