Heart and Soul

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My Father's Child

Shortly after my mother’s passing in 1999, I started including a new line in my writer’s biography that I still retain today. It reads, "Christina will always be her mother’s daughter."

That statement is important to me because despite our many differences, my mom and I were close and, quite honestly, I miss her now that she’s not around to drive me crazy anymore. It was also my hope that those simple six words might serve as a comforting reminder to all readers that no matter how permanently death separates us from those we love, it cannot change the reality of people’s individual significance in our lives.

For instance, as I continue to age "gracefully," I quite often find myself replicating many of my mother’s mannerisms, phrases, and god help me, her Irish sense of humor. There are even moments when I purposefully use some of her favored sayings as a quietly reverential way of keeping her spirit alive.

I’ve also recognized that some of the professional traits that have furthered my career are directly attributable to my mother. Although she never earned more than a high school diploma, mom capably worked her way through the secretarial ranks into management, eventually becoming one of the first women executives of a prominent Western New York Bank. Her work ethic, coupled with her tough as nails can-do attitude, still provide an excellent professional template for any businessperson to follow.

And so it was, for all those reasons and more, that six years ago I officially adopted my "mother’s daughter" bio line.

Yet several months ago I was shocked by the discovery that while I may always be my mother’s daughter, I am, by nature, my father’s child.

This bit of wisdom came as a surprise to me, in part, because I really haven’t had much contact with my dad in more than twenty years. He and my mother divorced in the early 1980’s. From that point on, my father pretty much went his own way, using an occasional card or phone call to stay in touch.

However since my mother’s passing, my father has made somewhat of a return appearance into my life and this past January he requested that I visit him in Florida where he now lives. Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed.
During our three days together I began to realize the many similarities between my father and myself. Not traits that I mimic or mannerisms I have adopted, but talents and innate sensibilities that exactly match.

My father is a writer, a fact I never knew until he began sharing his poems and stories that he’d crafted over the years. The interior of the condo he now calls home reveals my father’s flair for decorating, a talent of his that I recall from my youth, and one for which I am also often given credit. My father is a lover of music, regularly playing a wide range of performers on his stereo , just as I do in my own home.

In between our Florida sightseeing trips and shared meals my father told me a number of stories about his youth and mine, in much the same way that I tell my children tales of our shared pasts. That particular similarity became even more startling when I recognized that my father and I are inveterate storytellers, right down to the common words and phrases we use. In browsing through his stacks of books and videotapes I discovered that my father and I share exact tastes in literature and movies. We also have the same likes and dislikes in food and drink. Most essentially, we are both ice cream and chocolate addicts….milk chocolate only, thank-you very much.

Since returning from my mid winter visit it has taken quite some time to process all that I learned about my father. It has also been somewhat disorienting to come to grips with the reality that the essence of who I am, the inner part of my being, is truly connected to my father much more than my mother. After so many years of his absence from my life, it’s been a surprising lesson revealed.

In the end though, I’m grateful that my father reached out and allowed me to learn something about who he is, which, in turn, has helped me to discover more about myself. While the experience had its fair share of challenging and even painful moments, by becoming re-acquainted with my father I've definitely formulated a stronger foundation from which to live the second half of my life.

And I have also reaffirmed the truth that despite all of my inborn talents and characteristics, I will always be my mother’s daughter.
 
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