Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Shades of my Father

Recently my beloved daughter dropped my sunglasses, shattering one of the lenses. She was extraordinarily - and unnecessarily - apologetic. I have long come to expect her clumsiness. It's almost cute, now.

Nonetheless, later that afternoon, we had a shopping trip planned. We had intended to purchase new bedding; a 12-y/o is in a constantly-shifting sense of self, and expression. Her bed is but one means of this. I told her that morning not to worry, we'd just add the sunglasses shop to our trip.

When we arrived, I cautioned her: it takes me forever to select a proper pair of sunglasses. They have to fit right, and they have to look right. That the shape of my face has changed dramatically in the last four years only makes the trial more difficult. She took it in stride, and insisted on helping. It was a sweet offer.

We'd each pick a pair off the under-lit trays in an over-heated store, I'd try them on, and we'd independently judge them: "no."

At one point, she was off to one end of the row while I was more to the middle. I came across a pair of silver-framed, square shaped aviators. I put them on. They fit me. They... just fit. I wanted them.

I asked Madison - notably without leading her - and she cautiously offered a, "nooo, I don't think so." I replied, "Are you sure? I rather like them. My dad used to wear these." "Well, maybe..."

We continued to look on, but I kept them hidden away, just in case. I tried pair after pair, and none of them were right. We eventually discovered the exact pair that I had been broken, so I of course selected those, too. The saleswoman came over to offer that "buying one gets one half-off." How serendipitous.

Again, without prompting, Madison asks, "What about those silver ones, Dad?" "I thought you didn't like them?" "I think I do." "Let me see them again."

I rescued them from their hiding spot and put them on. Again, they felt right.

"They look really good, Dad," Madison proclaimed. She couldn't see what was hidden behind those mirror-lensed sunglasses. I'm afraid the look would have concerned her; she's too young to understand. But a part of it was pride.

I took both pairs to the counter and paid. The saleswoman asked if I'd like to wear a pair out of the store, and Madison replied in my stead: "The silver ones."

Here's a picture of my father and I when I was just a boy.

My father died unexpectedly to world and family in 2006. It rocked my family, and it rocked me. At the time, I became the so-called "head of household," because everyone in my very insular family looked to me, as the eldest son, to keep things together and get things done. While they grieved, I made plans. While they wept, I filed paperwork.

I lost him before I had the opportunity to feel as though I had earned his pride. Growing up, that's all I really ever wanted - my father's pride. "Son, I'm proud of you." I had so much achievement left in me before he passed, so much life experience to gain and perhaps even pass on to my own father. Our relationship had only begun to transition from one of father-son to one of man-to-man.

No psychologist, therapist, mother or lover will ever be able to convince me that in his absence, from somewhere in our individual or collective belief of heaven or the afterlife that he is, indeed, "proud of me."

So, instead, I am proud of him. He is, after all, an incalculable part of who made me. Wearing these Shades of my Father is only fitting. Not a day passes that I don't remember - and miss - him.

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