Sunday, June 18, 2006

My Dad

My dad will never read this post. He is in perfect health, mind you – but he still won’t read my blog. For one thing, he doesn’t own a computer. When I lived at home between my marriages, he occasionally borrowed my computer, and every so often he would holler for help. "Where’s the N?" he would ask in dismay, and I would point it out to him, over there on the right hand side, in the bottom row, with the letter worn off the key (from excessive pushing of control-N, back in the days when computer solitaire was my addiction, games of Canfield and Forty Thieves occupying the place now taken up by Sunshine Scribe and Girl’s Gone Child). My dad is old school; over four decades of professional life he has never needed to use a keyboard: documents were produced by dictation into a dictaphone, later to be rendered in perfect typescript by the "girl," a secretary who, more than likely, was well into her forties.

But internet access is not the only reason he will not read my blog. If he read it, his head might explode. My dad is an intelligent man, but I often wonder if he was hit on the head at birth, thus disabling the side of the brain that is responsible for analyzing human beings and their motives, for considering abstract topics or even, to be honest, any topic aside from the stock market, golf, and the importance of re-electing a Conservative government. This is not a political perspective I share, but our arguments on this subject are few – limited, I think, to one heated exchange carried out by proxy when my sister was talking to him on the phone in my kitchen: "Dad says you’re just voting NDP because you’re one of those socialist academics!" she reported. "Tell him that he’s just voting Conservative because he’s an old rich white guy!" I shot back.

My family’s paranoid avoidance of confrontation is difficult to explain when you consider that it is virtually impossible to insult my father. You can say outrageous things about him in his hearing (and, indeed, my mother often does), and he will (a) ignore you, or, if that fails, (b) deny everything (with a cheerful disregard for the plausibility of such denials). If both those strategies fail, he will grin broadly and blame somebody else (usually my mother).

My dad is not a tolerant man. His most sweeping condemnation for anything from drag queens to experimental films is to say that they are "weird" (an epithet he applies not only to such fare as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but also to risk-taking avant-garde films like Pirates of the Caribbean). And yet he has a fund of tolerance for his commie-daughter who shares so few of his values and whose choices might easily prompt another man’s scorn. He has never reproached me for pursuing so impractical a field of study that I am still, at 35 years of age, only barely able to support myself, even though my academic potential was such that he told me once, when I was 16 years old, that I should choose a career where there is no salary cap, no limit to my earning potential. He has never expected me to follow his savvy advice, never evinced the slightest disappointment at my choices.

Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve always assumed that it’s my mother I take after (taking for granted at the time that this was a direct result of those dimly remembered months spent hanging out in the womb). My mother and I look uncannily alike, and we enjoy the same books, spend hours discussing friends and husbands and relationships (we can do this when my dad is in or out of earshot; he couldn’t pay attention if he tried). But over the years I’ve realized more and more how much I am my father’s daughter. From him, I learned the practical usefulness of optimism, the kind of optimism that guarantees you the best parking space in the lot (you simply drive straight up to the door and the space is right there, missed by all the pessimists who took the first open spot they saw). From him I inherited my uncoolness, the wide-open enthusiasm that allows me to appreciate his excited description of the ultimate seafood buffet, or to cheer with abandon as the Edmonton Oilers kick some Carolina butt.

My father is a couch potato. But on a hot, humid day, if the Bub wants someone to push him in the swing that hangs from a tree in my back yard, my dad will jump up to do it. My father is always quick to pass the phone to my mother when I call. But if I have a good anecdote about the Pie’s latest milestone or the Bub’s latest antics, he hangs on my every word, punctuating the story with shouted reports to my mother. When I was a kid, my dad golfed every Saturday morning, even though I cried and begged him to stay home so we could watch cartoons together, as we had done every weekend through the winter months. My dad still golfs every Saturday morning – but when he’s done he often drops by the house and collapses against the doorframe in disappointment when I inform him that the children are sleeping; he has to be sternly warned not to go wake them up. Last year, when I was so often frightened by the Bub’s vacant stare, his lack of response to other people, his grandfather was the one person who could always coax a kiss and a hug out of him. And to this day, when my mom and dad arrive and I ask excitedly, "Who is it? Who’s here?" Bub will cry out, "It’s Grandpa and Grandpa!"

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. It would embarrass us both if I said I love you, so I’ll leave it at this: I’m glad that you’re my children’s grandfather. They’re lucky – we’re all lucky – to have you.

21 comments:

metro mama said...

Wonderful post.

Happy father's day.

Diedrich said...

What is it about disinterested fathers that we find so vexing? Are we jealous that they enjoy their grandchildren so much more than their own adult children??? Although my father is different in some ways, I can still identify. Except for the part about stopping by to visit after golf every week... London is a long way to drive from St. Thomas you know! ;oP

freezio said...

I've been trying to resist the urge to write about my feelings on Father's Day. I won't go into the extremely problematic relationships I have with both my father, and step-father.

Thanks for writing about a non-fairytale version of a relationship with a father. Even when it doesn't go exactly according to plan, it's still one of the most important relationships possible in life.

bubandpie said...

Metro Mama - Right back atcha, babe. I'm sure you're doing something nice for that model husband of yours! ;)

Diedrich and Freezio - How suitable to have a couple of fathers hanging around my blog today - thanks for stopping by!

Nancy said...

What a great post. I love how you captured such a complex personality.

And you know, he sounds like my dad in so many ways. Especially asking where the "N" is on the keyboard (haha!) and the excessive avoidance of confrontation. Although he will say things just to get me riled up. ;-)

J's Mommy said...

Your dad looks like someone and I can't put my finger on it. Has he ever been compared to a celebrity?

Mega Mom said...

I loved this. Your Dad sounds uncannily like mine :)

Mayberry said...

Ditto Nancy--this was such a rich character study!

Her Bad Mother said...

Ditto what others have said - a true sign of love that you can capture and embrace your father so wonderfully.

mamatulip said...

I can relate to this in several ways -- I kind of felt like I was reading about my own dad at times.

lildb said...

that's lovely. too bad he won't be reading it. it's a really wonderful tribute; because it's honest.

damn! but you're a hell of a writer.

(sorry about the two swears in one comment - at least I avoided the narstier ones? I was a pirate in an earlier existence.)

Naeva said...

Your father looks wonderful...he must make a lovely grandpa!

Happy Father's Day!

I believe others would love to read this lovely posting...I linked it up in my blog. :)

sunshine scribe said...

Thanks for writing this.

I struggled to write a tribute to my dad yesterday that honestly spoke of who he is in all his flaws and what I love him for. I couldn't do it without dwelling too much on the challenges and it didn't seem very "Fathers dayish". So I chickend out.

But you, you did it so beautifully and I loved every word.

bubandpie said...

You guys!!! I started to worry yesterday that this post was a kind of betrayal - so unfair of me to expose his flaws in this forum that is public and yet inaccessible to him. I thought, I hope that it's clear how essentially warm-hearted he is... and then your comments made it all better.

And lildb - please help keep my end up in the swears department. I know my blog needs an influx of colourful language!

Mommy off the Record said...

That was such a sweet post. My dad is also computer illiterate and I think I might also embarass him by saying "i love you". I guess the nice thing about blogging is that you can write all the emotions down and somehow it seems like you've communicated your feelings Maybe you can print it out for your father someday.

H.A.Page said...

You wrote so well about your father and carried the story from doubts to affirmations in a way that unfurls the love from one generation to another...

What a loving, fine tribute to your father on father's day.

I hope he will read enough to convince him to enter the new world of blogs so that he will see a side of you he might never have known... the one that opens up the inner world through words...

MotherPie cheers...

something blue said...

Your relationship with your dad is truly special. I love how you described the good nature banter. He sounds like the perfect Grandpa too.

Mommy-Like Days said...

Hey B&P: Here I am! I can't believe that your Dad hasn't gone on the Internet as a means of finding golf information. My dad got hooked looking up NFL info, and then became permanently attached what with all the BUS information out there. It's all about finding the right motivation.

Mother Bumper said...

Absolutely beautiful post. It made me cry. He looks like the proudest Grandpa in the photo (just like my Dad). Thanks for sharing.

bubandpie said...

Mommy-Like Days - Hey, friend. Motivation is good, but you also need the hardware - and a way to jettison the ingrained resistance to change.

Mother Bumper - Like I said in my comment above, I was worried that I would get the tone wrong in this post and make my dad seem surly or mean - but I think the look on his face in that photo does more than any of my words can do to show who he really is.

Mommy-Like Days said...

OK, I since I can't comment on the most recent post, did I mention I really like this one? Your dad is a good guy.