Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Personal History

When my wife was pregnant with our first born, I had a fear that I would die before he arrived. So, I started writing down everything I thought I'd want to share with him in the off chance that I did not get to do it in person. It was supposed to be a diary or a memoir that he could read in the future, filled with stories and all the details of my life. I wrote about 3 or 4 pages and that was it. He's now almost 7 years old and I am way behind in putting something together for him so he can a sort of backup copy of his father. The good news is that he's had the first seven years of his life with me in it. And, he not only knows a lot about who I am and how it relates to who he is, but he and I have lots of shared memories that would not have existed had this copy ever become important.

I wonder if I still owe him something, though. My own father has shared so little of his life, the facts and the stories, with me that it has taken me a long time to try and piece together enough of his history to really understand him. My father was in the Army, but I know almost nothing of his time in the service. My father grew up on a chicken farm and it is only in the past few years that I've started to hear about how many chickens they had and what it was like to gather eggs when he was a child. I do not really know why he left college or what he was doing with his life when he met my mother or whether he really ever did drugs or not. There is no language barrier and we have spent increasing amounts of time together as we've both gotten older. Yet, here I am, thinking about how to make sure my own son knows everything about me and I still know so little about my own Dad.

Maybe that is one of the things I've learned about my Dad. That it is better to be open and to share yourself than to not (something I still can had trouble with). That it is important to record and to write down, although I'm not good at it, because you might lose a lot over time. That whatever happens to you, you cannot let it cut you off from other people. My Dad thinks he's taught me a lot about life, but what he has never understood is that he has taught me by way of the inverse - to not do what he does; to not be what he is. That is not to say that he is a bad man, although he is greatly flawed. It is simply that I grew to understand that to solve my frustrations with him and to address all of the issues in our relationship, I had to accept that he would not change and that I needed to be the person that I wanted him to be. It is a corny and well-worn sentiment, but somebody has to break the cycle. I can either be the latest in a long line of men in my family who cannot relate to their sons or I can work at making sure my own son knows enough about me (and how I feel about him) that he can write the book for himself.