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my father’s love

This topic contains 0 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  jamison364 10 years, 1 month ago.

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    jamison364
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    The first memory I have of him of anything, really is his strength. It was in the late

    afternoon in a house under construction near ours. The unfinished wood floor had large,

    terrifying holes whose yawning darkness I knew led to nowhere good. His powerful hands, then

    age 33, wrapped all the way around my tiny arms, then age 4, and easily swung me up to his

    shoulders to command all I surveyed.

    The relationship between a son and his father changes over time. It may grow and flourish

    in mutual maturity. It may sour in resented dependence or independence. With many children

    living in single-parent homes today, it may not even exist.

    There were, of course, rules to learn. First came the handshake. None of those

    fishylittle finger grips, but a good firm squeeze accompanied by an equally strong gaze into

    the other’s eyes. ” The first thing anyone knows about you is your handshake,” he would say.

    And we’d practice it each night on his return from work, the serious toddler in the battered

    Cleveland Indian’s cap running up to the giant father to shake hands again and again until it

    was firm enough.

    As time passed, there were other rules to learn. “Always do your best.””Do it now.””Never

    lie!” And most importantly,”You can do whatever you have to do.” By my teens, he wasn’t

    telling me what to do anymore, which was scary and heady at the same time. He provided

    perspective, not telling me what was around the great corner of life but letting me know there

    was a lot more than just today and the next, which I hadn’t thought of.

    One day, I realize now, there was a change. I wasn’t trying to please him so much as I was

    trying to impress him. I never asked him to come to my football games. He had a high-pressure

    career, and it meant driving through most of Friday night. But for all the big games, when I

    looked over at the sideline, there was that familiar fedora. And by God, did the opposing team

    captain ever get a firm handshake and a gaze he would remember.   

    Then, a school fact contradicted something he said. Impossible that he could be wrong, but

    there it was in the book. These accumulated over time, along with personal experiences, to

    buttress my own developing sense of values. And I could tell we had each taken our own,

    perfectly normal paths.

    I began to see, too, his blind spots, his prejudices and his weaknesses. I never threw

    these up at him. He hadn’t to me, and, anyway, he seemed to need protection. I stopped asking

    his advice; the experiences he drew from no longer seemed relevant to the decisions I had to

    make.   
    He volunteered advice for a while. But then, in more recent years, politics and issues

    gave way to talk of empty errands and, always, to ailments.

    From his bed, he showed me the many sores and scars on his misshapen body and all the

    bottles for medicine. ” Sometimes,” he confided, ” I would just like to lie down and go to

    sleep and not wake up.”   

    After much thought and practice (” You can do whatever you have to do.” ), one night last

    winter, I sat down by his bed and remembered for an instant those terrifying dark holes in

    another house 35 years before. I told my fatherhow much I loved him. I described all the

    things people were doing for him. But, I said, he kept eating poorly, hiding in his room and

    violating the doctor’s orders. No amount of love could make someone else care about life, I

    said; it was a two-way street. He wasn’t doing his best. The decision was his.   

    He said he knew how hard my words had been to say and how proud he was of me. ” I had the

    best teacher,” I said. ” You can do whatever you have to do.” He smiled a little. And we shook

    hands, firmly, for the last time.   

    Several days later, at about 4 A.M., my mother heard Dad shuffling about their dark room. “

    I have some things I have to do,” he said. He paid a bundle of bills. He composed for my

    mother a long list of legal and financial what-to-do’s ” in case of emergency.” And he wrote

    me a note.

      Then he walked back to his bed and laid himself down. He went to sleep, naturally. And he

    did not wake up.

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