I never knew how much these things meant to my dad until the very thing he never wanted to happen began to happen. My dad's brain started to slip a few cogs.
And then my normally very quiet father began to repeat himself. He said the same things over and over so many times that all the muscles in my body from baby toe to furrowed brown tensed in sheer boredom and frustration.
The story of him being a sickly child, sharing his home with his grandfather who considered my dad his favourite. Great grandfather would hold my dad on his knee and say- "Abey, Abey. What will ever become of you. You'll never make a farmer. Perhaps a fiddle player".
I'm not kidding when I tell you now that I've heard this story so many times that I want to break out into angry, resentful, guilt-fueled hives each and every time I sense that dad is about to offer it to me again as though it were the first time the tale had been told.
But dad came from a line of sick people. His dad wasn't well and died as a poor farmer just into his fifties. My dad grew up with the impression that once you get married and begin to procreate, you heap upon yourself and your loved ones pain and agony in the forms of inescapable illness and poverty.
So when his eyes light up and he begins anew... "I was a sickly child"... I have some idea of the depth of his tale. He beat the odds. His grandfather's gravestone sits on the very land that my father farmed up to the day he sold the farm and moved to town. Every fall, dad would navigate his massive machinery around the prairie gravesite and imagine his grandpa sit up tall in that grave to behold tiny Abey armed with not a fiddle, but a ginormous New Holland combine. And my dad's grin matches the sense of accomplishment he must have felt.
Although I know and appreciate this as my dad's story and part of his legacy, this painful dance of loving and sitting with my elderly father still finds me as a horribly flawed, irritable human being.
I understand that my dad never had the opportunities for learning that my children now have. And that its his one regret in life to have never "finished" a formal education. But it truly doesn't stop my rage when he asks me more than a zillion times what my oldest daughter (I can't remember her name, he says) is doing? What are her goals? Is she taking university courses? What is her ultimate goal? I don't act out my anger by throwing plates or walkers or dentures. I manage to suppress my rage. And it troubles me that although I know he can't help it, and that he asks as a reflection of his own hopes and dreams, I just really want him to stop asking.
None of this is storybook, but it is my truth.
There's just enough self-awareness in me to know that his preoccupation with education hits my nerve of never having finished my own degree, and of never having a true sense of direction for my calling in this life. It feels like an accusation. Even though I know its not.
My dad is a good man. A kind man. A man with a heap of integrity. It feels awful to be mad at him for being repetitive. It feels selfish and unkind.