If you’ve read my columns before, either here or on a social media platform somewhere, you know I often talk about my mother, our relationship and her role in my life. But my father is rarely discussed if ever, which is an oddity for someone like me.
I am constantly writing about my personal life, who I am, friends and family, my life in general in one way or another, on one forum or the next. It may seem strange but it’s what I do. Yet, as open as I am with my life, there are always those small kernels I keep tucked away that are just mine, a small corner of privacy where I allow no one.
My father is one of those small pieces of my private life that has always remained off limits, until now.
My father grew up in a quiet unassuming mill home in Pelzer, in a family which tended to avoid displays of affection. He will be 77 next November and may be the most complex human being I have ever met … and the most frustrating. He’s my father and I’ve always assumed that was the way it was supposed to be, me frustrated and him shaking his head in disbelief for something I’ve said or done. Very recently I’ve come to the conclusion I was wrong.
For two people to be so alike, it strikes me as a prank gone terribly wrong on a cosmic scale that their personalities would be so different in such striking ways, causing a chasm in communication spanning the last 30 years. I can’t possibly speak for him, and wouldn’t dream of doing so, but where I’m concerned, I think I now realize what the problem has been: me.
Like all boys who eventually grow to adulthood — I won’t say manhood because that would be an assumption all men make it that far — I’ve always been seeking my father’s approval. It probably stems from some caveman rite of passage gene still inherent in the male of the human species, but that approval is important, no matter how silly that may seem. And here is where the disconnect comes in, my shortsightedness which may have cost me years of peace.
Where I am extremely outgoing, he is reserved, I enjoy taking a chance and he’s more pragmatic. I don’t mind attention and he would walk 10 miles out of the way to avoid it, but most importantly, where I have no trouble talking about what I think and feel, my father just isn’t equipped to do it.
So each time I looked in his direction, seeking his approval for whatever it was I had accomplished, I didn’t see what I thought I should. I placed an expectation on him he couldn’t live up to, at least not to what my narrow vision might have been all this time. But the truth is, it was probably there each and every time.
The issue was me, blind to what may have seemed insignificant at the moment, yet may have been momentous to him. Sometimes to see the big picture you have to change your perspective and I’m just realizing very recently mine has been askew for way too many years.
My father is the most dependable man I have ever known. His work ethic was, and still is, far beyond anything I have ever seen anywhere else (I remember he once went 20 plus years without a single sick day on the job). He is honest, forthright, pragmatic, unbelievably intelligent, and logical. We share a lot of the same traits but I don’t know that I will ever be half the man he is.
I don’t know that I will ever discuss this part of my life again, like the small collection of events, people, and places I keep tucked away just for me and rarely ever dredge up.
But I feel like things could possibly be different, and I do like different.