It's my dad's 80th birthday tomorrow and I'm reeling at the thought of not being there. I didn't plan far enough in advance and am booked to photograph a wedding here in the bay area so I won't be able to be with him. I'll be there in a couple of weeks anyway for our annual family vacation (something I never miss!), but am still sad not to celebrate on his actual birthday.
As I drove out into West Marin today I was thinking about my dad and realized he taught me one of the most important and memorable lessons in my life. It wasn't like my dad and I had this great and deep relationship when I was young. In fact it was more like oil and water - both liquids, but not very interactive. We are very much alike in that we are strong-willed, but sometimes that was a big struggle for us. I also got his hair and skin, so that part of being like him was cool.
The reason I mention that we didn't have a deep relationship is because it wasn't like he sat me down to tell me about this great and important lesson. It was the seventies. You didn't have conversations like that with your parents. At least not in the midwest. It was more like a command when all six of us (yes, I have five siblings) were whining about being bored. He would yell something to the effect of "You're not allowed to be bored! You kids, you. For cryin' out loud! There's so much you can be doing! Go out and find something to do!" I'm sure I'm not the only kid who heard something like that from their parents, but when I think about being told specifically "not to be bored" I realized it stuck with me my entire life.
I'm never bored. I know. Who as an adult is these days? But really, so many of us go practically blind scanning Facebook, we watch hours of TV which most of the time doesn't have any value and the most scary thing that comes out of boredom, I think, is conflict. All you have to do is watch Jerry Springer or read crazy comments online and know that a lot of people need to find some better things to do.
I'm proud of the fact that I love to read. I love to sit on the couch and chat with my husband about music or current events. I love that I can go to a restaurant by myself and sit quietly enjoying a meal. I love a solo hike where I can contemplate my life and the lives of those I love.
I think I owe it all to my dad who never allowed us to be bored. So thanks, Dad and happy 80th birthday. I'm so glad that as an adult we have learned to emulsify our relationship. I may never be bored, but I can miss my father on his 80th birthday.
My dad, Ed toasting myself and my new husband - June 3rd, 2008