Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ode To My Father

I hardly ever know what I'm going to write about when it comes time to put keystrokes to monitor. Sometimes I get a flash of inspiration the night before and write my entry out then. Often the topic is yet to be determined until I scour the news with my omnipresent two cups of morning coffee. This topic, quite unusually, came when I was discussing, with a woman at the gym, the role that fathers play in our formative years and how they influence what it is that we believe.

My father has remained an enigma for me my whole life. Since I was old enough to understand, I have noticed how he has maintained a perplexing step towards right-wing ideology and a step towards left-wing ideology, rendering him one of the strangest moderates I've ever encountered. In college, for example, he double majored in both Criminal Justice and Counseling. Dad deifies Ronald Reagan but also served on the board of Planned Parenthood when I was a child. He campaigned for George H.W. Bush during his successful 1988 run for the Presidency but by 1992 switched allegiances and lobbied hard for Ross Perot. Before my birth, as a prison warden, he sought to bring liberal prison reforms to a stodgy profession full of good old boys and as a counselor in Alabama's Byzantine public health system he aimed to adopt progressive treatments and humane measures to better aid alcoholics and drug addicts.

I could keep going. One could call his pursuits an attempt to straddle the fence or call him a true believer in cognitive dissonance. Truth be told, I often don't know the reason for his justifications and rationalizations and I don't expect to understand him ever. He could rightly be called an activist and reformer in his own right, but that's a title he would never adopt for himself nor seek. His anti-intellectual streak is on full display for all to see in this regard.

The conversation about fathers worked its way around to talking about how often our fathers cried in public. The only time I have seen my father cry was when the family visited the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington, DC. This was the first time I went to DC, back in the mid 90's, the summer before my freshman year in high school. A friend of Dad's from high school who grew up in the same little east Alabama border town as he did perished in combat. Dad wanted to find the man's name on the monument. As the story goes, the friend was out to prove his manhood so he volunteered for the Marines, knowing he would deliberately be placed out on the front lines. In another reminder of how cruel warfare is, the guy took one step off the helicopter transporting him to the battle that was raging at the time, was hit immediately with enemy fire, and died instantly. I never knew any of this until that instant. Dad never really wanted to talk about it. He hasn't since.

1 comment:

Dr. Zaius said...

A very heartfelt post. Your father sounds like an interesting character!