My father is incredibly old. He insists on driving himself and lives alone, despite my remodeling a room for him and asking him to move here countless times. "You'd have to get rid of a few kids and animals before I'd think about that."
My mom died six years ago and we all thought, including his doctor, that he would not last long without her. But he is apparently an expert at transference, even arguing about what hospital I was born in, confusing me with her.
He is a very good person. He was a cop, for which I paid dearly in my teen years, and a very hard working person. He frequently had three jobs. Cops were allowed to moonlight in those days. I grew up with my share of daddy fantasies, acting some of them out, making out under the stairs with his partner at his retirement party, for instance. Daddy would have shot the guy.
If nothing else, he taught us you don't get anything without working for it. He talks about how uninvolved his dad was in his life. I said, "He must have done something right because he made you what you are and everyone knows you are a fine person." The world is indeed a better place for him being in it, and the world definitely needs more people like him, to use some of the cliches in that regard.
But one day he was talking about how his dad was never around to play games with them, or take them swimming. Maybe my dad practiced baseball a little with my older brother but I don't recall that. We all learned to ride our two-wheelers pushing off the fence, not with the dad running behind holding the fender. Surely he did not toss the old ball around at all with my second brother, and he never played games with me until after my mom died. They played Yahtzee every day. I would go and visit after she was gone and suggested we take up Yahtzee again. I kicked his ass the first three games and we never played again.
Anyway, he repeats stories endlessly in his dotage, and we earn our points with God by patiently listening. So one day when he was talking about his dad, yet again. (My grandpa was a handsome, debonair, wonderful guy to me. The Minnetonka story is elsewhere in this ongoing chronicle) and my dad said, "My father never even bought me a bicycle." I said, "But, dad, you never bought me a bicycle either." (I bought my own bike when I was seven, the story of which probably also lies elsewhere in this chronicle.) He just stared at me, for once at a loss for words, and, I am certain, for the first time realizing that he had indeed walked in his dad's shoes, at least in some cases.
One thing, a far more precious gift than a bike, is the self-reliance he taught me by not buying me a bicycle.
And, to prove the thesis, my dad and his pal, Bill, bought a car when he was eleven, fixed it and drove it--to grade school.