My father is one of the most amazing human beings I have ever come into contact with in my entire life. This is a man that I used to fear
more than anyone or anything in the world, a man I used to hate
, a man I respect
above all other men in my life. And the older I get, the more I realize that I am just like him
in so many ways.
My father was a middle child. Growing up in 1940s Northwest Florida, he had an older brother, an older sister, and a younger brother. Since he didn't meet the criteria of being "special" (the eldest, the girl, the "baby"), his parents found him lacking in their eyes. His father was a skilled carpenter, the wealthy owner of a boat manufacturing company with factories in Maryland, and something of a monster. My father was emotionally and physically abused when he was a child, and as an adult became estranged from his family. I remember very few visits with my paternal grandparents as a child, and those were always very strained and awkward. The only close familial attachment my father had was to his older brother Earl, and when he died of cancer in the late 70s, we pretty much stopped seeing my Dad's family except on the odd holiday every couple of years.
Although my father did not have the benefit of a college education, his intelligence has always amazed me. While I was labeled "gifted" as a child, and owe my talents largely to my father's genes, to this day I know without a doubt that my father is a much smarter man than I will ever be. I have witnessed him build things (houses, furniture, models, robots, life support equipment) that left me in awe. I have seen him solve problems and come up with engineering solutions which have compelled his peers and supervisors to bestow him with awards and accolades. Never have I known a more modest and self-deprecating individual. And never have I known such an example of low self-esteem holding a person back from the potential they held.
While being a complex man, my father has always seemed to be very loving and congenial, but he maintains an emotional distance from most people that I seem to have inherited. I admire him greatly, and as I see his aging body fail to meet up to the pace he sets for himself, I fear he may bring himself to an early end. I think he realizes this too, but it is a hard lesson learned, and he seems unwilling to let go and accept the inevitable conclusion that entropy applies to him as it does to all things.
Recently, he was on a rooftop helping some younger men prepare for a roofing job, and the blood pressure medication in his system made him black out for a moment - and he fell off the roof, breaking his collar bone, his shoulder blade, several ribs, and crushing two vertebrae in his back. It is amazing that this was the only damage he suffered, and he is mending quite well for a 60-year-old. But for the grace of God, he would be dead. And I think he is starting to get the message. Still, he is as strong as an ox, just like he has always been, and he could probably waste my puny narrow geek ass if he had a mind to.
I love my father, and for all his faults, I would not wish anyone in the world other than him to be my Dad. But as much as I would like to deny it, I am becoming him. All men become their fathers, and all women become their mothers, and we are damned to this fate it seems.
I can think of worse fates.