My dad and me
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
I just got off a phone call with my dad. In the last two years we have been talking almost daily for thirty-forty minutes at a time, like two friends at a dinner table, despite the fact that he lives in Europe and I live on the West Coast of the United States.
We talk about life, politics, and the world, sometimes we exchange impressions about the last book we have read. If somebody had told me fifteen years ago that I would become my dad’s best buddy, I would have laughed in his face.
When I was a little girl I did not get to spend much time with my dad. He was a head physician at the local hospital, and worked long hours, including three nights a week and two weekends a month. I do not remember him ever showing up at my piano or violin recitals, and he never went to teacher-parent nights. Despite that, I was very proud of him, I thought my dad was so much better than the other kids'. I wondered about those dads I saw at piano recitals, what did they do all day, did they even have a job? I was shamelessly proud of my dad; I used to inform everybody that my dad was a doctor.
Despite my admiration for him, we were never close. When he was home, he would rather spend his time reading the newspaper or playing the piano. He was never the type of dad who would play with his kids. He was old fashioned and he believed in a strict upbringing and that he had to be respected by his daughters as an authority figure. I remember being very intimidated by him, if not scared.I was convinced that he did not like children, because they are a nuisance, and he had so much more important things to take care of.
I never had a great relationship with my dad growing up. Sometimes I even wonder if I had a relationship with him at all. I cannot recall a single time doing something with my dad, or having a conversation with him, aside when I was being scolded for something bad I did. I was never good enough for my dad. If I got an A in school, instead of being happy for me, he would say that well, next time it will have to be an A+. It did not prove to be a good parenting strategy. Instead of raising an overachiever, he raised a girl with very low self esteem and chronically afraid of failure.
Two years ago my dad got sick with cancer, and my whole world fell apart. With the Atlantic Ocean separating me from my real home and preventing me to visit my parents as often as I would have like to, I started to call home every single day. Once my dad stabilized I called every two days. He would be the one to pick up the phone 99% of the times, as my mum started to get out of the house more often in an effort to manage the huge stress of caring for a loved one that has cancer.
I would talk to my dad for twenty minutes or so, then thirty, sometimes an hour at a time. I discovered that we are very similar, we like the same things. We are both loners, we like reading, we like music and dogs.
I treasure every minute I spend on the phone talking to my dad, I listen to his memories of his youth, and I try to record in my head his voice and his wise words. I guess illness changes you. My dad has changed a lot, now that he is the patient as opposed to being the doctor. He never takes any day for granted. He tells me how beautiful the sky looked when he took a walk around the neighborhood earlier that morning. He keeps telling me that beauty and happiness are to be found in everyday life. He reminds me that health is everything.
Talking to my dad is making me realize that I need to change the way I see myself and the world around me. I wish I had the wisdom to get over myself, my depression and the crap that is going on in my life. I wish I had the strength my dad has in fighting his illness, and break free of this negativity that is preventing me to live to the fullest.