My dad died suddenly a year ago. It’s been a really hard year trying to adjust to things. Until this past year, when I’d think about him, it would often be about things I never, ever wanted to have in common with him. I thought cigarettes, especially his goddamn Newports, were disgusting. I wanted to go to college and make sure I was educated and have a career. I would never do half the crazy things he did when he was younger. They joke that girls end up marrying someone who is like their father; I knew that was never going to be me. I wanted to marry someone who wouldn’t make the same mistakes he did and wouldn’t have to struggle as hard as he did.
But now when I look back I find myself searching for similarities. Things that are parts of me that are no doubt because of him that I can take with me everywhere. That if I have kids I can hope they will inherit. And it’s nice because, if I stop and think about it, there’s more than what’s evident just on the surface. Some good and some not as good but indelibly a part of who I am.
1. The slight wave to my hair.
My mom’s hair is super-straight and fine. My dad’s was curly and incredibly thick. He used to joke that he could ride down the highway in a convertible and it wouldn’t move. Mine is decidedly somewhere in between. Not too fine, but not thick. Not curly, but not pin-straight like my mom’s.
2. My nose looks more like his than my mom’s.
I only noticed that several months ago. In some pictures where he turns to the side at certain angle I can see it better.
3. My hypersensitivity.
I get my anxiety and propensity to worry straight from my mother. But the being super-sensitive is I think from him. We’d often yell at him to stop being a baby if something upset him and he’d storm off. 😛 But I’m a lot like that… I let people’s comments hurt me too much. I just deal with it differently.
4. My interest in music.
We had different tastes–I was more rock while he got into a lot of 70s singer/songwriter type sounds, but we appreciated each other’s styles. My mom could care less about music–for her it’s basically enjoyable background noise. My dad understood its importance. He loved his goddamn gigantic speakers on his record/8-track player. He’d spend so many hours just out in the kitchen with the radio tuned to our classic rock station, and you could always tell when a song he really loved was on because he’d get so into it. I learned a lot of classic rock from him, and I have a great memory for anything musical. And some of the best memories from college are actually rides home with him when we’d just turn up the radio and play music the whole way home. Sometimes it would be my tapes of 90s music so I could share it with him. And he was the only one in the house who never seemed to have anything else he’d rather be watching or listening to when my brothers would play their drums and guitar in the basement. He wanted to be right down there with them, rather than demanding to know when they’d be done. Music was a way of bonding with him.
5. The few strands of scraggly grey hair that started appearing when I was still only 22.
6. My ability to just talk-talk-talk about stupid insignificant things.
7. Related to that, my inclination towards long, detailed stories. I, of course, don’t tend to tell my life story to random strangers in the parking lot thankfully. 🙂
8. My love of all things outer-space.
He didn’t nerd out over NASA and the space program the way I do, but he definitely appreciated going for a walk and seeing the moon looking particularly bright or big. I knew he’d get it if I pointed out how awesome the moon looked on a given night.
Plus, I think I discovered this “sequel song” before he did. I was a baby when it was released, so it makes sense that it would slip by him.
9. Singing random songs around the house.
I know there’s countless other things too. And so many weird jokes and quotes that he provided over the years, sometimes unintentionally. 🙂 I also think I can attribute at least some of my writing talent to him. Not the actual skill of writing–I don’t ever think I saw him write anything except lists so that he wouldn’t forget when he took his pills–but what goes into it, all that unspoken research and observation on what makes people the way they are–growing up with him, I probably absorbed SO MUCH… about how people respond to struggles, about the way real people talk, and especially about how to deal with horrible crappy circumstances with humor, which is a total hallmark of my writing style. He used to call having his seizures his “shake rattle n’ roll.” It’s terrible, and you laugh, and then feel bad for laughing, but then laugh again afterward. And it’s ridiculous jokes like that that I think always come out in things I write.
So thanks, Dad. I hope you realize the influence you had on everyone close to you.