12 Things I'm Too Stubborn to Tell My Father
My father's hands were huge. I remember watching him shift his car and thinking to myself, "Wow. Someday my hands will be that big." Alas, I never cracked 6 feet (barring that infamous late 30s growth spurt), and my hands look like those of someone who spends his days typing, painting or doing light crochet. I don't know how common this thought is, but I assumed, for so long, that one day things would flip, and I'd be the dad, and my dad would be...I don't know...old? As time has gone on, however, I have realized my dad is my dad, and will always be my dad. Even if we only now speak on holidays, birthdays or if something especially noteworthy has happened.
2. I remember the envelopes you left outside my door at night.
When I was a kid, my father and I would watch sports—one of the things we really agreed upon—and I would invariably have to go to bed before the end of the game, and he would leave a note on an envelope (usually from a bill or a bank) outside my door and he'd write, "Larry Bird hits game winner! Celtics 100-98" or other pertinent updates in his slanted, cramped writing. In the morning (or if I heard him leave the note), I'd know who won. It's something to pass onto my own son someday, should I have one; and if he's a different kind of kid, then I will happily scribble, “Great flamenco! Angela Lansbury moves on to the finals of Dancing with the Stars!” Anything will be interesting to me so long as we can sit together for an hour or two.
3. It's hard to re-subscribe to Sports Illustrated.
To impress my father during games, I read countless biographies (some of them requiring many trips to the dictionary, and lots of the words were not in there, for reasons that became clear later in life) and Dad's old, fat copy of The Baseball Encyclopedia so I would have facts to recite to him. Inspired by this, I'm sure, my father bought me my first subscription to Sports Illustrated in 1984. I was 7. He gave it to me every year. Until about five years ago. Which is fine, but there were moments—certainly not every time one showed up in the mail, but times I would pick one up and think, "My dad got this for me." Of course I could get my own subscription, but there's something strange about it, as if I'm shutting a door somehow.
4. Some movies make me think of you.
It was a very rare occurrence, but occasionally movies would come on TV, and regardless of the age-appropriateness, he would get giddy with excitement and let me watch with him. Among them: Blazing Saddles, The Blues Brothers, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Stripes, It's a Wonderful Life (one of the only times I saw him cry as a kid), The African Queen, the Leone/Eastwood Dollars trilogy...
5. Hey, that reminds me: Why didn't you take my mom to the movies?
My parents—like many others'—were separated, though not until I was in college. It wasn't a huge surprise, in retrospect, and it was definitely best for both parties. But I do wish that he'd taken the time to just go to the movies with my mom. It's one of her favorite things; she and I have seen probably a thousand movies together. However, I don't remember my father and mother ever going by themselves. My mother didn't need to go to Paris (though she may have liked that, too, if we're putting on our wishing hats) and she didn't need a diamond necklace (how many wishes do I get?), but a trip to the movies every once in a while would have been nice. (This is not a Parent Trap-type situation; I don't think it would have changed anything in the long run.)
6. Did you ever want to be a teacher?
My father, like his father, was an accountant. According to my mother, he liked this job very much. He didn't seem to have had much fun by the time he came home, though. I know how much he loved his clients that were colleges. I also know he loved that time in his life. His two best friends from his fraternity have found great pleasure in teaching. (See where I'm going here?) There's more. Late in his career, he started to spend more time training young people at his firm, and at his retirement party, all of the young people, much to my astonishment, told me how cool and fun my dad was. My father and I have never talked about such big life decisions, but I wonder if he'd ever thought about teaching young people all the time. I wonder if he'd have been happier when he walked through the door every evening.