One of the gifts of becoming an adult, I think, is getting to see your parents through your adult perspective.
In this photo my dad is somewhere around 29. He was divorced with two kids, trying to make ends meet, building his career while paying child support to my mom each month. My brother Noel and I used to go back and forth each week between our parent’s houses, carting along a little black and white T.V. by its plastic handle so we could watch Three’s Company and Scooby Doo wherever we were. In those years he cooked a lot of pork chops. We ate Mini-Wheats for breakfast and spent the weekends driving around Saskatchewan in his big black van. The van was stuffed with Panasonic batteries and beef jerky, which my dad sold to convenience stores throughout the province. Eventually we got an Irish Setter and named him Charlie. He’d sit up front, tongue flapping out the window while Noel and I chewed on jerky and I sang all the commercial jingles I’d memorized.
In this photo we’re in Lake Tahoe. I must be 3 or 4, my brother 7 or 8. My dad was usually the one taking photos, so there aren’t many from my childhood of the three of us together. But the images are embedded in my memory: Dad and I at the rink watching Noel play hockey, my tongue stinging from the hot chocolate I sipped out of styrofoam cups. Miles of yellow prairie grass through the windshield, dad’s hands on the wheel. Flying down the hill at Wiggins Park on the white banana seat of my bike, the words Blue Angel painted on its frame in sparkly letters. My dad bought me that bike, taught me how to ride.
As I write this he is in Croatia, travelling with my stepmom and my sister Abby, who was born 15 years after me. He sent an email from Italy last week, said he had fulfilled a lifelong dream to visit Florence.
My dad and I talk on the phone every few weeks and see each other about once a year. I have realized how alike we are: how analytical and how sentimental. I think he will always want to reverse time, to open more businesses, see more countries, play more guitar. He doesn’t talk much about his childhood, but as I grow older I find I want to learn more about it, to discover the parts of his life that happened before I was born.
I replied to his email: I didn’t know going to Florence was a lifelong dream of yours. Now I want to know what your other lifelong dreams are.
I will see my dad in a few months. I will encourage him to work less and travel more. (And he will agree, while telling me about all the work he has left to do.) But as we drive past the prairie grass, Saskatchewan dust flying up off the road, I want to ask about his memories, about which dreams he hopes to carry out this year, and the next.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.