I am still not yet as old as my father was when he became my father. When I was born, he was 52. (My birth certificate says he was 37. I don’t suppose he realized exactly what he was doing to my long-term attempts to document my genealogy.) Therefore, I have never really had any idea what my father was like when I was any particular age up till now, which strikes me as pretty strange. In fact, I won’t begin to have a clue for another five years, since my earliest memories go back to when I was three years old or so.
Oh, sure, I have some stories about him. Between the things he said and what I’ve been able to glean from genealogical research, I pretty much know where he was and what he did during his first half-century. Of course, that’s only part of the story of anyone, the big bullet points on the Powerpoint, so to speak. There’s how they act, all the little things, what they care about, how they see the world, quirks and habits that one has to see to internalize. As far as having an example to live by as I meander through adulthood, what I have is how he finished his work career, retired, and got old. I don’t have the example of how he got there, and that’s the part of the journey I’ve been in the middle of for over thirty years now. I’ve been driving blind through adulthood, except for what I’ve seen in books, TV, and movies.
How much could his example have helped me? I don’t really know. I’m a lot different from him. No kids, no wives, white collar, “alternative lifestyle,” college degree, music (not to mention the long hair and beard)… there’s a lot I think we didn’t “get” about each other in the years we had together. Yet, I think about some of the things I do that somehow are similar to what he did. My dad stuck it out at the same employer for 43 years; I’m up to 26 1/2 years with mine. Sometimes I catch myself walking in a slightly loopy sort of way that makes me picture him doing that decades ago. There’s the love of Tigers baseball that I know we shared. For all I know, even though my bullet points are radically different, in many subtle ways I’m just like he was.
I’ll never know. It doesn’t really matter, I guess. I mean, I’m here and I’m doing OK just making things up as I go. It’s just an interesting point for me to ponder.