I BELIEVE THAT WITH AGE COMES UNDERSTANDING.
Back in the fifties and early sixties, in our little neighborhood named Flower Hill, I believed it was my father’s mission to drive me nuts. I didn’t understand exactly what planet he was coming from or he mine. In my young mind he barely tolerated me. My older sister Mary, a great kid, did as she was told. My twin brother Mike did what he wanted but kept it mouth shut. I was the dear, sweet child that wanted to know the “why” of everything. His answer to almost everything I wanted to do was No. When I asked
“why” his answer was, because I said so. My constant asking drove my Dad wild.
Dad, or Pop as he was later called, was from the old school. Although he was raised in a loving family the four children did, as they were told, no questions.
In our eyes Pop was perfect. He never made a mistake. Pop could do almost everything, and do it well. He was intelligent, very successful in business, friendly, and the perfect neighbor. But Pop was a hard taskmaster. His unrelenting lectures on every theme from table manners to ice-skating were exhausting. He was very quick to judge, hard to please and had an angry temper. When Elvis first appeared of the Ed Sullivan Show, Pop flipped the TV off in the middle of his appearance. His only comment, Elvis gyrating was rude, not appropriate for girls. Yep, in my mind, Pop was archaic, light-years away from reality.
Throughout my life, even when I graduated from college, Pop never praised. “Good job”, “I’m proud of you” or “I love you” were not part of his vocabulary. Mom was our lifesaver, always telling us how much she loved us and how proud she was of our accomplishments. But there was something innate in me that needed to hear some form of affirmation from Pop. I needed some form of praise more than ever after Mom died in 1966.
Over the next twenty years there were endless visits home, countless phone calls and trips by Mary and Pop to my home in Virginia. As I grew older, I would seek Pop’s guidance on everything from how to handle my terrible boss to gardening. His lectures of childhood came back to me with amazing clarity as events of my adult life unfolded.
On what was to be Pop’s last trip to Virginia, he stayed with me for a month while recovering from pneumonia. This time with Pop was an epiphany for me. For the first time in my life I began to see my Pop as a man. We talked continuously about his years growing up, his working three jobs during the war, about Mom and about us.
I asked Pop how after spending long hours working, how he endured the long commute home. His answer was simply stated. “The safety and beauty of Flower Hill and being able to provide the best for my family was worth it.”
The measure of Pop’s love in countless ways was abundant thought our lives. It just took age to understand.
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