I visited with my family last weekend out of town, and we brought Dad home from the nursing home for a dual celebration of his birthday and Father's Day. He's been living in the assisted care facility for a year as he struggles with Parkinson's Disease.
I've never been very good at writing about my personal relationships, as I'm a private person at heart. Yeah, it's kind of odd to be an editor and writer whose job, basically, is telling other people's stories while not telling my own.
I really admire writers like C.A. MacConnell, who tells a touching story about her mother in this week's Living Out Loud column (here), or Danny Cross, who offered an ode to his father in last week's LOL column ("Thanks Pops," issue of June 11). Their personal writing sucks you in and reveals a sliver of insight into the human experience.
Larry Gross has a real knack for that kind of personal writing
And yet so much of what I am and what I've become is due to my parents, as I suppose is the case with most people. Seeing my father this weekend in his diminished state doesn't diminish his influence on me.
First off, I'm the oldest of seven children. I'm named for my father and grandfather, though I'm called John like my grandfather while my father goes by Jack. I named my son John and call him Jack.
So right away I'm connected to my father in ways my siblings aren't.
We all struggled to live up to our parents' expectations and Dad's stern discipline, and when we were angry or rebellious we all swore we'd never be like him. Yet I've come to realize that I'm almost exactly like him.
One of the family's favorite jokes about me is that when someone tells us we're just like Dad I'm the only one who takes it as a compliment. (They also kid me that when Mom tells each of us we're her favorite I'm the only one who believes her.)
I find myself singing little snippets of songs my father used to sing to us kids, mostly to annoy us. I say his little catchphrases. I work long hours and am content to spend my free time hanging out at home.
I've also learned from Dad and tried to improve on some things, like controlling my anger and developing a hobby. I'm still working on both of those.
Dad's physical state is fairly poor, but it's amazing sometimes what the human body can do on its own. He might well live for years if he avoids catching a bad cold or falling.
He doesn't have much to say these days, although I hear that he occasionally has a lucid conversation with a visitor. I'm not home often enough to experience one.
I hope he knows that his wife, children, grandchildren and inlaws enjoyed their Father's Day with him. I hope he knows we love him.
Contact John Fox: firstname.lastname@example.org