Wednesday, July 26, 2006

That's My Dad

My parents are visiting. And yes, I am one of those annoying people who loves their parents. Not just in an I-love-you-because-you're-my-progenitor sort of way, but because I think they are awesome people. I would hang out with them even if they were not my parents. They're the coolest. I say this because I am surmising that not many people feel this way toward their parents. The reason I'm surmising this is because, 10 times out of 10, I say to people "my parents are visiting me" and people say back "are they staying at your house?" and I say "yes" and they look at me with so much sympathy that I feel like Sally Struthers should have a commercial on my behalf.

Let me tell you something about my dad. He's a gentleman of a different generation. He's gentle, cultured, and well-mannered, a sort of Islander Cary Grant in his 70s. His British colonial education has him still calling people "chap" and sharing four o'clock tea time with my mom every single day. I have photos of him in the late 1950s back in the homeland, all linen pants and JFK hair, standing in front of coconut trees and wearing espadrilles. He comes from a generation of "Third Worlders" who were raised under the British Empire and then rode the bumpy ride into post-colonialism with idealism, and a heartfelt belief in democracy and justice. On the other hand, he's not above letting my mom dress him in drag and putting on a show so Liza-worthy that it almost made Biology Girl shoot beverage out of her nostrils.

This is what is so great about my mom and dad. They've modeled for me, my whole life, how to be critical thinkers but never, ever judgmental, and to especially question the schism between high and low, intellectual and popular, cultured and vulgar. They understand that all of these distinctions may need to be noted, perhaps, but not reinforced, and that what brings out the best in others is to understand them, not to separate from them. It is exactly these qualities that make the best librarians, and the best people.

My dad bought me a full set of Alice Walker books for my 13th birthday. My dad also didn't censor me or ridicule me for voraciously consuming The Thorn Birds at 15-- instead he engaged in a discussion with me about why I liked it, and suggested some stuff that I may want to think about as I was reading it. But no pressure, no judgment. He didn't freak out. He didn't laugh at me. He didn't boss me. The message was, loud and clear, that you can love something and still be critical of it. And that loving something dumb doesn't make you dumb, it just makes you human. My dad could smack down the best and brainiest in an intellectual argument, but I have never seen him need to do so. It's grace that prevents him. Just grace. The kind that not too many notice, but as I've gotten older, I have.

So the other day I took my dad on a drive. He filled me in on the latest on the ABA's Task Force on Signing Statements, and the July New Yorker article on the President's Iran policy. He asked me how work is going, and wanted me to tell him in some more depth the way that I understand my job in terms of Intellectual Freedom. Then he brings up a sad subject- a relative of mine who has been holding a grudge with another for fifteen years. We talk about the sadness of the situation, and the senselessness of it, and we both hope that the grudgeholder can resolve it before it's too late. He talks about getting old, and how he feels the weight of time on his back, and that seeing people he loves becomes more and more important to him every day. And then, he busts out with this: "There was an episode of the Golden Girls once, where Sophia hadn't talked to her sister from Sicily for forty or fifty years. You remember that one, kid?" My father, ladies and gentlemen. Embracing the power of storytelling, no matter what medium it comes from. I believe the phrase you're looking for is "chip off the old block."

He told me how proud he is of me, not for my job, or my education, or my new house, but for the way that he can see that I am genuinely happy and how I've managed to surround myself with great people. "You've always done so beautifully at choosing great friends," he says, and I think: "you're one of 'em, Dad, you're one of 'em."

Kiss the rings, I'm out.
Librarian Girl

12 comments:

biology girl said...

Oh, your post made me wish EVEN MORE that I too could be there when your parents are visiting. Maybe I'll have some tea at 4pm today in their honor...in drag, of course.

Librarian Girl said...

Make sure you wear that shawl over your head when you make an entrance, BG. His performance was all in the entrance, don't you agree?

Darlene said...

This post brought tears to my eyes. My dad just came for a visit as well... I love him so much - It drives my mother so crazy that he & I have this "bond" that is unbreakable. Nothing is greater than the friendship between a girl & her dad. :o)

jenny said...

What a sweet, sweet post- made me mist up! Your parents ARE awesome people. I wish I could have seen the drag show. I'm sure they'll do something equally funny this trip.

biology girl said...

It was all in the entrance and attitude. Your dad was channeling his inner diva that night!

Maven said...

This is fabulous. I feel exactly the same way about my parents--indeed, about my whole nuclear family--and have always known that they were my best thing. You should get your dad one of those "Stay Golden" shirts from Delia's.

Jenn said...

I have to chime in too, as another devoted daughter who honestly thinks her parents are the greatest - not just as parents, but as people. (Although my dad is more Atticus Finch as portrayed by Gregory Peck than he is Cary Grant) It's great being uncool enough to love your parents, ain't it?

Melinda said...

Aww. Sniff. I agree with you: parents are the best. I saw my mom on Tuesday -- when I walked up the steps to her house, she met me at the door with a bag of baby clothes and exclaimed, with a huge grin on her face, "I got all these AT A GARAGE SALE!!!!" It was awesome.

marty said...

What a great post! I got a little lump in my throat sitting here at work. :) I love my dad so much too. Parents are awesome!

christine said...

That is the sweetest thing you could say about your father. You made me tear up. I love my parents too. I didn't always appreciate them the way I do now that I no longer live with them :) They are incredibly hard-working and intelligent people, and very humble about all the wonderful things they do. Well except when it comes to my dad's cooking. He thinks he's the man when it comes to performing in the kitchen. And well, he is actually. His apple pie is to die for.

Ali said...

OK you a-hole (and you know i mean that with much love)! Now I'm crying at my desk.

Mel said...

Hell, I am just envious your parents come to visit you! No such luck with me.

I hope you have a good time with them.