Sunday, June 18, 2006

Memories of my father

It's Father's Day, so I suppose I should think about my father. I don't think about him very often. He died a few years ago, killed by weight-reduction surgery, but I never really grieved, because he'd never really been a presence in my life. By the time he died, he was just a stranger who happened to share some genetic material with me, no more a kinship than those who share my blood type or eye color.

My parents split up when I was 13, but it didn't have much of an impact then either, because my dad had already been absent. He was a truck driver, often away for weeks at a time on long hauls. Even his family wasn't in my life, due to some squabble I have never really learned the story behind.

Most of my few memories of my father are from times when he took me in his truck, and of those, most of them aren't that good. Perhaps the best memories I can think of are him teaching me how to shift an eighteen-wheeler, and watching a rainstorm from miles away on I-95 until we caught up with it. Others aren't quite as good.

Getting up at 4am to go with him on a long haul to somewhere in Pennsylvania, I think. For breakfast at 4:30am, having a greasy personal-pizza, too big and way too heavy. The minute we crossed the bridge into New Jersey and hit that New Jersey smell, I threw it up out the window of the truck. We didn't even slow down.

Very late at night, way past the bedtime of any sensible 8-year-old (or so), driving through Richmond, Virginia on I-95 on the way to Alexandria (or was it the other way around?). Stopping at a weigh station and being held because the truck was 50 pounds overweight. My dad getting panicky, me not knowing why. Standing by the side of I-95 nearing midnight watching my dad drive through the scales again hoping the lack of me in the truck would reduce the weight to under limit (it actually rose). Sitting up in a police station, or something like one, until after midnight, on a hard bench under harsh fluorescent lights; my dad was in a holding cell or something somewhere. Hearing the people around me talking about finding a foster home to put me in until arrangements could be made to send me back home, but being too sleepy and dazed to really understand that. Finally, my father exuberant about a Western Union -- presumably his employer wiring in payment of a fine or something. Getting back on the truck very sleepy, my dad not even seeming to notice or be concerned about what I'd been through, so giddy was he with relief about getting to continue on instead of staying in a holding cell overnight.

People always talk about how everyone's got to have a father. Maybe some of what's wrong with me has to do with the fact that I barely had one, but I doubt it. If that isn't inborn, it's more likely to do with the fact that I was skipped ahead in school and had a July birthday, so I was two years younger than my classmates all through my school days, plus a genius geek type, and thus seriously disadvantaged in learning social behavior. All in all, I don't feel like I lacked anything for not having much of a father in my life -- if anything it contributed to my strong sense of independence and my "get up and do it" attitude.

1 comment:

litlfrog said...

It's always tough to predict how much an influence someone might have been. People who have other sources of resiliency--supportive family, high self-worth, good education, comfortable background, faith, close friends, etc.--can shrug off some truly bad experiences.