So, it being Father’s Day and all,I thought I write about my Dad.
Dad grew up on a ranch in West Texas. It was the whole 9 yards of Ranching- cattle, wheat fields w/tractor, rattlesnakes (including a bite on the knee when he was 16), horses, canyons, and exploding piles of cow patties (something that passes for fun when you’re a teenager on a ranch in West Texas. Or South Georgia, according to Terry). He graduated from high school, and went to college at Texas Tech, then to Texas A&M where he received a DVM (veterinarian), then went to work as a meat inspector with the department of agriculture (not uncommon for a newly graduated DVM). After working there and as a veterinarian at an established practice, he decided to go back to school, and attended University of Missouri for a PhD in neuroanatomy. He taught at University of Illinois (Urbana), University of Georgia (Athens) and Auburn University (Auburn, Alabama) until retiring. Now he does what he wants to, in an assortment of shops (automotive, blacksmith, woodworking),and renovating the 150 year old farmhouse purchased right before retirement. It does not include horses, cattle, or rattlesnakes, but there are wild animals (hogs, an occasional cougar) and snakes (copperheads, water moccasins, and local meth manufacturers) and other excuses to practice marksmanship with hunting rifles. His favorite target is a can of foam spray insulation, as apparently the results of hitting a can with a .30 .30 round is dramatic and hilarious. Since retiring his latent (since graduating from college) sense of play has returned.
Starting out, as a child, he didn’t have a whole lot of patience with me (mind, I am speaking for myself, not my brother…while we were raised in the same household, each child therein has a different perspective.). Over time, particularly as an adult, I came to realize it wasn’t *me* he didn’t have a whole lot of patience for, it was non-adults he lacked patience for. He was fine with teaching me stuff, as long as it was something he wanted to teach. So, as long as I wanted to learn what he wanted to teach, we got along. If I wanted to play a game and it was one he didn’t get bored with, we’d play the game. usually Monopoly. The first time I played it I was about 7, and it wasn’t the kid’s version either. He pulled no punches, made no concessions for age. Dad never did that, making concessions for age. We also played checkers occasionally, but no…no favors there either.
Around the time I turned 12, he taught me how to use the power tools. No, not an electric drill either. The radial arm saw, a big industrial band saw. that sort of thing. As soon as I was tall enough, that’s when he taught me. I wanted to learn because it was what he wanted to teach, and it meant I was spending time with him. I think he was nonplussed at a girl wanting to know these things. He held firmly to the notion of “girls do this, boys do that”, but his profession was forcing him to let go of those notions. He taught at a veterinary school, and about the time he started teaching was about the same time women started entering the veterinary profession. His first class of 100 had 3 women in it. The last class he taught, 35 years later, had 68 women in it.
He was not given to expressions of sympathy. When we were sick as children, we were permitted 1 (or 2, if we were VERY sick)days of laying around. Anything more than that was treated as malingering, and quite possibly a signof some sort of character weakness. To his credit, he treated himself the same way, so it’s not as if he was picking on us. When I was in the 8th grade, I came down with mononucleosis, and was put on bed rest for an entire month. That really chapped his hide because I didn’t LOOK sick, and didn’t ACT sick (as long as I was resting), and laying around for a month doing nothing productive was not in his lexicon.
20 years ago,when I was diagnosed with the bipolar disorder, I wanted to know what the hell was going on in my brain. Rather than heaping “oh poor baby” on my head when I told him, he found a couple of books on basic neurology and neurochemistry, and gave them to me. (His PhD is in neuroanatomy). By treating me like a person and not a disorder, he enabled me to treat the disorder within my head like something to be investigated and explored, rather than abhorred. He didn’t treat me with any pity, and because of that, I didn’t treat myself with pity either. I think that bit, with the books and all, was the finest thing he’s ever done for me. It was his way of saying “let me help”, since he has always been one to let me figure things out (and make mistakes) on my own.
I have inherited his reluctance to ask for help. That frustrates Terry sometimes, but it is what it is. Terry will call me by Dad’s name sometimes, when I am being hardheaded and independent. I would rather be that than one of these women who’s all helpless and handflappy when something unexpected happens. Growing up,when something would happen, Dad would say “figure it out!” rather than “here, let me fix that for you.”
I am not very good at delegating either. Just like Dad. It’s easier to do it myself (and know it’s going to be done properly) than take twice as long explaining to someone else how it needs to be done. Not the best attitude, I know. Terry’s teaching me to soften that a bit, to let other people do (and be satisfied with the results).
Now, tho, the parent-child relationship has morphed into one more of equals. He asks questions sometimes, and can accept that I might know more about something than he does. I can ask him, and know he’ll listen. He can still be a hardheaded old coot, but I am not afraid to tell him he’s acting that way. Mom will sometimes ask me to tell him something, because he is more inclined to listen to me than to her. (and I fuss at him about that as well). I really like being able to talk to him about stuff, not real personal things because no matter what he will always be uncomfortable with that, but just STUFF. We know each other’s comfort zones, and stick within them.
And, given the longevity of his family, he will be around for a while. Unless he falls off the roof and lands on his head. Which is as likely as not to happen. Because he’s like that.