“This is the first of a series of posts with the same title: “Conversations with my father”. I like the multi-function use of the title: It’s the title and the content. Each post’s title will have the subject of that particular conversation with my father at the end of the title. Enjoy!”
This was the last complete, coherent and contiguous conversation I had with my father; it was not that long ago.
While visiting one Sunday, my father approached me and asked if I could spare him a minute or two. My father was always the living example of courtesy and chivalry. We sat in my study and he said;
“Son, I’ve come to realize and accept that you are a fully grown adult and have earned the right to be called a man. That means that my job, the one I accepted as your father is complete and I am satisfied with the job I’ve done. Your job; the one you accepted, whether you like it not, is different, but that’s your road, not mine. I’m just letting you know that you can start yours whenever you like, you’re ready.”
This was not not a typical conversation to have with my father and he was not one to say something like this as a prank, so I did what I usually did with anything my father told me: I took it at face value and gave it due consideration. Our conversations were not humorless, however; I took a moment to comment on how timely his announcement of my manhood was, after all, I was only 50. We laughed for a moment and then I knew that he expected a reply from me.
I began to do some furious math in order to reply properly; there was not a single moment during his life that passed without my wanting to make him proud of me. After considering his statement as carefully as I could, I had a reply for him; I said;
“You know, pop, that’s a very important issue for me. I know I have a job to do. I’m not scared and I’m confident that I am well prepared for whatever it may be, but it is somewhat unsettling at times to not know what is expected of me.”
My father jumped right back into the conversation with a combination of wisdom and mischief in those hauntingly blue eyes of his. He sat upright and said:
“Excuse me. What did you just say? Did you say you didn’t know what is expected of you? That isn’t even a coherent sentence in English – and you’re supposed to be the smart one! There cannot be any expectation of any person without another person to hold that expectation; it’s a strictly human concept. Oh, shit! Now I’m beginning to talk like you! He giggled and continued. How can you tell me that you don’t know what is expected of you without knowing or mentioning WHO is the owner of that expectation? Only people can have expectations of other people, so who were you referring to when you said you didn’t know what was expected of you, perhaps Society? Society isn’t a person, it can’t have expectations of you or anyone else, but we can choose to believe it can and if you do; you’re fucked. So, Mr. Smarty pants, would you like to try that again?
I said, quickly: “Wow, Pop, that’s good” Because it was. It left me pondering (a dangerous thing to do.)
After a few minutes, I turned to face my father, who was sitting patiently, immensely enjoying the opportunity to watch me squirm and said. You are, of course, right Pop. I have to re-do all the math on that. Thanks, Pop, if you hadn’t brought the point up, I could have easily screwed the pooch when the time came! Then I had a thought a with it the hope of redeeming myself from the hole I had so easily fallen into during that conversation. Almost immediately, I said:
“Hey, pop, may I ask you something, since we’re here and already talking?”
–“Of course!” He shot back.
I looked him square in the eyes, which was not an easy thing to do with him, and asked him:
“Indeed, you have completed your job and have declared as much, but you are still my father, so I ask you; Father; what do you expect of me, Sir?”
I thought I had him for sure, but then I saw his mischievous grin begin to form and he sat back in his chair, crossed his legs, put his hands on his lap and very calmly and very matter-of-factually answered:
“Me? I expect for you to change the world.”
What else can be said and what else can any man hope to know beyond what his father expects of him.
That’s my Pop.