Friday, July 10, 2009

Dad

I can't possibly be the only one who engages in light fantasizing while listening to the NPR interview show Fresh Air.

Drew Barrymore was on today (a rerun from April) and I found myself silently responding to some of Terry Gross's questions as though they were directed at me.

I think the best thing about Terry's interview style is the open-endedness of her questions. She invites the interviewee to ramble wherever their mind wishes to go, and that results in some thought-provoking answers.

In the course of my own mental wanderings, I sometimes answer a question and discover some interesting new things about myself.

Today, I found myself describing my father, and how my upbringing was influenced by his worldview.

He lived to be 75 and would have celebrated his 93rd birthday on July 25th.

I've been aware, for a long time, that he desperately wished for me to grow up utterly protected and sheltered from all of life's realities, especially money and sex. To a degree, it worked, because I didn't leave home until age 22, and that somewhat naive, suburban part of me still lives on rather too strongly.

But today I thought about him a little more and came to some new conclusions.

To sum up, everything that made my father the least bit edgy, and brought some depth to his biography, he steadfastly disavowed. He was ashamed of ALL of it. This was a man who never broke a law in his life (except for one DUI when he was 60). He thought he was deeply unworthy, and wanted everything in my life to reflect some idealized opposite of the way he saw his life.

He rejected:

  • being Jewish
  • being the 1st generation of his family born in the US
  • growing up on the streets of Brooklyn
  • having a stepmother and some half-siblings
  • dropping out of high school and going out on the road to make his fortune as a musician
  • traveling through Europe with the Army band
  • working for a company that distributed records to jukeboxes
To me, these sound like elements of a pretty decent novel. But my father either didn't want to discuss certain aspects of his life, or he would simply dismiss them, with a grimace and a wave of his hand, as being one of the many things that he thought made him inferior. And any time I showed signs of resembling him in any way (such as having problems with math), he would get downright frantic. Any time I expressed interest in having my life go a different way than what he had orchestrated (wanting to live in Manhattan, for example), the reaction was similar. I was dismissed as a fool, who didn't "understand what the world was like."

I've seen similar characteristics of others from his generation. That sense of shame; the resorting to silence. His was, I think, the secret-keepinest bunch of people who ever populated the modern age. Put up, shut up, ignore it and it'll hopefully go away.

4 comments:

Dianne said...

every one of those things your Dad chose to hide is fascinating. I am a couple of them and wish I were the others :)

thanks for your visit today

Unrepentant said...

Yeap!

In our world, there is an immense societal need for each person to accept & appreciate oneself completely. For only then will we accept others just as they are.

(This is your exfundamentalist friend "L" posting under my other blog where I reveal myself much more--imagine that!)

Volly said...

There's been a bit of a shift lately (last 30 years or so), but not nearly enough of one. Nowadays, I think people accept themselves outwardly, but still manage to project their feelings of inadequacy onto others -- hence, all the judgmental attitudes we see (and hear, on AM radio, for example). The older generation internalized it, leaving their children to figure it out.

Billyist said...

Oh, wow, I imagine she's interviewing me sometimes too. And I used to work with her, so it's extra weird, I like to imagine myself using the phrase "well, as you know, terry," a lot.