I love my dad. I really do. Not just because he’s a great dad, but because he is also a genuinely kind person and he makes me laugh. When he was in town for a visit recently, Andy and I showed him some of our favorite places to hang out in Milwaukee. We had dinner at Water Buffalo then headed to The Wicked Hop for drinks. But it wasn’t the food or the drinks that made this evening enjoyable. It was the stories. But I am pretty sure that the drinks helped bring out the stories.
I have a huge regret in my life. I regret not talking to my mom more when I had the chance. I’m not referring to frequency, because I was always in touch with my parents, even when I lived 12 hours away from them. I mean talking. Real, meaningful conversations. My Mom was your classic Irishwoman–private, proud and stubborn. Which means that she kept many things to herself and rarely offered information without being asked. So to learn more about my mom I would have had to ask, and for whatever reason that was never comfortable for me. When she passed away in 2002, I lost any opportunity I had to ask her questions. And now I have so many–about my family, her opinions, her scholarly work, her thoughts.
I made a promise to myself that I would not have the same regret with my dad, so I ask him a lot of questions. Questions about our family, about his upbringing, about his scholarly work, about his thoughts and feelings on things. My dad contributed to a budding field of study when it was just gaining currency in academia, and now I read his work in my classes. I consider it a gift to share an interest with my father and to discuss my studies with him. But popular culture is not just my dad’s interest, it was my mom’s as well. I asked him about her work that night. Her dissertation was on All in the Family, a groundbreaking program in television history. What I wouldn’t give to talk to her about it now as I write my thesis. My research is also related to television. Sometimes when I am stressed out from school I wish I could call her because I know she would understand how I feel. After all, she had a 6 year-old kid and was pregnant with me when she completed her PhD.
I love to hear my dad tell stories about my family, especially my mom. That particular night his play by play account of his lunch in the city (Chicago) with my ninety something year-old great Aunt Tillie had me laughing until it hurt. My dad swears that not a thing in her house has changed since 1950. If you take her to lunch she will insist you come back to her place for dessert. If she has a pie to serve and four guests, you will get 1/4 of the pie. And yes, she still drives. In the city.
The stories got better as the night went on and the drinks added up. I think that part of growing up is learning to recognize your parents as people. There are probably many things you don’t know about your parents and they are unlikely to tell you those things unless you ask. In many ways having adult conversations with our parents is like getting to know an entirely different person. And it’s great.
So anyway here’s to Mike, my dad and an amazing person.