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all content 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
Suburban Island

A Visit to a Grandfather
Sunday, Jun. 20, 2004, 9:43 p.m.

QUESTION: What were we arguing about?

WHAT I LEARNED: Kids can transcend politics and get to the stories.

My dad and I don't see eye to eye many times and yet we are very alike. His politics, his religious perspective, his view of life are all quite different than mine. His tenacity, his determination, and his ability to tell a good story are things we have in common. When we talk, our discussion could easily turn into an argument, a dissertation, or an entertaining tale at any juncture. This can be tiring, frustrating, and rewarding in turns. For all of the times we butt heads, argue with no chance of changing each other's minds, or disagree on things unnecessarily, my father is one of the most interesting people that I know and I wouldn't choice another person in his place for the world.

My father has led an interesting life. He was born in 1926. He lived through the Great Depression, served in WWII, got his college degree under the GI Bill upon his return, learned the art of debate at a Jesuit college, worked in a family business (an iced cream company), walked into a streetlamp when he first saw my mother, got married and had began raising 2 kids with my mom in the fifties, was offered a job with the FBI but decided he wanted to be an economist instead, bought a little house in the suburbs, worked 2 jobs for awhile, once had a used classic navy blue Lincoln Continental, started a graduate degree, put his nose to the grindstone at his job until his retirement often under difficult circumstances, had a sextuple bypass surgery about 10 years ago, and keeps on ticking. He now leads a full life as a retiree - reading, doing yard work, keeping up with all the many chores that are required to keep a household in order together with my mom. One thing they have taught me is how much work a home is if you are really doing all the things you should be doing around the house - which I am not. At one point my dad signed up for a hitch to be a census taker because he wanted to have a job after retirement. He also wrote a book on working with government statistics and consulted for a while. He was always one for an energetic undertaking, a little adventure, and the potential for a good story. There's a lot to admire in my dad.

This weekend, my son and I decided to travel the hour plus drive to see my dad for Father's Day. I have learned not to call until we hit the road. Otherwise, we will be told not to come at that particular time for a number of varying reasons which basically boil down to a need for my parents to feel ultra-prepared for company. My parent's home is neater than mine, we didn't come for food, we'll bring our own soda, we won't come if we are contagious with the flu or cold. Case closed. We have learned that the road of planning is a road that leads to no visits so we just hit the road and call en route. This indeed, impetuous as it seems, might incur a few moments of parental annoyance but in the end it seems to work the best for everyone.

We did have a nice visit with my dad this weekend; sitting outside on the deck, talking and giving him his Dad's Day gift were all fun and relaxing moments with him. He only told my son about his political views once and that was when I went to talk to my mom. I have to give the guy some leeway I suppose since he can make no progress with me. My son really enjoys these times with his grandfather. I want to make sure he has more of them this summer - planned or unplanned as the case may be.

It is true that my dad tries to influence my kid's politics, religious perceptions, and everything in between but my kid is pretty good at filtering this stuff and getting to the history, the stories, the real ideas and thoughts of the man who is his grandfather. For a kid who flunked 9th grade gym, sometimes my son is a pretty smart cookie.

image by Norman Rockwell

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