I wonder how many people feel as if they become more like one of their parents as they get older? Growing up I felt that my father basically lived in an utterly different world, the only common interests between us being music and tennis.
But hey, music and tennis turned out to be pretty significant in my life, so why the sense of distance? Distance was defined and established by our difference in age, my father’s career in research science, and the reality that his sense of identity and family relationships were from a different time.
Age. We were a generation-and-a-half apart. He was born in 1911, and was 42 when I was born.
Science. I was not cut out to go into science, though I am credited in one of his scientific papers in the smallest footnote type size imaginable as one of the lab technicians associated with an experiment. Seventeen years old, I counted little orange thingamabobs in a petri dish.
Identity. If we arbitrarily consider being 25 as an age where you begin to act like a true adult, my father had to wait until he was 67 to begin to find out who I really was. And to some extent it went the other way, too. The man I was beginning to know when I was 25 years old was an older man, a senior citizen, a retired research scientist.
Initially, then, I didn’t see myself in him. We were separated by age, profession, and the social definition of masculinity. But the older I get, and the larger the number of years that separate me from direct contact with him – he died in 2001 at age 90 – eerily, the closer I feel to him. Not closer in the sense of a changed understanding of our relationship, but in the unexpected similarities – positive and negative – of our way of thinking and interacting with others.
Common interests are one thing. Increasingly feeling the presence of a man who has been dead for more than 15 years is another.