My father used the Air Force to learn about airplanes. And from 1946, when he left the military after the war and found a job in Dallas, until he retired at sixty-three, it was as an airline mechanic that my father made a living. In those forty years (my math may be off), without a complaint that I know of…his sense of worth was tied into hard work, reliability, punctuality, and providing for his family, a man who knew his role as husband and father and most of a man of faith…in those forty years, with his own tools, my father worked and saved enough for retirement and to have some left over for his children.
I didn’t want to be like him: I didn’t want to stick to one job, as men of his generation did. I had within me a different drive; and it wasn’t as steady and certainly was less failure-proof. I rejected from the beginning (actually after I left home for college) many of my father’s values (or tried to), most of all his and my mother’s (perceived) consumerism. I scoffed and called it inaccurately “conspicuous consumption.”
My father allowed me to live my own life. His slideshows, of when he and my mother came to visit my family and me, wherever we were living, were always presided over with enthusiasm: “this is Randy when…this is Toby…this is Peggy in her…”ragged-old winter coat.” To be fair to him, he never mentioned our poverty. I’ve never made anything to speak of and saved even less. Still he claimed me, while I silently went on my merry way without showing him the gratitude he deserved. But what does this have to do with my being a writer? Did I have to exile myself from my family to become one? I couldn’t help but feel that I was different, besides being more adrift; and consequently I became more separated from him and my mother. We still wrote each other. Christmases together (when possible) were obligatory. You’re right I felt superior, righteously so, and I realize now that it was without justification. I now think a writer should embrace his or her ties and not break them.
Enough for tonight. I want to go watch a football game, a joy I shared with my father.