Sunday, June 21, 2009

Asking Dad

Many years ago, when I’d asked my father if I could interview him for a course assignment, he seemed a bit hesitant. “Okay, but don’t ask me anything about my sex life,” he cautioned. I promised that I would oblige, even though he had just raised my curiosity level to an all time high. To save money, and because frugality defined him, he suggested I call him on his Watts line in Florida─ at the decorator fabric company where he worked part time as a credit manager. When I finally called, he immediately said : “Okay kid, shoot.” Dad was ready for me, wanting to know how long this would take. Even in semi-retirement, he remained a busy, conscientious no-nonsense guy. I tried loosening him up a bit by talking about my daughters, his favorite subject, and slowly his defenses softened. Although he was 67 at the time, he said he felt like 39. He was sure that had something to do with not retiring completely and feeling valuable in the business world. I asked my father if he harbored any regrets. He answered no just a little too quickly, which made me remember how he once said he wanted to be a doctor or a dentist. Since his mother was widowed young, left with three small sons, Dad the youngest, he quickly pushed away that dream. But when we were growing up, Dad became our in-house medic whenever any of us got sick. A dot of Mercurochrome could cure anything from a little scratch to a massive bug bite. And he was a master at pulling out a dangling tooth.
When I asked about his proudest accomplishments, he said: raising a family where everyone could stand on their own feet, where nobody was “screwed up.” I giggled then hearing a bit of Archie Bunker and wondering if he knew I was still in therapy.
But I wanted specifics about him. He was a 90 Day Wonder in the Navy learning the equivalency of 4 years of college in three short months. He had invented and patented a snow tire contraption that unfortunately never sold. And he had owned his own fabric company in New York City for over twenty years. Suddenly, I became aware of the role reversal with my strong, dominating father. I was enjoying the control and of course his undivided attention. I made him vulnerable with a question about his childhood: what was his most vivid childhood memory? Dad didn’t hesitate for a second when he told me he was three years old when he’s crawled up into his dying father’s bed and fed him some grapes. He said he remembered his father’s glowing smile.
His advice to his grandchildren and the future great-grandchildren was to concentrate on their education. He stressed learning as a most powerful tool. He hoped his loved ones would learn to cope with change and reality in this new and difficult world.
Time was running out, but I wanted to ask how he felt about being interviewed by me, his only daughter. “ Good,” Dad said flatly. “I always thought we had a good rapport. We could always talk about any subject, and say things to each other, what’s the word?” he said.
“Love?” I beckoned.
“Yes,” he answered quickly. “That and communication…that’s it, communication!”


Blogger Boritz said...

In reading this the last words really stick out to me... "communication". Such a shame I was too young to remember Papa before the stroke, but even while communicating was difficult he never let that deter him. He was hard working and tenacious and still found ways to communicate. Love and communication, amen.

July 20, 2009 at 11:48 AM  
Anonymous Sande Boritz Berger said...


February 14, 2010 at 2:42 PM  

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