25 Jan 7 years gone
My father casts a shifting shadow. It has been 7 years since he was hit by a car; and his influence on my thoughts and actions continues to evolve. My oldest daughter was still three years old when he died, and my youngest was in utero, 3 months from birth. I think about him as a father, my father, as I struggle to father my children. I like to think that I do the same things right, but unfortunately I struggle somewhat unsuccessfully to avoid doing the things he did wrong.
My dad and I tried to start writing a book together about children and parents finding ways to transition their relationship from a parent/child one to more of a peer based one. I know that he was a great writer because of the wedding speech he gave at my wedding, but I haven’t read anything else of substance that he wrote. Still, I was confident that we could find a way to pool our talents and perspectives into a powerful book. I wanted to take a more pop culture/personal approach. He started out by writing about the eminent psychologist Erikson and his study of the stages of life. As a psychologist by trade he found it difficult to step outside that professional frame, and as someone who has always rebelled against doing things the right way I could not find my way inside it. The book stalled, but working on it did help us to move our relationship forward.
At a memorial service for him at the University where he taught for almost 40 years a former graduate student brought me the notes we had put together. It’s been seven years and I haven’t had the time, or emotional resources, to tackle them. She told me that he had asked her to type them up because he was excited about the project. I was surprised that he had made the effort because it never seemed to me like he was taking it seriously. In retrospect I can see that he worked a little bit like me; in fits and bursts. Since we both worked that way there was no one really driving the ship and it just kind of stalled.
I’m going to get to those notes, if only to give myself a little more guidance on raising my own kids. I also imagine that his writing was much more profound then I realized at the time. I read that wedding speech this week and it such an open text that it means much more to me every time I read it.