Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I am my father ...

I am my father.

I was reading the paper, saw a comic which struck a cord and cut it out to put on someone’s desk. My father used to do that. I didn’t get it, now I do.

I often sleep on my side, with my eyes cupped in the arch between thumb and index finger. My father did that – and I always thought it strange.

My father, the man who raised me – not the source of seed which created me – imparted to me traits which were uniquely his.

This fine man has been gone twenty years. During his life we fought, we argued, he listened and challenged. I did not understand until there was a glimmer of light. I thought I could do and say nothing right. I thought myself the fool, but knew it was not so – so fought back, and fought back hard. Hard enough, at times, to hurt him.

He trusted me with his files, the confidential documents of his business and clients. I did not see it at the time. I did not understand it. But he trusted me not to say, not reveal, and to do things right without the need of oversight. My dad was not one to trust. He kept an eye on everything, and now that I am the age I remember him being that way, I find myself being that way.

There was the day when the glimmer came. That touch of light in the darkness.

By then we were working together. Dad had made no secrete of the fact that he had not wanted me there, but his partner had hired me – either without consulting him, or over his objection. The night before, we had had a heated debate over something work related. I had come into the main office for something or other and was heading to his office.

As I approached the door, I could hear he was with a client, and that the topic was the same as we had debated just the night before. It would be improper to just enter. Besides, I was curious as to what was being said.

You se, I was hearing just the arguments I had put forward, the ones my father had so strongly denounced. I was hearing words not unlike those I had said. In some instances just the positions, in the exact words, I had used – and which my dad had tried to make me believe were the words of a fool.

I heard those words, those selfsame words, my ideas and viewpoint attached to my father’s voice. And the dawn began to break, as when the sun slowly rises above the horizon. Not being, by nature, a morning person, I had been slow to see – slow to appreciate – the learning I was being given. Even today, so many decades later, I am still watch that sun rise.

My grandfather was a Talmudic scholar who only practiced the craft when he was awaiting death. By nature, to learn the Talmud one must debate, argue, take the other side and present a good, fact based, argument. To debate a fool is deemed a waste of time. The fool makes analogies which are not pertinent, not relevant, not rational – and does not know it; but, rather, will dig in their heels and stay the course regardless of the facts or consequences.

My grandfather was not a fool. Nor did he raise one to be my father. The Talmudic method is Socratic; but in a manner pragmatic and lacking in the philosophical. It is a way to determine the practical, that which is to be used in the daily routine of life. It has application. My father’s arguments were exercises in the applications of facts to daily life and the work environment.

Like the great Talmudic scholars of old, dad would change his beliefs and positions on issues to conform to that which made sense and had long term application. Now I dream of having children who, in time, find they are like my dad. He was not, as far as I know, or can tell, like his dad. But I didn’t get to know my grandfather that well – he became ill when I was very young. When he died, I was still in my period of major changes – dramatic changes which separate me from those of the ancestral blood I now find myself tracing.

Even there, my dad knew. He kept the records, opened the doors accessible to him, and gave me the skills which would serve to make the journey possible.

May the forces that be, be willing to grant it so, be willing to make it true, I am my father.

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