evannichols (evannichols) wrote,

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To My Father On His 76th Birthday

It happened the first time in college theater. For my role as the father of the ingénue I did my own make-up. A fake beard with a touch of gray. Aging my features. One evening, as I finished my make-up, I leaned close to apply wrinkles around my eyes, and suddenly your face looked out at me from the mirror. It was weird, and funny, and profound.

Another such moment came more recently. I've been wearing the fleece part of my multi-layer cold-weather jacket a lot (it's great; warm and comfy, like wearing a hug all day. It's not exactly stylish, but I like it). I was at work, and the thought crossed my mind that you wore a similar fleece coat fairly often. I looked at my corporate clothes, the way I comb my hair, the fleece jacket and thought "Wow! This is just how DW looked like at my age!" Again, I was amused, and felt a closeness to you for it.

If we don't actively strive to look, dress and act differently from our parents, do we unconsciously drift toward emulating them? I suspect we do. I mean, you are my model for being an adult man. Which has led to some interesting moments, like seeing you in my face, but also in my behaviors. For example, I have a high tolerance for, and need of, Solitude (I once spent a week's vacation at home alone, and my only outside contact was with grocery-store clerks when I had to get food. It was GREAT!). I've wondered if part of my motivation for seeking out time alone is to satisfy the need for it I perceived in you. I mean, you worked in a busy office then came home to a full house; it wasn't as if you had much sanctuary. But then, you're more gregarious than I am, so I could easily be projecting...

Which I think is part of the challenge of growing up. I don't remember how old I was when I realized that parents are just people. It's not as if they grew up, got everything figured out and then had kids; they're also going through Life, with their own version of desires, anxieties, needs, hopes and fears. Some of those get handed down, consciously or unconsciously, generation after generation, mutating as each person mixes them with his or her own experiences and beliefs. I've come to realize that my perception of your life experience may not be wholly accurate, as its foundation is my interpretation of memories from childhood. I think seeing your image in me as an adult has given me a better perspective on you as a father.

The Ur-image of you from growing up is of you sitting in your chair, reading a book. Yet I also recall you spending lots of time with us, especially with Scouts. Camping trips, meetings, hikes, the backpacking expeditions... That you were so involved when your own role model was so opposite to that speaks volumes. I don't know that I fully appreciated it while growing up (okay, I'm pretty sure I didn't back then; I was young), but I do now. I thank you for that. I think you did a pretty good job as a father, all in all.

We don't say "I love you" to each other very often, but that doesn't worry me. I have no doubts. I hope you have a similar certainty of my love for you as well.

Best Wishes For A Very Happy Birthday, from the Birthday Squid and me!

Your Son,

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