A Father's Best

“Come gather ‘round people wherever you roam. And admit that the waters around you have grown.”    

                    --Bob Dylan

It was not until the last three years of his life that my father and I really connected. And then only a little bit. At 80, he was ready to die, unearth some family truth and I was his guy.

At 32, he was all quit crying or I’ll give you something to cry about. I usually didn’t and he usually did.

If you’ve read Spifflicated, you get why this is important. After age nine, Pop had no father and was raised by an alcoholic mother. Pop evolved into a textbook Adult Child of Alcoholics and his relationship with me was always arms’ length.

As I wrote in the foreword, ‘I swore to myself when I become a father, I’m gonna be exactly the opposite of this guy, the prick.’ (When you quote yourself, is it single quotation marks, or double?)

At 32, I was trying desperately and failing equally desperately to emerge from half a life of denying that I had a drinking problem. In spite of my dysfunction then, my son, Scott, was a priority.   

I don’t know what kind of a father I am. Only one human being on Earth and God get to make that judgment.  

My son’s an Obama millennial who saw progress and assumed it would continue. He looks to me, his wizened, former political operative father, for answers. Scott understands that politics and governing is just a small sliver of a life’s pie. He knows he lives in a bottom-up country and I tell him about swinging pendulums. Not sure it eases his pain.   

At 32, my son and his wife just bought a house in Denver. Their first foray together into home ownership.

At 32, my son and his wife just bought a house in Denver. Their first foray together into home ownership.

He’s a doctor and will become a leader of his generation in the conversation about how our society deals with the end of life. He lives a purposefully efficient lifestyle. He bikes to work for cardio and transportation. I have reached that equilibrium in life where I’m learning as much from him, more even, than vice versa.

Scott listens to a band called The War on Drugs. I thought it seemed like a goofy name for a rock group, until it hit me that one of my fav groups is called The Who. I told him The War on Drugs’ lead singer sounds a little like Dylan.

How does it feel? How does it feel?

It feels like the bandwidth of each succeeding generation of our family is expanding.

Every time I talk to my son I tell him I love him. When I see him in person, it’s a big bear hug, firm handshake, direct eye contact. Even though he never told me, I’ve no doubt my father loved me. He did the best he could with what he had. I want to emulate my father in that way.

At the end of his life, my father’s best included this sneaking suspicion that, because of my experience, strength and hope, his son would be able to connect the dots. My father was learning from me. I believe his instincts were correct. Read the book and draw your own conclusions.

When it came to emulating fathers, the bar was set low for my old man. My father’s best was far better than his father’s, for despite the ACOA dysfunction, at least Pop stayed. Because of my life experience, expanded sense of awareness and acceptance, I have come to believe that my best is better than my father’s best.

Maybe not better, deeper.

I’ve no doubt that Scott’s best will be deeper than mine.

And I’m pretty sure that’s the way it’s supposed to be.