Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Green and Sons

     While I've written a lot about fatherhood for this blog and in my eventual book, as the title would lead you to believe, I have not yet written in-depth about my own father.  While my Father's Day really happened a week early, I spent the actual day on the road and wasn't able to see my own dad.  He and I spoke on the phone, and we'd given him his present when we saw him during our last trip to my hometown.  Of course, I could give him presents every day for the rest of his life and still not be able to repay him for the gift he gave me, one which had a defining impact on my life:  he raised me no differently than my other two brothers.

     In my early childhood, my mom and dad took equal roles in making sure I was as healthy as possible, giving me treatments and making sure I took my medicine.  I don't remember this, nor do I recall the all-too brief period in my pre-school years when I was fascinated with my dad's hobby, which is also his profession:  cars.  For a few years, I loved being out in the garage with him, watching him work on vehicles that he had taken to car shows before and, at least for a little while, after I was born.  But soon after I started school, my interests changed and my dad's time in the garage began to become a mystery to me.  I remember when I would go in it, every corner felt like it contained a deeply important and yet totally foreign tool or piece of machinery.  The work bench that to this day lines the back wall of the garage looks, to my untrained eye, to have not changed in twenty years.  There are thousands of little things that appear to be both fascinating and dangerous; hunting equipment, car repair items, sundry screws and bolts, and, of course, any tool that a person would need to fix something in a home or convert an old item into something new and useful.  My two younger brothers have always been interested these things too, but even though I was not, my dad never made an issue of it.  

     His professional life was somewhat less mysterious.  He managed a local body shop, but the ins and outs of his livelihood often eluded me.  I knew what bondo was and that cars needed to be buffed out, but that was about the extent of it.  All of these enigmas were made ever more stark because I saw my mom work at her job every day running an in-home day care.  But my dad, in that office a whole mile down the road from our house?  It may as well have been across the world.  I vividly remember visiting him at work once, and as he was leaving for the day, one of his co-worker's shouted out, "Hey Geno, keep it between the ditches!"  I simultaneously learned that some car guys use this as a form of goodbye, and that my father, Eugene, was called a nickname by his colleagues.  To think of my dad as "Geno" at work only served to deepen the mystery.  When he was asked to help in a court case by identifying the color of a car based on a paint scraping at a crime scene, the awe I had toward what he could accomplish in his craft reached legendary status.  

     My dad rarely accompanied my mom to my doctor's visits, but it just made sense, as leaving the body shop sans manager, even for a day, could create headaches for him upon his return.  If it was my mom's role to have her finger on the pulse of my CF life, it was my dad's job to normalize the rest of it.  He taught me baseball as soon as I was able to swing a bat, and helped coach my first team.  He's a lefty, and by mimicking him I became one too-- in baseball and golf, nothing else.  His devotion to watching me play baseball and make it possible for my brother's and I to play at home knew no bounds.  He and my mom would split up if need be to watch our games, and I don't recall playing a single one without him or her in the stands.  

     Just by being who he was, my father infused in me a sense of wit and kindness, as well as the ability to both feel and show the entire emotional spectrum.  And no matter what the situation, my dad believed in and encouraged me.  Although as the years went by, out interests overlapped less and less, one of his incredible talents that I only partially inherited was the ability to draw and create.  I still have notebook upon notebook of drawings that I did, usually of superheroes.  If I didn't have my own son, I wouldn't be able to understand how my dad kept telling me that I was doing well and that I should keep at it.  I would see the masterful detailing he'd put on cars or the stunning drawings he could create just by looking at a person or object, and aspire to that greatness.  I've yet to achieve it, but because my dad never offered anything but constructive criticism, the drawing I just did for my son of Darth Vader has the proper proportions and hands that don't look like an oven mitt that has sprouted bulbous fingers, which was the hallmark of my elementary school drawings.

     While I also didn't get my father's skill in fixing just about anything that needs repairs, I am grateful to have him just a phone call away whenever my car or air conditioning or garbage disposal is acting up.  I can't remember how many times I've had something fixed on my car, armed with the knowledge he gave me before going to the mechanic.  It is true that the role as parent truly never ends, and I, for one, am glad of that.

     Now I get to see my son interact with "Papa Green," each of them relishing the opportunity to take a four wheeler ride or shoot a bow and arrow together.  Even though there were elements of my father's life that weren't interesting to me or eluded me altogether, he never treated me differently, or expressed disappointment.  And now, in his role as grandpa, he's getting a second chance to do some of the fun things that I grew out of too early or never cared for to begin with.  For all the mystery I associated with him as a child, what I can see so clearly from my adult perspective is that he loves to be a dad, and, six years ago, dove into the role of grandpa head first.  Even though he doesn't like to swim in real life, he's having a blast in Grandparent Lake.  In that way, and so many others, I still want to be just like my dad when I get older.


No comments:

Post a Comment