You know how sometimes big lightbulb moments can happen in the simplest, most unexpected ways? Well, that happened to me recently.
When I have thought of my parents, specifically my memories of them from when I was growing up, I had them each very much compartmentalised: Dad was the disciplinarian and Mom was the softy. There seemed a very defined line. Dad was a teacher and he was pretty strict with his expectations. We were to be at home on evenings during the week, unless we had a club activity of some sort (school or community commitments). We were definitely not to be “out beating the paths”, that’s for sure. And a hefty chunk of the time after supper was to be spent doing homework. (I spent a good chunk of that time on the phone…I’m sure you’re surprised at that little revelation!)
Well, perhaps I should stop and insert a caveat. That’s MY memory. If you were to ask my three brothers, they might have entirely different memories. And, as with all kids, things are different from the first to the last. I was the second and only girl so I’m sure my experience was at least slightly different from each of my brothers.
At any rate, Dad knew we were bright and that we could all do well in school. If we did not do well, it was because we did not put the work into it. And, well, he was right. Mom, however, was all full of encouragement and pats on the back: “I’m sure you did your best and that’s good enough for me.” Naturally, that earns serious kudos from a kid’s perspective!
Don’t get me wrong. I knew my Dad could be fun. He definitely was when he was with his friends. He loved to sing and tell stories and go fishing and so on. But we grew up in a “children are to be seen and not heard” time so I don’t have memories of “playing” with Dad. I just remember seriousness. Once I grew up and got to know him as an adult, however, all that changed, but when I was younger, it was different.
Anyway… to make a long story hopefully not TOO long, and to get to the epiphany, one day last week when I was coming home on the bus, we passed a school and it made me think of all the times when we were kids that Dad would bring us into the shool with him when he had work to do. We’d either run around in the locker rooms, with the lights off scaring the crap out of each other, or otherwise entertain ourselves. When we got older, we would go and help get things ready for the next school year, like unloading and organizing school books in the room they were stored in. It was work, but it was still fun.
It was really nice to be able to associate those fun memories with Dad and I was enjoying thinking of that when it took a different and unexpected turn.
My thoughts then turned to how much of a blessing it must have been to Mom for Dad to take all four of us out for a while. There were less than four years between the oldest and the youngest so we were definitely a handful. Those breaks must have been amazing! I had never thought of it in that way before. That makes sense, I suppose. Now, at my age, I know how frustrated many of my friends who are mothers can get when they don’t get any time to or for themselves, so I can reflect back to how important it must have been to Mom, as a woman, to have that time. Not all men, I know, do that for their wives. But my Dad did. My serious, strict, high-expectations Dad loved my Mom and took all four of us traipsing behind us out at the same time so she could have some time. What a guy!
That realization provided a dimension of my father’s character that I had never realized or thought about. I already loved him and respected him immensely, but at 43, 4 1/2 years after his passing, I have found another reason to make me love and respect him even more. I am so grateful that I had decided to put my Kobo away and just look out the window for the last half of the trip home that day. I might need to do that more often.