Bittersweet is an underrated word.
I try to gear myself up to meet my dad for dinner after time apart like I’m meeting a friend – excited and ready for a good time… because if I stop and think about how much I’ve missed him, how long it’ll be again until I see him I’ll be distracted trying to extract all I can from each meeting.
But as conversation twists and turns into conversation about his life, his upbringing and what he’s doing these days I see my father for who he is.
Not the first time, but the first time it was met with an adult compassion – like a human to another human not from a daughter to a father. It’s a surreal moment.
He talks about his late parents and his blue eyes begin to swell with tears. He talks about how he felt as a child, adolescence, and adult with a sentimental remembrance. Any bitterness he might have once felt, any frustration, any insecure inadequacy is replaced with longing for more time.
I dread speaking about him the way he talks about his father more than anything in this world. I dread the feeling that he’s feeling, but if I’m learning still from my father it is how to look at the past and the people who you love with kindness, sentimentality, and understanding. How to be graceful in your mourning. How to honor their passing. I’m still learning from my father even now.
My heart breaks. I don’t see my father the way that I remember him as a child – not the image that my memory clings onto, but for where he really is at. Older. I try to ignore and brush off talks about his health like he’s being dramatic, but I can see he isn’t as limber as he might’ve once used to be.
That’s the strange part about living far away from a parent. Each visit hits you more and more that they’re living another life in another city, and you see it on their face when the too far and few between visits present themselves. Time has a new wrinkle, a new ailment, a new concern. Time is a visible thing.
The most heartbreaking thing you can do is love somebody.
I don’t mean that to sound like a hardened Bukowski statement, it’s an endlessly rewarding thing, but to love someone is heartbreaking.
To watch people you want to see happy trip over themselves, stand in their own way, is heartbreaking.
To know someone is heartbreaking. To know their past and present is strange, odd, and beautiful.
I am obviously not a parent, but I can imagine that it is probably one of the truly most terrifying, softening thing.
My dad tells me a few lessons that his father taught him, that it was important to him that you be mindful of how you treat people on the way up the ladder because they’re going to still be there around on your way down. To treat each person you know equally, disregard their status and wealth, treat them all with equal amounts of respect.
I didn’t know my grandfather all that well. Sure, I spent many holidays at their house, but we did not bond all that much. I don’t think he knew what to do with little girls. It wasn’t until after my grandmother passed away he started expressing more of an interest in who I was. And even then, it wasn’t much. But I feel as if I know him more now through my father, learned from him through his son. I think that’s probably how life just is sometimes.
Transient, bittersweet life.