My father died 12 years ago at age 85. He and I had alternating periods of closeness and distance. In some ways, I am quite like him: romantic, sentimental, tender-hearted. In others, I am more my mother: intellectual, ordered, reserved. But as I was thinking about him this Father's Day, I was realizing that my appreciation of him grows deeper as I age.
Of course, our parents are always old to us. No matter their age, we are young and they are old. They see more of life's complexity; they have more experience with fear, with loss, with scarcity, and when we are young, it is hard to see them as wise rather than foolish and stubborn. When my father was my age, I was 37. I was an active alcoholic with five miserable years to go. I was in an abusive relationship with six miserable years to go. I hid all that from my parents in shame, so they knew none of the particulars, only that I was very unhappy and pretending not to be.
At the AA meeting yesterday, the topic was the self-centeredness of addiction. For those of us who are caretakers, it's hard to see that, except of course that we never let anyone in. We don't want them to know us. In his last years, especially after the death of my mother, my father and I grew quite close. We let each other in. He was in his 80s and synthesizing much of what he had experienced. He would never have described it that way. He wasn't a reflective man. But I'm now starting that synthesizing process and I so appreciate him leading the way.