During the last years my father had to adapt to quite a lot of things. It is now several years ago that he stopped to work and is retired. At the beginning he continued to do some consulting jobs but he never thought of it as a second career, it was nice to earn some additional money and it was nice to provide consultancy in an area he had mainly known through his hobby. It also meant to start searching for opportunities and occasion where his opinion and support was needed and this wasn’t part of his natural habit. Quite naturally the end of this opportunity thus came to an end and he concluded that he had worked enough in his life and that it was time to be at home and live happily along with my mother.
He never really cared about communication, networking and building up a circle of friends. This was a service my mother cared for. Her domain was to find the best possible decoration for the house as well as for each season, beautiful things not only in and around home as well as excellent cooking. And as all of this only had half its worth if she didn’t share it with others, she always went the extra mile to find the right contact, ask everyone for ideas and organized everything in order to have a regular exchange with friends and all the interesting human beings she would meet. There were only very few moments where she wasn’t active to prepare for visitors at home or going out to meet and search the outside world.
Sure, sometimes this meant a bit too much activity for my father, but in most cases he thoroughly enjoyed these opportunities he received to exchange and communicate with others. In my opinion his main capacity is the ease he has to grasp information, classify them, reuse them in other contexts, make benefit out of these information in order to explain everyone “the world” with very logical explanations. In a lot of cases this is a capacity which makes a conversation very interesting and added to the fact that my parents were very welcome guests.
The combination of intelligence, creativity, logic and empathy made out of them a well working couple.
Since the death of my mother her personality is missing and it show quite well which parts of the competencies were hers. As the kid I’m learning to know him now in a totally different way. I’m also learning to understand some of the reactions my mother had I had not been able to understand then. All the details which had been covered, smoothed or different during her lifetime now miss her presence and become visible.
The good news is, no, my father still is the same person, he hasn’t changed, he isn’t less or more valuable, he is simply missing my mother in a lot of different ways and doesn’t know very well how to fill the gap.
I guess that one reason for this is that both of them lived a life of being strong, in difficult situations my mother would smile to life whereas my father just takes life as is and goes on to the next task. Due to these approaches none of them told a lot of details about difficult experiences, moments where they had failed their own expectations or situations where they benefited from the help received from others.
The interesting consequence from this behavior is the fact, that both of them always seemed to be the big heroes and the strong persons we the kids would always be able to admire. The bad news is, no this doesn’t exist at least not in the way I thought as a kid. The changes of perception we are going through now feel to be very difficult, as he seems to be different nowadays. In reality, it is just the filter we applied ourselves as well as the one provided by his surroundings which has changed.
Looking at it from this new perspective it is an opportunity to know him as well as my mother better as individuals and separate this knowledge from the one I had until then of them as a couple.
[Original publication via frogstalk.com, May 29, 2010]