Monday, June 18, 2012

Missing Dad

Father’s Day brings to mind memories of my Dad who passed on twelve years ago. A World War II veteran, starting his family in 1950, he parented with a firm hand. But my siblings and I never doubted his love and protection. He was a great Dad when we were little, taking us to the beach, on camp-outs, to parks and museums. But as we became teenagers, he left most of the parenting to Mom. I don’t think he could relate to our adolescent shenanigans.

During the fifties and sixties, cigarettes and cocktails were all the rage. My parents were no exception and they smoked and drank along with all their friends. Eventually they gave up the cigarettes. Mom was never a big drinker but Dad continued to indulge in his cocktails, wine, and beer, depending on his mood. I think he was self-medicating to mask the pain and trauma of his own childhood. The depression, and the loss of  his mother at a young age, must have left scares. Enlisting and going off to war at 17 surely robbed him of any remaining youthful innocents. Dad never spoke of his time in the war or of  his childhood. I think it was painful and also considered unmanly to seek help or show emotional weakness. As long as he had his liquor, he was fine.
Towards the end of his life, Dad and I renewed our father/daughter relationship that had been strained for several decades. Our love of nature and sports brought us back together. While I lived in Alaska he visited and we explored the last frontier together. During football season we played Monday morning quarterback over the phone. I miss those phone calls most of all.

My father was imperfect, short tempered, and not always as supportive as he should have been. But he was my dad, and I miss him.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Night the Lights Went Out

 I often find myself reminiscing about the simpler life we baby boomers enjoyed in our youth. We did not have all the modern conveniences, yet our lives were less complicated. When we had free time, we were really free. Free to go outside and explore nature, find the neighborhood kids and play a game, or stay in on a rainy day and play cards or board games with siblings. Young people today, whether indoors or out in the world, have their heads down with eyes glued to their iPads and smart phones, ears plugged with their iPods, rarely interacting face-to-face with anyone. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to impart on my own family the importance of living in the real (unplugged) world.

Last September San Diego and surrounding areas suddenly lost power one afternoon and news reports predicted it could be a long blackout. Not knowing how long we would be without power, we scrambled to find stores open to get ice and essentials. The freeways and roads were grid locked due to the lack of traffic lights and everyone in Southern California leaving work at exactly the same time. My husband and I gathered flashlights and candles and planned sandwiches for dinner.

The next day, after the power had been restored, I met my 24 year-old son for lunch. I know that he spends a lot of time on his computer and other electronic devices, and I asked him what he did during the outage. His reply surprised and delighted me.

“You know Mom, it was really cool. Everyone came outside.” He said. “It reminded me of the stories you tell us of when you were a kid. I was at a friends, and we brought our guitars out on the porch and all the neighbors would stop and visit as they strolled around in the moonlight. Everyone had a friendly attitude and seemed happy to be outside.”

I listened to others making this same kind of comment in the days after the blackout. People realized, if only for one night, that there is much to be gained from turning off our electronic devices and acknowledging the people around us. At least a night without electronics gave my kids a better understanding of my less complicated youth.