Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sins of the Fathers

I spent the better part of this past week digging through boxes of old photographs of my father and his family, then categorizing them by date and location before arranging them neatly in a scrapbook. My husband jokes that my obsession with genealogy stems from fact that dead people don't mind being alphabetized, and tend to stay where you put them. I will admit that it's easier for me to understand someone when I can lay their life  out in sequence like a decision tree.

Why didn't he go to Yale? Did he have a good relationship with his brothers? Did his half-brothers ever meet one another? Did he think that his parents were proud of him? Were his parents proud of him?

At fifty-eight and a half, I can ask myself these same questions. Although I claim to have graduated from high school in Dallas with the classmates I'd known since the third grade, the truth is that I graduated from Los Altos High School with kids I'd only known for six months. The second semester of my senior year, I moved to California to live with my father and two brothers thinking that I'd attend Stanford after graduation. Unfortunately, my father's company transferred him to Flint, Michigan about two weeks after graduation, and so I moved back to Dallas, got an apartment, a job working on the circulation desk at the Dallas Morning News, and started my freshman year at a junior college. The decisions I've made along the way have yielded some wonderful adventures, the opportunity to work with smart and talented people, and to see a good chunk of the world. I could have attended Stanford; instead, I graduated with a degree in Philosophy and a degree in English Literature from the University of Dayton. Although my battlefield was much different than my father's, I've carried the scars of my own decisions through relationships with my brothers, my children and their fathers. When I retired from a corporate position five years ago, I was a vice president responsible for over 350 employees and the corporation's IT infrastructure. And if you asked me if I thought my father was proud of me, I'd have to answer... I don't know.

Yesterday while pulling pictures from decades-old mating, I turned a portrait of my father over to find something I'd not seen before; an inscription hidden behind a frame for the past 20 years. Underlined, was the word "Love."

My dad died in 2005, but yesterday he gave me the best Father's Day present ever.

I love you, Dad.