Saturday, February 06, 2016

Father figures

I went to the doctor this week for my annual check-up, and when I told him that I was turning 50 he came over and drew a little declining graph for me and said: "This is what happens when we age, we cruise along on our youth for a while, but then when we turn 50 things start to break down pretty quickly." Then he drew another line, extending the period of decline further out and continued "But there are ways we can manage this process, with regular exercise, good diet, cherishing and maintaining relationships with our spouses, children, and friends..." Then he recommended a book about aging.

You would think that it would be a bummer to get this lecture, but the fact is, I was so happy to receive this wisdom, because he was cheerful, upbeat, direct, earnest and -- and this is the most important thing -- he was an older male, with grey hair, even more than me.  I have been seeing him for years, and even though I'm not sure he remembers me that well, I remember him, because I so thirst for authoritative father figures.

First Mary's dad -- whom I adored  -- died in 2009, then my dad, with whom I had a very complicated relationship, and he could never offer me this kind of guidance so directly. Today after my Al Anon meeting I went out for coffee with some other guys, including a guy who's an Episcopal priest and who could be my sponsor. I haven't had a sponsor for a few months, I've never had the perfect one. I found myself evaluating him -- could he be the guy who could be my conversational security blanket?

Anyway, I have to recognize that this is all very silly, because of course no one has all the answers, and I do have a pretty solid support network in my mom, my sister, Mary, and all my excellent friends. But the myth of some grey-haired guy who can offer me easy answers lurks there viscerally, barely subcutaneous, waiting to erupt at the slightest provocation.

Sometimes. But now it is time to take Graham to martial arts. And then we will listen to Click and Clack on the drive back home. Graham is fond in particular of the sign off at the very end, when they say something like:  "And now, even though Robert Siegel reaches for his revolver every time he hears us say it, this is NPR."

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