Thursday, September 15, 2005

Dinner with Dad

On occasion I have mentioned my dad on here but I have never really discussed our relationship in any depth.  I am sure I will at some point, but suffice to say there was a long period in my life where I hated my dad.  I can immediately call to mind a couple of instances where he did things that seem, even in retrospect, malicious.  Ultimately he ended up kicking me out of house and making me strive to live on my own.  To be completely fair I more than deserved it, however at the time I could not see that and there was a period of about eighteen months where we did not talk and I only spoke with my mother sparingly.

Over the past several years my relationship with him has undergone a renaissance of sorts.  As I have gotten older, and a little more mature, I think he has come to view me as an adult and thus he can relate to me in a different way.  This is not to say I do not still depend on him for help from time to time, however things have gone from where I could not be in the same house with him to being civil to being as affectionate as I have ever seen my father.  One of the developments in our renewed relationship is that we go to dinner.  This is not on a regular basis but it works out to be about once a month during the school year (my dad is a professor and lives near school during the week and then goes back home, about three hours away, on the weekends and for most of the summer) and here and there over the summer.  I have come to cherish these dinners as not only a free meal, but as a time to really connect with my dad; a chance to start to learn who he is, to learn what makes him tick.

Tonight was the first chance we have had to have dinner since I moved back to The Woodlands.  We drove around for a little bit to check out where we used to live before going to dinner.  We were going to go to Fuddruckers, however when we snuck into the conference center to check out Lake Harrison, he decided we needed to eat at The Glass Menagerie.  Now, for those of you unfamiliar with The Woodlands which I imagine is pretty much everyone reading this, The Glass Menagerie is THE hoighty toighty place to eat in The Woodlands.  In the fifteen years I lived in The Woodlands, I only have vague memories of going there once, which happened when I was very young and even then I had to wear a jacket and tie.  It was a place I had always wanted to go, but I was certain it was far too classy a joint for me as well as being WAY too expensive.

Both my dad and I were dressed in business casual and I was certain that we would not be seated, however for some reason or another we actually got a table and had the single most pleasant meal I have had in my life.  The food was excellent, the view was very nice, and the atmosphere was great.  We were one of two tables in the restaurant and the staff was attentive without being pushy.  This allowed my dad and I to talk, I mean really talk.  We talked about bars and friends and drinking and New Orleans and how the new architecture building at PVAMU is one of the most poorly designed buildings in the history of the world.

During dessert and after dinner drinks (Drambuie, of course), when we were settling into the companionable quiet that sometimes follows our meals he said something to me that almost made me cry.  I don’t remember his exact words, though I wish I did because he can be very eloquent at times, but in essence he told me how he could tell a difference between me today and me in College Station.  It was like someone took off my backpack and I was standing up.  That I had grown up.  He told me how happy he was to see me this way.

I think the reason this hit me so hard is partially due to the horrible relationship we had while I was growing up, but more so because I have always wanted to make him, and my mom, proud.  I wanted to be worthy of all the love and care they have lavished on me over the years despite our differences and problems.  For a long time I have felt like I was a disappointment.  I did not do great in high school and then settled for going to University of Houston instead of applying for more serious schools (my father, uncle, and grandfather all graduated fromYale).  At UH I was not an academic all-star, lost my scholarship, and then dropped out of school.  Then I turned in to a real crap weasel.  When I look back at a lot of the things I have done in my life, I don’t have a lot to be proud of, let alone many things to make my parents proud.  Tonight was the first time he said something spontaneous that indicated he was proud of what I had made of my life.


Jack Thelen said...

Wow. It's humbling when your parents not only treat you like an adult, but start to respect you as they would a colleague at work. I've just gone through things similar to this's cathartic.

Congratulations Wood.

Anonymous said...



(And dude, I'm a people, and I still can't read that fracking word down there to comment. is that an r? placed directly on top of a w? what are they thinking?!)