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To Better Understand

It's easy to self-project. How we think, how we feel, how we go about things, how we try and relate to others, it's easy to assume that everyone else should think and behave in the same way as we do. I'm guilty of this, no doubt you have been to at times. It's a constant struggle to overcome thinking in such a way, and to instead try and appreciate how someone else is, well, their own person. I think about these sometimes in the context of the relationship with my father.

As witnessed in the pages of this blog, Lewis wasn't the easiest person to get along with (perhaps an understatement). In plain speak: He wasn't always a very nice man. Yet, Lewis was my father, and so I am engaged in the age-old father/son struggle to better understand the other man. One such endeavor within the struggle has been to acknowledge when he was attempting to bond. In truth, such occasions weren't always my shining hour.

Lewis worked construction for most of his adult life. He helped build the Assembly Hall and Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, both of which are notable structures on the University of Illinois campus where I now work. He helped pave, or re-pave, many of the highways and interstates in Illinois. He took pride in his work. Sometimes, dad would take mom and I to one of his job sites, to show us around. I remember being utterly bored by the venture, and probably failed to hide it.

Then there was the time that Lewis thought we should have some proper father & son bonding. He signed us up for some sort of father/son summer camp with the local YMCA. We lasted precisely one afternoon. I remember sitting there, cross-legged, on the floor of the gymnasium, other sons with their dads surrounding us, a speaker droning on and on, and I asked (not politely, and more than once) to leave, because I missed mom. So, we left.

And what of the occasion when dad and I were driving around in his truck, and he showed me the nudie magazine? Yup, that was pretty much what it says on the tin. I think it was a Playboy, and he pulled the truck over a few blocks from where we lived and said, "I think you're old enough to see this now." He produced the magazine, and proceeded to show me a few pages of that month's star, none other than Ms. Linda Evans. "Ta-da!" he'd say as he turned each page. I was non-plussed and, once we were home, told mom all about it. She was none too happy.

I think about the aforementioned occasions, whenever a situation occurs in which another person's thoughts and actions (or perceived lack thereof) get my feather's ruffled. While it's true that some people are pretty unrelatable, and unfeeling, more often than not they're simply different. And I need to better understand that.

So, yeah, I didn't have a lot of interest in where my dad worked, or spending a summer doing father/son adventures, or in his ham-fisted attempt at telling me I was becoming a man. But I certainly should have appreciated them more. It may even have helped our relationship to some extent. Such is the callowness of youth. But I'm older now, so no more excuses.


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