My father used to take the long way home. Whenever he got the chance, he drove my sister and me around the lake with the windows down. It was early summer. The Who's "I Can See for Miles" blasted through the 1991 Honda stereo. I sat in the back next to my sister. Both of us were allowed to ride without a seatbelt. I sat there, back against the grey seat and wished I were older so I could drive around the lake, by myself. Free.
I loved my father. I love my father.
My father is the type of guy that demanded your attention. He could tell you to f*ck off and inspire you within those same seconds. He held the key to wisdom and business secrets. And when he didn't know all the answers, I disliked him. When I saw him as a possible human being, I reverted to wanting him to be dad, the superhero.
I disliked him for losing his temper, and for the most asinine things like the time he accused me of causing a shower leak so big it tore through the downstairs hallway ceiling. He put me in my room for three days and said I probably caused the leak because I was too fat and had to move the showerhead around my body to clean myself. I get it, that's life. Parenting is hard. Was hard. But I share this because even the pain I felt when my father would rage is still part of the human experience, his human experience. And the part when he came out of that rage for good is still an essential part of the human experience.
Today, I forgive him. My father is beautiful. I forgive. I forgive him for not always being the best person he could be, for not being a whole human being the whole time. Until I was in my late 20s, my relationship with my father wasn't anything joyous. He was angry and loud. He killed my soul for a long time, so much so that I banned him from any of my sporting events. I banned him from accessing the most precious things about me. I banned him from loving me. In turn, I banned myself from loving myself. I banned myself from being an open and forgiving person.
For years, I blamed my father's past for his behaviors. My father's father passed away when my dad was 15. Arthur was a handsome man, according to my Grandma Rose. I'd agree. I had the great opportunity of seeing the few pictures of him that were left behind. Arthur was tall and muscular with dark brown hair and a patch of hair swished across his forehead. His eyes curved like a half moon when he smiled. His eyes smiled like mine. That's something I hold in my heart; that's one way I hold onto my grandfather.
One afternoon, many years ago in his hometown, Arthur had chest pains. He went to see his general physician, who told him it was just indigestion. His doctor sent him home and told him to take some aspirin. Later that night, Arthur had a massive heart attack and died. My Grandma Rose says she misses him every day. I wish I knew him so I could miss him too. But all I know of him are his eyes... how they are like mine. And that's enough to miss someone. That connection.
After Arthur's death, my father took on the responsibility at 15 to take care of Grandma Rose and his younger brother. He worked as a landscaper and then put himself through college and became a teacher. He was a prolific teacher. And he still is today. He met my mom at the Jersey shore. My mom was gorgeous. She used to model. Her long, thick brown hair met the middle of her back, and her curves were delicate. Dad had tight dark brown curly hair and thick glasses. He wore bellbottoms and white cotton short-sleeved shirts. He looked like he could be a Starsky double only he had a Lemmy mustache. I never saw what my mom saw in him. But I do now, after I've grown and we've had our thousands of differences and screaming battles. I knew he was funny. But kids see their dads as something different, not as people with lives and histories, but supernovas.
The thing is, my father is no supernova. (Well not in actual life.) He's a man, a whole human at that. One that gets pissed and yells at his kids and one that inspires them. Anything my father did he not only did well, he exceeded all expectations of what others thought he was capable of doing. He transitioned from teaching to successful business owner and back to teaching. He saved enough to put his children through college, cash. He dedicated himself to his family.
Despite the things he dreamed about. Despite the things I wish I knew he dreamed about. I'm still pissed about him for many things, like blaming me for the leak at such a young age, but I understand. It's not easy being a dad, and a great one at that. Even great dad's f*ck up here and there, and I'm not spending time or whitespace trashing him. I've been a shit too, and he still talks to me. We've forgiven all of our little tantrums of the past, we've forgiven each other for not being cyborgs, and we've pushed through our grudges.
This weekend, I took a detour home. I drove around the Lake. I rolled down my window in the middle of November and blasted The Who's "I Can See for Miles." I thought about my dad as I turned the corners, how he inspired me to enjoy life's little detours, how he reminded me "there's no rush."
Now all that matters is the Lake, and the road in front of me and this smile, crooked around my eyes.