A lot of people say my father has a horseshoe up his butt. When it comes to luck, yes, he’s “that guy.” He will hit the lottery or win the impossible bet. Not all the time, but enough that you’ve gotta go “how in the hell does he DO that?”
I’m living proof that this is not a genetic trait. I’m pretty sure that on the rare occasions I buy one, winning tickets cluster together in the back of the pile and snicker while the clerk hands me a la-la-la-la loser.
But that’s okay, because I’ve got my own kind of luck. When it comes to the people who have made their way into my life, I seem to draw a winning hand every time. That goes triple for my Parental Units. When it came to that lottery, I drew two aces.
Elizabeth has a wonderful post about gratitude over at Mirth and Motivation. When it comes to the whole “following instructions” thing, I should have been a guy. I always go off on my own path rather than read the manuals. So rather than respond to the post according to the instructions, I’ve decided to focus on two of the people I am more grateful for than anyone else in the world.
Since this is Father’s Day weekend, that seems like a timely thing to do. But I can’t talk about Dad without Mom. They’re like flip sides of a coin.
My father has never been much of a talker when it comes to emotions and advice, although that changes more as he (oh, ok, and me too) gets older. That’s always meant that when he DOES speak up or show affection and concern, it really sticks out in my head. I ponder it and write about it. He sometimes gets more “airtime” than Mom, at least on the forefront. Which I know irks the shit out of her. Because she and I talk about everything. All the time.
She’s my best friend, and not because I’ve got a face only a mother could love. I’m blessed with a solid core of lifelong friends and loved ones, and she is still the one who understands me more than anyone. We don’t always agree, but we always understand where the other person is coming from.
When parents have a “good kid,” the honor role student who volunteers at homeless shelters and plays sports while getting straight-A’s and holding down a part-time job, they are bursting with pride. But after a while, that good behavior becomes an expectation rather than something to gloat about. When that kid comes home with a “D” or gets caught hooking school and drinking beer in his buddy’s basement, he’s banned to his room for a month. On the flip side, the parent of a mischief-maker, the mom who gets called into the principle’s office once a week, will brag like there’s no tomorrow when that kid aces a test or shows an interest in something besides trouble.
When a parent has one of each, there’s going to be times when the honor role child looks around and goes “what the hell, man? My brother wipes his own butt and gets a parade. I get straight A’s and get a ‘that’s nice, dear.'”
I think that’s kind of how I treat my parents. Not that Dad was a troublemaker, although from the stories I’ve heard he was. Not that Mom was a straight-A student. Oh, wait, I pretty much know that’s true for a fact. All I mean is that because his words are rarer, they get my attention when they come. Mom is a steadfast and constant confidante, and that has become an expectation I take for granted. Like the straight A student that she is, she gets more shit if something isn’t perfect, and a much quieter recognition of all the ways she rocks.
In that way, she reminds me a lot of myself.
Two sides of the coins that became me and my sister. We are both the best and worst of both of them wrapped in very different packages.
So for my Father’s Day post, my gratitude goes out to both of them for the examples they’ve set and the woman they’ve helped me become.
To Dad, I am grateful for:
– The living example I have in my everyday world of someone who took risks to have the life he wanted. He didn’t want to grow old in a day job, he wanted a bar. So in spite of all the odds, he went out and got one. With a family to support, he threw the dice and went for it anyway, when so many others would have gritted their teeth and stuck with the boring but safe bet. He is my proof that if you’ve got the balls to go for it, you can live your dream. I’ve never needed to turn to books or movies to find my success story.
– The humor he finds in situations and people that would drive others crazy. Mom always says I’m an “asshole magnet” and that I got that from him. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The characters who have come in my life because of his “asshole magnitude,” along with the ones I’ve collected on my own because it seems that unlike lottery luck this IS a genetic trait, have given me so much joy, laughter and entertainment over the years. Oh yeah, and story ideas.
– Although he isn’t the one I will pick up and call when I need a dose of psychoanalysis or encouragement, he is always there for me when I need it most. I never forget that when I ran off at 14 and got stupid drunk, he sat and talked to me and dragged what was going on in my head out of me instead of kicking my butt. I never forget that when I had to have surgery at 19, he was there holding my hand in the recovery room when I woke up terrified. Or that when someone stole my prized leather jacket from his bar, he formed a posse of his friends and regulars and went out looking for the damn thing. Or that when I was broke a few years ago and my stove went tits-up, I came home from work one day to find a new one waiting on my deck.
Or … or … or. There are so many examples.
To Mom, I am grateful for:
– Her constant and unwavering friendship, that goes so far beyond just a mother-daughter relationship. Yes, there is the advice of a mother to her child in every conversation. But whether I was 16 or 40, she has always treated me like my own person as much as her offspring, and the relationship we have because of that is so special I can’t even put it in words. Of all the people I love to be with, she is the one I want to talk to the most. Our weekly chats in the bar are my sanity checks. And the rare times we get to do something like head off for a weekend together are always some of the fondest memories of my life. She is and always will be my best friend. Talking to her is like talking to myself, without all the bullshit.
– When I think about it, all the “things” that give me joy in life are habits or activities I learned from her or are things we share. I know my love of reading came from all those nights we sat side-by-side, her with some Stephen King something I’d read years later and me with “Little House on The Prairie” or “Charlotte’s Web.” Without that love of words, perhaps I never would have wanted to write. And then, I wouldn’t be me. I learned from her that the best source of peace in the universe is water, and that sitting on the beach watching the surf can restore your soul. I learned that animals are not pets, but family members more loyal and honest than most people. Because I’m her kid, I will never have a household without something four-legged to share it with me.
Oh, and the Steelers. Without her to show me the way, I might have grown up to be a (shudder) Purple Birds fan.
– I am grateful for all the things she is that I won’t ever be. She is a nurturer who puts others first all the time, even when it drives her crazy. And she has a spirituality and faith that I struggle to find each and every day. Perhaps the two go hand-in-hand, and I won’t have one until I grasp the other. When I say “WTF” about something that is going on in our little lives or out there in the world, she always has an answer that offers up some kind of peace and acceptance. She says a prayer when I say “that shit just ain’t right,” and she moves on while I’m still stomping my foot and cursing at the world.
She could have been a million things. She wanted to be a nun, and a brain surgeon, and who knows what else. Instead, I came along, and she became a mother. She revolved her world around me and my sister, and now she does the same thing for my niece. She is unselfish and giving to an extreme, and sometimes she gets really irked at the rest of us because we aren’t the same way. She doesn’t get just how rare she is.
When we talk about my writing, she often mentions what she thinks she could do if she sat down at a keyboard. I wish she would. I keep nagging her to blog, and hope that one day she’ll do it even if it is just to shut me up.
There are bits of both of them that I wish I had gotten more of – mom’s domesticity and maternal instinct, faith and ability to stay thin no matter what, for starters. Dad’s fearlessness when it comes to risk-taking and breaking rules that serve no purpose, his confidence and sense of self, and the loyalty he inspires in others.
But as I get older, I see the best things I’ve gotten from both of them coming together in this thing I call me. There is Mom’s sensitivity and uncanny intuition beside Dad’s humor, Mom’s concern for others beside Dad’s sense of self and deserving what is best for me, Mom’s way of expressing herself alongside Dad’s knack for meeting characters and landing in events worth talking about.
Thank you both, and all the love in the world.