How to Get to Know your Dad… It’s Never too Late.!

Ol’ D – This is how Dad signed his name.  I knew him as “Dear Old Dad” or just “Dad”.  He has a strong place-setting in my heart, but the mark he had on the world, even my world, was not too deep or too broad.  Dad’s acceptance of his role on this earth was contained and limited.  In a crowd, he wouldn’t stand out or be remembered.  Dad didn’t hone skills or talents or gifts which anyone later would discover as unique or special.

Dad was the third child born to my grandfather, a World War I Vet–I never knew–and my grandmother, a war bride that I knew very well.  Birth order matters to all of us. Though after a certain age, birth order fades into the abyss of unimportance.  I met my Dad again after his death.  He was a man I never knew.  Dad’s fundamental grounding guided him to grow and lived life was within a perception of inferiority.  Dad’s lifestyle could be viewed as a textbook case of inferiority.  His habitual routines and customary philosophies ended in sudden death.  Maybe once or twice Dad tried to burst out of this containment, but unfortunately the extra oomph was never sufficient to get him over the hump long-term.

The perception of inferiority is built from experiences of comparison.  There are assumptions about what tall people can do; what smart people can do; what rich people can do; what beautiful people can do etc.  In family, birth order draws specific attentions that differ between the first born, the middle child and the youngest.  There is a psychological significance to each birth position which can be a prime determinant of personality and lifestyle.  The raw materials conveyed by family help form the lifestyle and psychological map of oneself and the way one sees the world.  This map includes:

  • how one sees themself,
  • how one “ought” to be,
  • how things work outside themselves, and
  • how one’s moral and principled beliefs influence their life journey.

Dad was brilliant.  That seemed to surface in minute ways.  Dad had a quiet sense of humor and a gift that enabled him to assign few words to point to large concepts or a common sense answer.  Dad came from a heritage of intelligence, creativity and excellence.  Dad and his siblings all graduated high school well before the customary age of18th.

As a young man, Dad was a part of a local theater group founded by his sister and brother in-law.  Dad got on stage a few times.  He took direction well and helped with the productions hand as needed.  Dad thrived on the social atmosphere and late nights that the theatrical life provides.

Dad followed his father’s career path.  He went into the military, but lacked the dedication and fortitude that could have changed his life journey.  He went to an accounting trade school rather than going to college.  Dad became an accountant.  Dad never advanced beyond that.  Dad wasn’t a CPA, yet he practiced tax accounting and kept small business financials when asked.  Dad retired during a time when big companies were downsizing because the computer-age was changing business.  Dad accepted retirement as it was offered and never engaged in any other interest or tried anything new.

Dad was not skilled in any craft nor was he the guy to call to fix something.  His tools were standard.  They became old and dirty due to lack of care and attention.  His tools turned into items for others to use rather than a flair that enhanced his lifestyle.

After retirement, Dad with Mom participated in the standard “we want to travel” idea.  Their preferred mode of transportation was by cruise ship.  This type of travel allowed Dad to have topics of conversation and socialize.  Cruising also permitted Dad to repeat what he once favored… the late nights and social atmosphere.

Dad aged quickly in this lifestyle.  His inferiority, which no one ever identified as a problem or concern, grew into isolation.  Dad’s social atmosphere morphed with the help of magazines, writing, and an alcoholic beverage.

I would like to point out… there is an advantage to inferiority.  Inferiority does not have to be bred into subservience, influenced by mediocrity, and accepted with habitual repetition.  Inferiority can be a perspective of challenge and opportunity.  It can be a beginning or an episode rather than an end. 

  • I love Dad. 
  • This love is everlasting.
  • I love Dad so much that:
    • I ended my inherited career of accounting.
    • I prioritized my life to include my interests, my talents and developing my gifts.
    • I accept Dad is a part of me and with this responsibility my desire is to change the trajectory of what Dad left behind.
    • I believe this transition to be hard.
    • I believe the following and attempt to live this way daily.

“I believe there is within us this image of God… There is something deep within us, in everybody, that gets buried and distorted and confused and corrupted by what happens to us.  But it is there as a source of insight and healing and strength”

-Frederick Buechner