Saturday, June 16, 2012
Happy Father's Day To Those Whose Fathers Never Grew Old
Father's Day has been a bittersweet day for me ever since my dad passed away when I was fifteen. My mom was concerned about me and my brother not having a father figure to help raise us since we were both teenagers. My brother found a mentor in college, but I didn't think I needed one. Even though I was so young, I felt my personality had fully formed by then, and I knew that I was the person I was because I had my father to teach me for fifteen years. My brutal honesty comes from him. Probably part genetics and partly from observing his behavior. My mom used to say to him, "Why can't you put on a smile for our friends? Why do they have to know you're in a bad mood?" and my dad would answer, "Because I AM in a bad mood. Why should I have to be phony and pretend?" Whenever we went out for dinner, and the waitress was OVERLY bubbly, my dad would raise his left eyebrow inquisitively as if to ask: "Is she for real?" I immediately knew exactly what he was thinking.
Besides being honest, my dad was also very moral. His best friend, Hans, told me a story once of how my dad got upset when one of their mutual friends had a girl sitting on his lap. He exclaimed to Hans, "Why is he letting her sit on his lap? He's engaged to another woman!" I share his love of music, and he helped me study for the Co-Op Test so I could ace it and get into Hill, the highly-esteemed high school of my choice. After that, I believed I had truly completed my childhood, so I found the idea of a replacement dad insulting. I would never want to replace my father. I would never need to. I felt that way for a really long time.
Speaking of Hans, he was very helpful to me when my dad died. When my father went out of remission, Hans brought in some cassettes of my dad's original songs into the hospital. He played a song called "Shadows Falling." It had lyrics that reminded me of my dad as a young boy growing up: "Wish I could return somehow to walk upon the sand, catch the wind and rainbows and feel a welcome hand." The lyrics made me cry after we left the hospital room, and all the way down the elevator, continuing into the parking lot. No one knew how to comfort me. Hans said, "Joan and I have fixed up the house. We have the guest room finished. You should come over and stay with us on weekends." He, his wife, Joan, and son, Eden, took me in for many weekends, and Hans told me endless stories about my dad. But I knew he couldn't replace him.
Hans and I always remained in and out of touch. A few years ago, we hadn't spoken to each other for a while. We'd let too many years go by. I didn't even know if he still had the same phone number, so I did a Google search. I found a picture of him outside a school where they were testing for asbestos. He was wearing a Bluetooth. Cellphones and Bluetooths were still new. I asked my husband, "What is that thing people wear in their ears? They're like cellphones, right?" and he answered, "They are Bluetooths. Old men wear them." Something about that statement just got to me: "Old men wear them." I kept on recalling the image of Hans wearing his Bluetooth, and I knew then I had to get back in touch with him, and I was lucky to find him on Facebook. We've been in touch ever since, and I now call him my Second Dad.
Another example of my longing for a father comes from an unlikely place: My favorite TV show, "Mad Men." I've been faithfully watching since Season One, and I've seen most episodes at least twice. One of my favorite characters, Peggy Olson, had started Season One as a secretary, but one day after participating in a focus group where the secretaries tested lipsticks, she makes a comment in front of "old-time ad man" Freddy Rumsen. She hands him a wastebasket where women had dabbed their lipstick onto tissues, and she tells him, "Here's your basket of kisses." He asks her where she had heard that, and she says "I just thought of it." Then she tells him that she didn't choose any of the shades of lipstick because someone already took her shade, and she says, "I don't think anyone wants to be one of a hundred colors in a box." Freddy sees potential in Peggy and suggests she be promoted from secretary to junior copywriter because she is creative and has a natural way with words. Peggy's career has soared since Season One, and it was really all thanks to Freddy Rumsen. Even late in the current season, Freddy and Peggy have dinner, and he encourages her to go for a better copywriter job at a competing ad agency. Their friendship has lasted. I never knew why I was so drawn to this story until I realized that, in my mind, the Freddy/Peggy friendship/mentorship is like a father/daughter relationship. Freddy is considered old-fashioned and out of date. My dad never became that. He was always young. I never thought I'd have a need for an older father, or even a father figure at all since becoming an adult. But between Hans's Bluetooth and Freddy Rumsen's belief in Peggy, I realize it must be something innate.