Do you see this picture? Do you know what it is? THIS is what it looked like the other night after a song came on the radio with Sammy Hagar singing. I asked my daughter who it was and she responded “The Red Rocker, Daddy.” Today, she asked for ZZ Top by name and wanted “that haw, haw, haw, haw song” which meant that she wanted to listen to La Grange. Other days, it is “Hey Daddy, I want to listen to hey ho, let’s go” and we are of to the races with The Ramones.
Sure, she still listens to little kid music. She loves Veggie Tales and The Backyardigans. She sings the songs that she learns at preschool and vacation bible school, so don’t think that I lock her in a vault with a radio set to the local classic rock station with the tuning knob removed. It’s just that she listens to what we listen to in the car and around the house and she picks up what she likes and often asks for it by name. I’ll never forget the day that I had to add Crazy Train to one of her programmable toys. There is nothing quite as funny as a Fisher-Price toy with all its bright colors blasting Ozzy as a three year old listens and shows off her “sweet rock moves” for everyone.
When we first had her, I was scared to death. The only experience that I had ever had around kids was with the teenagers with whom I had worked for two decades. She was so frail and helpless and I was just sure that I would never figure out how to be a good parent. Now, we’ve just had our second child (and the primary reason for the big gap since my last post) and I have had a little more one-on-one time with my daughter while my wife has been taking care of business with our infant son. I’ve also taken some time to reflect and I think that I’ve found the one thing of which I am most proud regarding being a father. I spend time with my daughter and I teach her about the things that I enjoy and feel are important.
I know that she has the rest of her life to develop her own interests and passions. I am also aware that she’ll eventually learn about stuff that I find appalling from her peers at school or in everyday life. There will be boys that I find stupid, lazy, and worthless that show up to try and take her out on dates. There may even be a few boys that me and my friends have to bury in Pisgah National Forest because they have overstepped their bounds with my daughter. However the future unfolds, I know that she will spend a lifetime learning things outside of my areas of influence, interest, and expertise.
My job is to do the best that I can to teach her about the things that I know. I hope that when she is my age that she will be able to say that she knows all about what I like and what I’ve taught her. That way, when I’m not around anymore, she will have a good idea of what I would say to her when she really needs some help. More importantly, I hope that she will know who I really am, so that she will be able to remember who I really was.
My dad took the time to teach me how to work and for that I will forever be grateful. Unfortunately, he always kind of figured that we would travel when he got older and spend our fun time together then. It turns out that he had a leaky heart valve that caused some mini-strokes in the early nineties and I found myself running the family business in my early twenties while he recovered. About the time that he was more or less recovered from the strokes, we lost the family business to a bad business deal and a massive flood and he had to go on anti-depressants for a while. By the time he got back to normal from that, he had lost his hearing from being around engines, racing, and machine shops for decades. Even with hearing aids, it is almost impossible for us to have a conversation lasting more than about three sentences. It annoys him that he can’t hear and talking rings in his head because of the hearing aids, so I just get a lot of smiles and nods.
When I think of my dad, I always see him as he was in the nineteen seventies and eighties because that was when he could still communicate very well. I love that guy, but I wish that I knew more about his life and his interests; who he was and what he did before he was my father. I used to be able to glean a lot of that stuff from his close friends, but they are all dying off and I’m only left with sanitized stories that the family will tell. Pretty soon, he and all of his peers will be gone and all I’ll have left are the memories.
I love Ernest Greene and I thank him for everything that he has given me over the years and I even named my son after him. He is and was a great man who has seen and done some amazing things. I just wish that I knew more about those things and what they were. Hopefully, I will do a better job of conveying my life to my kids.