FOGGY AND IN THE FIFTIES
The other day when Taylor and I were speaking in Queens one of the mother’s started talking about her troubled relationship with her own mother; she said “You know that feeling when it’s mothers or father’s day and you go to buy a card and you can’t find anything because all of them talk about how perfect the parent has always been, and you just can’t send it because you know it’s a lie.”
I said, “Do I?”
I go out rather far on a limb at times and am very open about my troubled relationship with my mother. And in some posts I have alluded to the fact that my relationship with my father is not the stuff Hallmark cards are based on.
I think I did this in the beginning of the blog and the film as a form of catharsis, but once I threw it out there, the feedback from so many in the same spot has been incredible.
So when this woman was open enough to talk about the difficulty in finding the right card for at best a day when one gets to honor someone who has always been there for you but more often than many people like to own someone who has spent much of your collective lives either not around or in a cone of a silence, or hovering in between in the land of what I call a “How’s the weather?” relationship.
While I don’t communicate with my mother at all, my father and I presently live in the land of it “It’s been foggy here.” We’ve come to the place where we’re too battle scarred by each other and all the other disastrous family encounters we’ve had to actually be aggressive, but at this stage real father/daughter connection is not a possibility. So we do the “How’s the weather dance.”
There is no card for that – the card you really want to send on this day – the day you have to send something. At least I feel I do – I am an optimist under the most impossible of circumstances so I do go back in the ring even if I know I am defeated before I start.
Obviously the card you want to send would read –
I wish things didn’t have to be
So strained between you and me
I never feel you care as we always talk about the air
You weren’t around much before
So it’s pointless to ask for more
But we’re too old to walk around mad
So Happy Father’s Day Dad
Now if there were a line of cards like that I think those suckers would fly off the shelf.
Heaven only knows this isn’t everyone, and we just came back from dinner, where happy families surrounded us and we were one of them. So in that sense, in Glenn I have given my children the father I always wanted. In fact I toasted him at dinner and said sometimes I wish you were my father too.
At this stage my father and I don’t actively fight, we tip toe around each other and avoid any thing that could spark and cause a fire – which might be why we always talk about the weather. We have spent enough years not talking at all that to talk about nothing has become the best way to relate. His choice not mine. I talk to hundreds of strangers daily about more than he and I share.
I would like to say it wasn’t always this way, it’s been worse and it’s been better. I think that is what I find frustrating, as my dad can come through if he wants to, he just doesn’t really want to and I think there are many parents out there like that.
I pretty much know the reasons and they aren’t worth sharing – well – they might be but even I draw the line sometimes.
My parents divorced when I was four; the story is similar to many others only with different specifics. But I realized as my half-century mark was approaching there were so many things I hadn’t done with my father, and not big things like climbing Mr. Kilimanjaro. But basic things like I had never had dinner alone with him. I had never been to a movie in a theatre with him; I had never been to stage play, flown on an airplane, taken a holiday. I danced with him for the first time at the age of forty-eight. There were big craters of normal experience in our shared history. So I suggested for my fiftieth birthday gift. I think he thought I was going to ask for an Hermes bag, (everyone always assumes that about me) but I didn’t: I asked that he take me away for three days alone – just the two of us, before we both got too old. He was thrilled. He told all his friends how terrific I was for doing this.
So we met in Phoenix and had a really a great time. We sort of just talked and shopped at ate for three days. My dad can be great company and a lot of fun. At the end of this three days, we made a pact that we would do this every year until the time came we couldn’t. He came out to the airport with me and stayed until my plane left, even though his was two hours later – he said he didn’t want me to go and he would miss me, he held me really tight right before I went through security. He told me how much he loved me and how we would be close like this until he died. He had this huge grin and didn’t take his eyes off me until I got on the plane. My last image is of him waving with a huge grin on his face yelling “I Love you Trace.”
And I remember getting in the plane and for the first time in my life I had this complete sense of calm, I had a feeling I had never had before I knew in that moment what it was really like to have your father love you. I also understood a type of tension I had lived under since I was small, the feeling that children bury when they don’t truly believe a parent does love them
They carry that with them forever – this is what parents don’t really get, it’s not what you do – it’s how you do it.
So I went back to New York fifty years old, but finally (I thought) close to my dad, and it lasted for awhile – the next year we took the same trip, it was fine, a little of the magic was gone. But we had our thing. I was at a place where I knew I could never have much of him, I’ve known that always, he has an emotional life that does not include much of me – but I was willing to settle for three days once a year for as many years as we had.
Maybe ten more farewells at the airport. Maybe eleven more peaceful flights back to my other family. Thirty more days of just the two of us to make up for basically a lifetime of separation. That really was – Okay. It was Okay, It was more than I had had and it was going to be enough.
And then about a year ago I could feel him pulling back and the old patterns of connections started stepping in and wiping out the new. And then this year around the time we would normally make our plans to go away he informed me – oh it’s not important – let’s say he never brought it up and I knew if I did, there would be an excuse as to why he couldn’t. And I didn’t want to bring it up as I didn’t want to hear the excuse and if I didn’t ask I wouldn’t be rejected and if I wasn’t rejected I wouldn’t feel that old feeling and “How’s the weather out there?”
Today I sent him rice pudding for father’s day. He loves this rice pudding, it comes from Rice To Riches a place I took him to one of the two times he has come to New York. I called him this morning I asked him if he got the pudding – he said he had and it was too sweet, as in there was too much sugar in it. He then told me it had been very foggy and in the fifties at night. I wished him a Happy Father’s Day.
OPENING PRESENTS AT OUR HOUSE