It's all very "Cat's in the Cradle"
Today is my father's birthday. He's 62. He was born right smack in the middle of World War II, and always claims he's not a baby boomer. I guess he's right, so we can't blame him (or my mother, who turns the same age later this year).
Like most sons, I suppose, I have a complicated relationship with my father. He's probably going to read this, so if you don't know what I'm going to write, Dad, I don't know what to say. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about my father. I guess I love him, in a "he's my father so I kind of have to" way, and I like him well enough, but we have always had issues with each other. My mother says it's because we are so alike, and although that's true, I think our conflicts come from our differences.
My father is not a particularly cuddly guy. He's nice enough, but he's an old-school dad - aloof and unemotional, except when he gets angry. I have told people in the past that my father has only complimented me once in my life, and they have said how horrible that is. Well, maybe it is, but his lack of emotional support is mitigated by the fact that he took his paternal duties to provide for us (me and my sister) very seriously. He told us early on that we would always be taken care of financially. We had to pony up some money to buy a car, but he paid for the insurance. He paid for both our college educations. We always had clothes and good food. We didn't have to worry about anything growing up. He and my mom made our childhoods wonderful (well, mine was - I can't speak for my sister, because I don't speak for her), and I appreciate that. Some people I know had wonderfully nurturing fathers who were always supportive, but they couldn't pay for their kids' education. It's a trade-off. I don't begrudge my father his way of showing how much he cared for us. When I was younger, it made me upset sometimes, because every son wants validation from his father, but as I got older, I learned to deal with it. My mother tells me my father tells her how proud he is of me, but he can't say it to my face. I don't know why he finds it so difficult. His father was somewhat emotionally distant, and I would think that he would have wanted to rebel against that. I certainly did, and I am determined to give my daughters emotional support as well as financial support.
Since I left home after college, I have had less patience with what I see as my dad's deficiencies. As I said, my mom says my dad and I are very similar. We are both very interested in history, we are both full of useless trivia about any number of strange subjects, we both like crappy Philadelphia sports teams, and we both have a somewhat caustic sense of humor. However, I think we're different in that my father ALWAYS has to be right, even when he's wrong. He refuses to admit when he's wrong, and it's frustrating. He's also even more cynical than I am, which gets on my nerves sometimes. We have had many conversations about a number of topics, and he usually ends up playing devil's advocate simply for the hell of it, and he also usually ends up saying everything is tied to money. He can't deal with anyone doing anything for altruistic reasons, which makes me sad a little bit. Once we had a conversation about my writing. He just kept coming back to the fact that the only reason to do anything is to make money at it, and if I couldn't write like Stephen King and make a boatload of money, there was no point to it. It frustrated the hell out of me, but as usual, I couldn't make him see that not everyone is motivated by money.
The funny thing is, my father does not base his entire career on making money. I'm extremely jealous of him, because he loves computers and he got into the field in 1965, when the industry was in its infancy and just starting to explode. He's been in it ever since, and LOVES it - he doesn't do it for the money, but he has been able to make a ton of it doing what he loves. It's totally cool that he's able to do it, but maybe he doesn't see that not everyone can do what they love AND make a bunch of bling while they do it.
There has also been times when I never wanted to talk to my father again. He is probably the only person who can make me extremely angry for a sustained period of time (my evil students can make me angry, but only for a few seconds). I try very hard not to be so stubborn like he is, and I hope I have succeeded. Like I said, he always has to be right, even in the face of overwhelming facts to the contrary. The problem with this, of course, is that when you call bullshit on him, he doesn't like it and can't accept it. I used to ignore it, but since moving out, it's been harder to do, especially when he gets all uppity about Merovingian France (AD 481-751). That's what I did my Master's Thesis on, and if there's on subject on the planet I know more about than my father, it's Merovingian France, damnit!
Ultimately, my dad is a nice guy and a good father. He has his problems, but he doesn't drink, doesn't beat my mom and didn't beat us, doesn't fool around, and he doesn't insult my mom. He's emotionally distant, but that's more of a product of his time and his upbringing, and I try not to hold it against. He's a great grandfather, and he loves Mia so much. He's in Hawaii right now, so I hope he's having a great time. Happy Birthday, Dad.