I Am My Father's Son
Dedicated to my father, Billy Joe Rushing
Born September 20th 1930
and still going 80 years later.
I am my father's son..... The first time I heard this idiom it washed over me like an ocean wave on a rocky seashore.
Seemingly unaffected by the power of the wave, the huge rocky outcrops stand firm in their place, hard and rough. With time and exposure they are worn down, smooth and silky to the touch. In time, you can walk upon their warm surface bare footed, bringing you comfort instead of injury.
At first, I was unaffected by this pointed sentiment. For I did not see myself as my father's son. I find that I take after my mother in most things. It has been said of me that I am my mother's son. As a result, I admired the idiom but did not adopt it as my own.
Yet like the ocean waves that comes back again and again, I often found myself revisited by this phrase. With each visitation it would tackle me, tumbling me over and over. It's meaning washing over me soaking my whole being. Relentlessly reminding me, I am my father's son.
The older I get, the better I understand my father. In my youth I ran from him. Vowing to be better then him. Determined not be like him. But soon I had a wife and a son, then a daughter, then three daughters, and another son. Just like my father, I had a five children, three girls and two boys. There it was, whispering in my ears. I am my father's son.
The need to provide for this family began to weigh heavily upon my shoulders. I would work long hours and come home cranky. Often I would bark and be quick to anger. Sending children scattering to all corners of the house to avoid my short tempter. I would hide away and get lost in my own activities and thoughts. Present, yet not engaged. I am my father's son.
My dad loved to play baseball and taught me how to catch, hit and throw. It was one of the ways we spent time together. He was such a goof. He made baseball fun. Actually, he made everything fun. Whether it was a church picnic or watching the Dukes of Hazard. He would add the extra excitement that made you want to be there. When teaching me to catch he would wind up his arm really fast like a fan, then throw the ball like a bullet straight at me. The winding up was over exaggerated as part of the fun. He would say, "If you don't catch it, it will hit your nose," or " I'm going to hit your belly button, you better catch it!" Indeed, it was true. He was that good of a shot. I quickly learned how to catch.
Playing catch always became a drive down memory lane. Dad would tell me of his youth and how he played ball with his brothers. He loves to tell stories even today. Long drives are always made short by his musings. Stories in which he was always the hero. I love his stories. I could listen to them all day. Stories about his younger brother Elbe who was the best pitcher around. In fact, he had a chance to go pro, but was not able to because his father needed him home on the farm. Of course, my dad was the best catcher around. He was so good he was able to reach up and grab the ball, even before the batter could swing the bat. To hear my dad tell it, you would think the two of them were the whole team. There was no need for anyone else. He tells these stories with a sparkle in his eye and smile on his face. It is a joy to me to hear him reminisce.
It's funny, I now realize that I enjoyed baseball for his sake. As an adult, baseball is not one of my interests. History, music, literature and, philosophy, seem to be where I go with my children. I know what your thinking. For suddenly I am thinking the same thing. How boring! Baseball would be more fun. Indeed...... I admit, there are times in which I say, "I wish I were my father's son." Unfortunately, in this way my father and I are miles apart. He can't sing or play an instrument, can't read very well for he has severe dyslexia, a learning disability the flips numbers and letters around. He shuns away from public speaking and is not a deep thinker, yet he is more sensitive to others then I am. For the most part he is everything I am not. Yet, when I am strolling down Florida's garden trails or national parks with my children in tow, or driving home from a concert or waiting in the car with the kids while Diane does her shopping. I find myself driving down memory lane sharing a piece of my life with my children in stories where I am the hero. There I find myself thinking with humble pride, I am my father's son.
His love for story telling has given birth to mine. Where he was unable to put his stories to print, I am able. I wish to make up for his deficit. It is his love of life that has given birth to mine. For his stories are locked away in my memory. Despite the fact that he can not write, his whole life has been written upon the parchment of my heart. Ironically, I find that I strive to be more like him. Embracing who he is, and in the processes, discovering who I am.
My father has grown wiser and more tempered with age. He is not the man today that he was in my youth. I have watch the process of maturity work its magic in his life, just as it has in mine. I admire his simplicity and his ability to go with the flow. He does not seem to get as worked up emotionally as I do. He is faster to forgive and sees things that I can't. I admire his strength. Today, I look back at the foolishness of my youth and shake my head in regret. For I was stubborn and arrogant. I was sure I was better than him. Now, I wish I could compare to him.
The sharp, rough, and unpleasant memories that once caused me pain and embarrassment, driving my desire to be someone more accomplished, are now smooth and silky. A sources of reassurance, bringing comfort to my life's journey. Warming my feet as I walk.
I am my father's son!
My Father is now in the arms of my savior. He died Thursday 3/31/2011 around 11:30 PM. He did not see his 81st birthday. I was proud of him when I wrote this, and I am prouder still in his death.
I am still my fathers Son!