Monday, June 16, 2014

Father's Day

My dad doesn't  usually allow me to post  pictures of him, but you can't see much of his face, and he looks a bit different now, anyway, so he's not really recognizable.. This was  in the brief interval when I had hair. I was probably four months old in this picture.  I had brownish hair that came in not too long  after I was born. Then it fell out and I became a practically bald towhead.  My hair got curly when I was about four, and would still be curly were it not for the marvelous invention known as the hair straightener. The blondness remains courtesy of of Sun-In.

It's not technically Father's Day where I am, but since I haven't yet gone to be, I'm considering that I met the deadline on this blog. That's not necessarily following the rules of the real world, but this blog is  a part of The Land of Alexis and operates according to my own set of statutes.

Father's Day here was somewhat overshadowed by my second commencement ceremony, during which my PseudoAunt collapsed from dehydration and  other things that plague expectant mothers who are sick all the time.  Fortunately, my dad, who was to be one of the performers, had finished his performances, because he witnessed the incident of PseudoAunt collapsing and immediately left to go to her aid.

My dad was on the program for my graduation, as we were asked to perform the Paganini Cantabile for Violin and Guitar, which we had performed earlier for my senior recital. It was an honor in so many ways to have been chosen to perform this. It meant, for one thing, both that the department chair approved of the selection as a recital piece and that he thought that we played it well enough that no substitutions in performers was necessary. I have more to say about the commencement ceremony, but I'll save it for later. Today I wish to talk more about my dad.

In functional families, when children are small they tend to see their fathers as superheroes of sorts -- as men who can rescue damsels in distress, accomplish the un-accomplishable, perform superhuman feats, and, in general, do just about anything. As children grow older, and especially as adolescence approaches, children begin to recognize their fathers' foibles and to see them as  the mere mortals they really are. I went through this phase, and probably did so with a greater vengeance than did the average adolescent. (My dad describes my transformation as having gone from a sweet if slightly wild , driven, and prone-to-voice-whatever-thought-popped into-my-head  little girl into a feral cat practically overnight.)  In my hormone-warped little mind, I'm not sure my dad was even quite up to the level of ordinary man once I reached this stage. I saw him more as someone who probably couldn't have correctly tied his shoes without my input. Everything he said and did in front of my friends was mortifying to me. Any decision he made concerning what I could or could not do was unfair. Jesus Christ could have transformed himself into my father's physical body, yet still I would have found fault with most of his words and actions. The poor man couldn't win no matter what he did as far as I was concerned.

Then nature took its course, and I emerged from that most difficult stage of my adolescence. (In a technical and hormonal sense, I'm still an adolescent, but I'm mentally beyond much of the worst of it.) I don't exactly know how to describe the whole adolescence ordeal other than say that it's like a mega-roller coaster ride except that  whoever designed the roller coaster somehow found a way to include all the curves, plunges, and other typical features, yet, paradoxically, to engineer them in such a way as to make them absolutely no fun at all.  I'm not saying teenagers have no fun in their lives. I had fun, and I believe the majority do. Still, we have our fun in spite of the malevolent roller coaster of adolescence and not because of it,

My emergence from the feral cat phase was not as instantaneous as had been the transformation that sent me there. Still, I gradually began to see my dad less as I saw him in my adolescence and more the way the rest of the world sees him, except with a greatly magnified view. The man is nothing short of brilliant.  He could have pursued and branch of medicine he desired, yet for some reason settled on oncology and hematology. This requires him to spend an inordinate amount of time staring through the lens of a microscope,or staring at those microscopic images transmitted to a computer monitor.

As a younger teen, I just thought this was plain weird.  My dad could have delivered babies for a living. He could have set broken bones. He could have transplanted hearts from one body to another. He chose instead to stare at microscopic images of irregular blood cells all day. I found it unbelievably odd when, in the midst of some other activity, whether it was a game of tennis, watching a movie with the family, or [I'm jut guessing on this one; I have no actual clue as to what goes on behind closed doors] performing conjugal duties, something would occur to him, and he would immediately have to stop whatever he had been doing either to make a note into a computer, to text something into his cell phone, or to call someone who was working with him.

Now, as I'm approaching medical school myself and am very seriously considering my father's branch of the field, I have a little better understanding. Pertinent thoughts come when they come, and not just at convenient times. It's a matter of recording them when they occur or losing them forever.

The consensus among family members has always been that I was the miniature Erin and that my brother was the miniature John. As we've grown older, this is quite obviously less true than was thought. Even my own mother, when she observes the unorthodox [in her mind] way I place the silverware from the dishwasher to the drawer, mutters, "You're just like your father."

The original plan was that I would go to law school. I was so argumentative by nature that it was assumed that law school would be a perfect fit. It was my dad who looked at grades and test scores and said, "You know, you could do law school, and you might do very well in that field, but it bothers me to see a person waste the math and science ability you have on a career in law. You might want to consider medicine." The thought of becoming a doctor had never even occurred to me, but the more I considered it, the more sense it made. I took the MCAT, and the rest is history, or at least my short-term history with medicine as far as it goes.

Even through my feral cat phase, my father has always understood me, often even better than I understood myself.  He's been there through difficult papers with seemingly nonsensical topics, sometimes even offering me half a bottle of Guinness to stimulate the creative thought processes. He's been with me through most nights I've spent in  hospitals. He's come to my defense against a school district which tried to place me partly at fault for an assault that occurred. He's fairly mediated quarrels between my brother and me, and even has quietly advocated for me in situations when my mother was unfair, breaking that unwritten law that parents should always stick together.

He has rescued kittens who couldn't climb down from trees or off of roofs. Last week he helped to calm a little boy who was so upset that he was throwing up when the boy was recently removed from a foster home in our neighborhood. When I was in an in-patient treatment facility for PTSD, he visited frequently and was nice to everyone including the odd girl who had a strange  fetish when it came to everyone's fathers. He paid for a prom dress for one of my brother's prom dates whose father had recently lost his job. He once caught a  foul ball that was directly over an elderly woman's head at a minor league professional baseball game, then gave the ball to the woman's grandchild. He paid for my cousin's ex-wife's divorce when she made a very stupid decision in marrying  at the age of eighteen without knowing my cousin well, and suffered domestic violence as a result. He ran after and caught a little boy who had broken free from his aging grandfather and was running through a parking lot.

I could go on all day and still not cover my dad's good deeds both on my behalf and on behalf of others, but I think I've made my point. He's one of the good guys, and he really is almost superhuman.

Several years ago my dad and I discussed placing a bet as to at what age I would be able to outrun him.   The age I decided on was twenty-one. He wanted to go for twenty. I'm nineteen now, but we decided anyway to race today after we'd changed into casual clothing following my commencement ceremony,  I ran my fastest but was unable to outrun him, although it was closer than our races had ever been before. Afterwards, the thought occurred to me that if we continue to race, someday I'm going to win. The time will come when I am stronger and faster, or at least faster.  There was a day when I looked forward to being able to beat my dad in a race, but I'm beginning to feel different.  I don't want things to change. I want him to remain my young and strong superhero daddy forever.

Why do things have to change, and why must people, especially fathers,  grow older?

Happy Father's Day, Daddy. In my mind you'll always be the young and strong superhero that you are today.


  1. What a lovely post, Alexis. You and your dad are so lucky to have each other. When I was your age, my dad and I were usually at odds. There are things about my dad that I do admire and I recognize now why he is the way he is. But I've always been a little envious of those who have good relationships with their dads…

    I hope you two enjoy many more healthy years together.

  2. I envy you your wonderful relationship with your father. Cherish it. Build on it.I was determined as a parent ,to create a relationship such that I could be friends with my children when they were adults. This I did not have,but saw in my extended(nonMormon) became my lodestar.