June 13, 2015 by unclespike218
A few years ago, I was in Tucson, getting away from everything and trying to sort my life out…as I try to do on a yearly basis. It’s good and relaxing; I recommend it to anyone. Anyhow, one day I started writing about role models, and who mine were. I could come up with some good ones right off: Henry Rollins, Johnny Cash, Minerva McGonagall, Walt Whitman, and RuPaul. Since that day, there are a few others I’d add…that don’t come to mind right now. But one thing was rather notable and interesting.
“My dad is conspicuously not on this list,” I wrote. “I see very few qualities in him that I aspire to. He loves his work…has done what he wants to do virtually all his life. Yet he always told me that life is a struggle, and as I said before, doing what you want (especially if it doesn’t fit in his narrow view of what constitutes an appropriate career) is a cop-out. Which makes him hypocritical.”
A specific example of that before we go on: my parents noticed early on that I could be quite understanding and patient with people. They noticed I had a nurturing quality, and in the realm of skiing – where we found ourselves on a weekly basis in the winter – I was a good teacher. So when I was young, they thought I’d be an ideal ski instructor when I got older. They brought this up numerous times. Years later, when I floated the idea they’d planted in my head for years, my dad shot it down immediately, saying that it would be a dead end, and only people who had no ambition in life would choose something like that. Thus ended what could have been a promising stage in my life. Continuing on…
“He’s been distant, but that is definitely partially my fault. We’re just two different men who weren’t meant to get along. Our values are about as opposite as you can get. Homophobic, racist, and unwilling to overturn his beliefs even for his own son. He doesn’t understand frugality, the desire to look at our planet and try to work for the generations that will come after him. Of course, to do so would be financially shooting himself in the foot. I could go on, but I’ll stop.”
Since that day, he’s unequivocally stated that his love is conditional, and he cannot understand how love could be otherwise. Which makes sense. When you put family and rules ahead of love in this world, and you have a son who happens to be something that you believe is the most wrong of wrong things in this world, you at least threaten to disown him. Which happened – twice. And when that happens, you are copping out on your responsibility as a father.
He has – I am quite certain – directly interfered with my college decisions. I feel I was quite close to gaining entrance to a college that could have been a tremendous springboard to success. Yet he – and my mother – drove there, quite randomly one day while I was visiting and going through my interview process, just to see the place. Knowing who he is and how he functions, it makes sense to me that he would walk to whomever was in charge of admissions, and quietly ask that my name be dropped from consideration. They would not drive seven hours out of their way, round trip, just to see a college for which there was serious, mutual consideration, kiss their son on the forehead, and leave. I’ve resolved myself to this fact – it is useless to battle it now – but I’ve lost tremendous respect for my dad since this realization. It’s hard not to wonder sometimes how my life could have been different, better.
Factor in the events of the past six months – his intent to get Bill out of my life. Add in the fact that Pride falls on Father’s Day this year, and I have a terrible weekend coming up. This is not going to be fun. How do I “honor” a father whom I respect so little?
I had a wild revelation earlier this year. Among the things that Dad has provided in the past is a personal trainer; I’m sure I’ve told you about him. When I returned from Tucson, I discussed with him my thoughts on role models, and how Dad was practically an anti-role model to me. Jim was floored. He told me that Dad would be devastated if he heard me say that. Which confused me; after all, there had been many times where he seemed to have outright schadenfreude when I screwed up in my life here and there, and enjoyed rubbing it in my face. I had often been the weak one in the family, and he was the patriarch in a family for whom (figuratively) eating the runt of the litter was expected. He enjoyed pointing out that if our family had lived in tougher, more wild times, I would probably have died by now because of my weakness. What kind of love is that? If you want your son to look up to you, you had better make yourself at least a little more approachable and lovable than that. If Dad would be devastated if I don’t consider him a role model, then there’s a lot of self-delusion, or at least a convenient lack of self-knowledge going on there. And I have a powerful nuclear bomb in my arsenal I didn’t realized I had.
Dad’s an old dog. He ain’t gonna learn new tricks. He’s not going to change his mind about things. Really, neither am I. So we are stuck at a difficult impasse. George Strait sings that a father’s love for his son is “a love without end, amen.” Really. Can’t say I’ve experienced that. What a terrible loss – for both of us.