Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Handsome Devil's Aftermath

You see that guy down center, front? The one in the kick-ass shirt? That's my dad, Christmas, 1971 (I think). Behind him in the tan shirt is my mom's dad. To his left in the blue shirt, my mom's youngest brother (my uncle) Richard (more on him in a future post). And to my dad's right, in the Elvis Costello specs, my uncle-by-marriage (at the time), "Cash" Cashen.

I have a gagillion photos. However, one subject I have very few photos of is my father. So imagine my surprise when I saw this very good shot of him yesterday. Long story, but my aunt brought it to a family function, and whammy, there he was in all his early 70s youth and handsomeness, grinning like the Cheshire cat at me from this snapshot. I was taken aback, to say the least. Plus, there's no moustache! My dad was KING of rocking the "Smokey and the Bandit" 'stache both long before Burt had even considered facial hair of any kind and way WAY after the whole mid-70s moustache craze had faded. So seeing him so youthful and thin and clean shaven is, well, odd. But at the same time, this photo is SO him. It perfectly captures his devilish charm. I can see the wicked glint in his dark eyes. I can also see my nose and my browline and forehead when I look at him. And my very, VERY large ears.

Looking at this photo, I can understand how my mom would've been taken in by him. I can almost understand why, when she was only 17, she thought that marrying him was a good idea. And I can see that mysterious, hard-to-like guy who intrigued me--his only child--and pissed me off so much at the same time. And oh my God, the thing this unexpected wonderful rare picture makes me do the most is miss him so very, very much.

For those of you reading this who have never lost a parent, I'd like to ask a few things of you:

  • Please forgive them for being so frustratingly like you--and at the same time--so freakin' different that it is absolutely maddening.

  • Forgive them for the times when they were younger than you are now, and didn't really know what the fuck they'd gotten themselves into by having kids and, as a result, made some pretty stupid decisions.

  • Forgive them for the fact that they were human and dealing with serious adult stuff that you, unfortunately, had to bear the brunt of as a kid.

  • Appreciate them for the sacrifices they made for you then that you can only fully appreciate now.
  • Understand that they are deeply proud of you and love you, even if they rarely show you or tell you.

  • Appreciate every hug, kiss, phone call, e-mail and card you get from them. Because there will be one day in the future when you desperately want to speak with them, and it will punch you in the gut because you remember how long it has been since you last heard their eternally-familiar voice.

  • Think about the kind of person you want your kids to remember you being. THAT is your legacy. Not the bullshit material crap you leave behind, but who you show them you are.

    • What matters to you?

    • What makes you happiest? Most pissed?

    • What's worth fighting for?

    • What brings tears to your eyes?

    • What music and foods do you love? 

    • Where is the most beautiful place you've ever been?

    • What is the thing you most wish you'd done (that you haven't)?

    • What's the thing you've done that you're proudest of?
THAT is your legacy! These are the memories that they will carry with them and share with their children and others whose lives they touch. When your kids don't know these things about you, then you've left them nothing.

Trust me.


hotpinksox said...

I needed this today. I have not been talking to my dad for a few weeks. After reading this I realized that I should call him and tell him exactly what is bothering me so we can fix it, before it is too late. Thank you for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

Wow. So needed your post. My Mom arrives on Thursday.