Growing up, Mom was “the Law” and Dad was “the Bank.” I learned early that I needed to play by her rules, which more often than not, proved challenging. And I needed to come up with a rotating host of compelling reasons for him to give me cash until I would be old enough to earn my own.
My relationship with Dad has always been easy. Make no demands. Be pleasant. Don’t wear red nail polish (you’ll look like a hooker). Bake him his favorite “Pillsbury Easy One Egg Cake” on Friday. In exchange for following these simple rules I could expect a weekly stipend large enough to cover a new outfit, a tank full of gas and a rack of wine coolers.
This relationship has always served us both well provided my expectations remained low. Food and shelter, he had it covered, but spending holidays together? Now you are pushing it.
Last night I overheard my daughter asking Papa if he would come to Easter dinner with us today. He told her no. He can’t walk. She explained that we wouldn’t be walking there, we would be driving. Even her nine year old charm and pleading big brown eyes couldn’t sway him. She still doesn’t understand the rules.
I recollect years of holidays we spent without him, not because he couldn’t be there, but because he opted out. He simply wasn’t interested. How do you explain this behavior to a nine year old? I write it off as He’s old. He’s crabby. He’s tired. I truly don’t care. Is it horrible that I am so jaded that it doesn’t even register with me that it is not only unusual, it is downright rude? Are my kids going to grow up coated in Teflon like I am because of his influence? In a way I hope so. It seems to serve me pretty well.
The lesson I learned from him was the same one we continue to learn as parents. Pick you battles. If you don’t want to eat ham with us, I don’t care. But you had better not let me catch you picking up waitresses at the pizza parlor when I get home.