It was my nephew’s birthday last week, and on Saturday night we went out to dinner to celebrate it.
We went to a pizza restaurant in Hawthorn. Everyone was there, including my dad.
For those that don’t know, dad and I aren’t on speaking terms. It’s all there in the back pages of this blog if you care to know why, but what it boils down to is that I felt (rightfully) aggrieved, then got over it, at which point my dad became aggrieved that I was aggrieved. I made some modest overtures, which he rejected, and since then we’ve had nothing to do with each other. While he was in Sydney that was easy, but earlier this year he returned to Melbourne to live, which has made it more difficult.
There was some difficulty leading up to this occasion. Before Saturday I hadn’t seen him for over 2 years, and had no contact with him for a year. I’m at the stage of ambivalence, and so had no concerns about coming face to face with him. It might be a little awkward, but I’d just play it cool.
It was different for dad. He was reluctant to come into contact with me. It’s interesting to speculate why – was it embarrassment? Fear I’d have a go at him? Or was he so aggrieved he just didn’t want to set eyes on me? I still don’t know the reason, but doubt the last is true. My sister sits on the hill between us. She reports to me what’s happening with him, and to him tells him what’s happening with me – about which he is apparently still very interested.
At one stage it looked like I wouldn’t be going on Saturday night, but then my sister prevailed upon dad with the very sensible argument that these are family occasions, and it was neither fair nor realistic for anyone to be left out because of this. He agreed. And so Saturday night we met each other again for the first time since it all went bad.
It was, as I anticipated, a non-event. We’re both too well-bred to make a scene, and neither of us really wanted to. It wasn’t fluent or easy – his first comment to me that I’d put on weight (I’ve lost it), and the conversation thereafter was sporadic, but well intended. It was easier that we sat at opposite ends of the table, and that because of his hearing problems conversation is difficult. It was easier to let it go.
It was interesting to observe him again though. As I’ve oft observed, we share some similarities. I have a facial resemblance to him, which extends as far as expressions and idiosyncrasies. There’s overlap in interests and perspective, and a similar hunger for knowledge and understanding. Typically though, each of those things are represented differently in us: he’s dark and I’m fair; he inclines to the right, I’m more to the left. And so on. Both of us are stubborn.
The differences go beyond that. From a purely physical perspective I’m an enlarged version of him – somewhere between 4-5 inches taller. I’m built big, and though there were times he carried some weight he is slim now almost to the point of being frail. Looking at him Saturday I thought he looked shrunken.
There are cultural differences to, each of us a product of our generation. Dad turned up in typical attire: a pair of freshly pressed jeans (typically Hugo Boss), and a collared business shirt with sports jacket. His hair was immaculate (he always seems freshly barbered), and he was freshly shaved.
I turned up in a pair of jeans too, never ironed, a pair of Red Wing boots, and a purple pullover over which I wore a semi-casual jacket. I was unshaven, my hair long and tousled, just how I like it. He looked like a retired businessman; I looked like I had just returned from some distant place.
I know that I seem foreign to him in those aspects at least, and that it explains some of our acrimony over the years: he wanted me to fit into a box of his construction, the image he believed in. Principle alone meant that I resisted that, but so too did reality: I wasn’t made for that box. I had my own image to live up to. These things were never reconciled, and now never will be. Really quite a classic tale.
I don’t grieve over it. There was a time I wanted nothing more than to bridge the gap between us. I was never going to change to how he wanted me to be, but I believed, idealistically, that there might be a more substantial connection between us deeper than that. For many years that was the case. When finally I saw it for the illusion it was I was angry, but then relieved too. It has since subsided into the past.
You come to accept the reality delivered to you. It would be better if I was closer to my dad, but that has run its race. I would like to still have a family – there are times when I see what other people enjoy, and even the other night watching a Qantas ad, that I grieve being alone without a loving family. There is no-one there to pick up a phone to (my friends fill that role), there is no-one caring and barracking for me as my mother did, no big, rambunctious family functions as there used to be, and no-one to come home to except Rigby.
That’s all for me create. I will, but first things first.