I read two letters from my deceased Dad yesterday on Father’s day. I had asked my brother to pass them along because he mentioned that he had found copies of them in Dad’s papers.
The first one is dated Oct 17, 1969, the second Feb 17,1970. Mark commented that he could see why my relationship with Dad was not a good one in these letters and that if he, Mark, had received them he would have found them upsetting.
Eileen read them yesterday and said they simply sounded like a worried father with a teen-age son.
I have no recollection of the letters or of the concerns Dad expresses in them. I also didn’t think of my relationship with Dad as particularly troubled. He was a good conversationalist and I often looked forward to talks with him. But he did seem sometimes to have difficultly expressing his intimate thoughts to me.
I do feel like a bit of a riddle as a personality when I think of my mother and father. Both were musicians of sorts. But I remember my childhood and young adulthood as one filled with music, books and poetry that was of interest solely to me and not my parents. I guess that makes sense.
In the letters Dad does seem to be struggling with his lack of faith in me. He seems to see me basically as wrong-headed and over influenced by a bad set of friends. I think he felt guilty about leaving me in Flint and moving the rest of the family to Columbus in 1969. I one the other hand was exhilarated at the time.
Dad could have been right about the wrong-headedness. I was about to plunge into a bad marriage. But at the same time there were things at this time of my life that remain an important part of who I am (harpsichord, a critical eye on society, a willingness to be myself despite the difficulties it produces). Some of these Dad eventually accepted but others he seem to have difficulty accepting right up until his decline due to Lewy Body Dementia.
Most of this struggle went on inside of Dad or at least it never caught my attention as an adult.
It does explain a comment one of my uncles made to Dad when I began to assume responsibility for his and Mom’s care in their old age. Dad reported (bless his heart) that his brother had commented that since Steve was doing such a fine job of taking care of them that the family was probably wrong about me or that I had changed or something like that.
Another vote of confidence from the Jenkins clan for Steve.
But in truth I haven’t looked to my family for approval for a long time.
And I don’t have any significant conscious anger at my parents around any of the issues that seemed to trouble them so much.
Somehow I learned to look to myself (and for a time my younger brother) for thoughts and direction in my life.
I certainly made mistakes but I also take responsibility for them.
I do wonder why I am so different from the rest of the people in my family. In some ways I don’t think I am that different but in many ways I seem to be. I think it’s probably a logical combination of my DNA and the chances of the influence of life’s situations and experiences.
One thing I continue to notice in my life is how confusing I myself can be to many people I meet. Not always the case, but often enough for me to notice it.
I do remember with a smile when before he died, my Dad was surprised to find out that I did the bills at my house. Dad continued to see me as the prodigal son, the undependable son, the reckless one until he gradually lost his mind. Judging from his report about my uncle this was a family perception as well. May still be.
I’m okay with it of course. In fact I often feel pretty lucky about my life. I do think that having a passion in life (music, poetry, books and art) is a lucky thing.
I recently was talking with a couple of young people who also have passions and pointed out how lucky we were. I said that when I get up in the morning I know what I am going to do each day. I figured they did too. And all of us look forward to it.