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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

My dad wasn’t handy


My dad wasn’t handy. I remember when I was young and I was sitting with my mom’s dad and he was showing me pictures of my mother when she was born. One of those pictures of my grandparents holding their newborn daughter hangs on a wall in my bedroom. Everyone in the picture is dead. The images of their faces are imprinted on my brain. When my older daughter, who is more like her mother’s mother in every way than any single way she is like her mom, gave birth to twin girls. I was stunned at how one of them looked just like my mom when she was born. As she got older, she looked more and more like my mom and started to remind me of her, too, in her mannerisms, and in her sly humor. On one occasion I was stunned when after she was not behaving well and giving her mom a hard time, I said to my granddaughter in private, “Why are you giving your mom a hard time?” Without pause and with perfect sincerity, she replied with a look that froze me, because it was my mom’s face and attitude, “Because I have to.” That wasn’t learned. My mom was dead before my granddaughter was born. It made me believe in reincarnation. My son had a formal picture of himself taken for his fraternity and he sent me a copy. I went and dug through my family pictures to find a picture of my dad when he was in college and on a beach in Cape Cod with four other college buddies, all dressed in suits and ties. I stared at the black and white picture of my dad and then at the color picture of my son. Both dressed the same; they could have been the same person. The cock of the head, the smile, the eyes, the ears, the hair, the hair! The hair was the most bizarre. They had the same cut, how can that be so many decades apart. He looked more like my father than I did. He is more like my father then I was, just as I was more like my dad’s dad than my dad was. My dad died a couple of weeks before my son was born.
My dad’s dad was handy. My dad wasn’t handy. His dad was an engineer and worked with, not for Edison, in NJ. I never met my father’s father, even though he died when I was in my twenties. My father had serious issues with his dad. For one thing, he was upset his dad never took credit for what he did with Edison. My cousins would tell me stories of how when they went to Grandpa’s house he always had gadgets to open doors or do chores around the house. My Grandpa was a tinkerer and an inventor. I am more like my dad’s dad than my dad.
My dad’s dad was handy. My dad wasn’t handy. I’m handy. As I was growing up, I’d tinker with things. I’d take things apart and rebuild them. I took a bike apart and reassembled it. I took outside steps apart and rebuilt them based on what I learned in the deconstruction. I rebuilt my 1960 VW 36 horsepower engine and was able to fix it when on the road. My dad never had a chance to see me work with and on computers. He did encourage me into carpentry in my youth so that I would have a fall back in my life if my primary career didn’t pan out. As I was doing this tinkering, my dad would often say, sometimes with disgust, how I was like his dad. I always sensed it was an insult to be like my dad’s dad.
My dad’s dad was handy. My dad wasn’t handy. I’m handy. My son isn’t handy. My son has business acumen just as my dad had, something I lack.  I have tried to teach my son carpentry skills or how to change a bike tire or drive a stick shift, but without success. What is it about every other generation and those connections that aren’t shared by parent and child? As I observe the generations from child to parent to grandparent, I am more conscious of the patterns we follow from generation to generation. Traits skipping a generation, adjoining generations butting heads, generations separated by another generation seem more similar than adjoining generations. Is it nature or nurture? Or is it our desire to be different from our parents so we force our similarities out as we seek uniqueness and individuality that may be encouraged by our grandparents?
I was a child, am a parent, and now I am a grandparent. The relationship I have with my grandchildren is so different from the relationship I have with my children. The relationship I had with my mom’s parents is similar to the one I have with my own grandchildren. Why is that? Since I’m not the primary care giver of my grandchildren, I have a more relaxed relationship and they know it. I’m the parent of their parent and therefore can deal with their parents, my children, on behalf of my grandchildren or so they think. I believe it is also a joy for parents to allow their parents to spoil and care for the grandchildren in a way others can’t. Children may feel joy in having their parents use their knowledge to help the grandchildren prosper and live a more full life because of knowledge of life and family.
Ironically, even though I was so different from my dad growing up, I find it odd how much I’m like him now. I do things that remind me of my dad. I look at pictures of him with my second daughter and see myself as a grandfather like my dad. I see goofiness about him with my daughter that I never saw in him as a parent. He was always so serious with me and so much more fun with his granddaughter. I know my daughters love me with my grandchildren and allow me valuable time with them. I’m different with my grandchildren unlike how I was with my own children.
My dad’s dad was handy. My dad wasn’t handy. I’m handy. My son isn’t handy.  

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