Thinking about my own father in a different way this year. He’s getting older, frail, a little more cranky. But, still on the whole, optimistic about the time he’s got left. We joke about him being in the 4th quarter of his life, but he’ll laugh and say he’s in the last minute of the two minute warning and the fat lady is stepping to the mic.
I’m beginning to let myself wonder what my life might be like without him, how things may be different when he’s not there to call or consult. While I’ve never taken him for granted, he’s been a constant presence, the center of my life’s radar, the point around which the arm sweeps. No matter where my actions might show up as a little blip on that radar, he was always there, the home coordinates around which i traveled.
He’s one of those good 1950’s/1960’s dads, a warm, steady presence but not overly involved unless it’s a big decision: Job changes, mortgages, investing. I don’t think he gets the concept of an interior life. I wouldn’t go to him to get advice or discuss philosophical questions, or the hobbies and pursuits that I’m passionate about. His parenting model was pretty straightforward: He gave me all the space I needed to figure shit out on my own, and he offered love and faith that eventually I’d make something good happen. He’d listen all day long, but he was mainly just letting me talk it out. He’s known me by the actions I’ve taken and the friends I’ve made, not what’s in my heart or head.
Most days I believe he’s given me the best of the tools he’s had and the wisdom he’s gained. But, as I look ahead to the next 5-10 years, I can’t help but wonder if I should be digging to find any more nuggets as the clock ticks.
And, the clock is ticking for me, too. I feel urgency to step up my game as a dad and review the past to consider my own work as a father and what I should be doing better, differently. My boys are both at important ages, one in the critical first years of college, the other in the wide open post graduation period. They’re both good young men, grown in most ways. But, in other ways, they are still figuring out how al the pieces fit together and, more importantly, what pieces they can put on the table.
They’re smarter than I am, but I’ve made more mistake and thus have some hard-earned wisdom. As I get older, I get more confident that I know The Truth about certain things. I want, more than anything, to tell them everything I know (or think I know). That Paul was the most important Beatle, but I’d want to hang out with Ringo. The Who is probably overrated. The Clash might be the best band ever from England. Buffet and Munger are the ones to listen to. Ride your bike. Keep a diary. I would love the chance to lecture them on the importance of friendship, kindness, compound interest, a buy and hold strategy, etc. But, at the same time, one of the best gifts my father gave me was the space and time to do things my way without a lot of judgement or oversteering. So, my plan is to wait, with a full heart and a bottomless supply of love, for them to circle back to me when the time is right, when they need a little reorientation or to check their coordinates a bit.