We grow up a little, and find out that it's possible for the space program to be underfunded. That a laughably small percentage of books written ever sell. It is at that very moment, the moment that the childhood fantasy dies, that a piece of our souls go with it. Usually this happens in the teen years, and we become bitter, angry. In our late teens, some of us figure out the answer to the question "what now?" and some of us don't. I wandered until I was twenty-three before I decided I would pursue it anyway. I look back at that several-month period that I really kicked myself into gear on my book as the time it took for me to grow up. The previous twenty-three years be damned, I grew up right then. I told myself that I will write books for a living. Fate replied with "show me."
When we're young, we are stupid. We don't have the skills necessary to use our eyes to see and ears to hear and brain to understand. "My mom and dad are in love (whatever we think that means)," we think to ourselves. I thought the same.
As kids, we look at our parents and see someone invincible, someone who has life figured out. Then we find chinks in the armor. As long as I remember him, my father has had a bad back, but he could still deflect bullets and stuff... and you really don't notice the back thing after a while, either. Then there was this one day in winter (sometime between 2000 and 2003, I think) that the whole family went sledding in the park. The last ride that was taken was my dad went down the hill, took a gnarly jump, landed wrong, and messed up his shoulder. I didn't know that when he didn't get right back up, my world perception shattered a little bit. My dad wasn't indestructible. He was a normal person, just like everybody else. Cue my bitter teen years.
It takes a long time, but we all have this realization, and they can no longer fool us. Our parents once had hopes and dreams, they were once young, and aspired to accomplish things, just like we did when we started to realize these things. They were once young, excited, naive...
My little sister got married and had a kid this past year, I plan (I don't know if he knows this yet) to get married soon (we set a date, more details to follow!), and becoming something of a father-type person to twins. This takes my father from "Father of Three" to Father of Three and Grandfather of Three" in almost a single year (margin of error: 1 month (ish)). I can't imagine he's not looking back at the last thirty years of his life and thinking "what the hell happened?"
I'm sure he's had more hopes and dreams (read: aspirations) fly by unfulfilled in the past ten years than I've had in my entire life. That, and opportunities, successes, failures ... regrets. Going from being called "Dad" to being called "Grandpa -" and not even by his grandkids yet, but by everybody - has to have shaken the world he lives in, and not in a small way.
He took me to breakfast this morning, having sent me a text last night, asking if i was free. He seemed sad and maybe a little lost. I talked about other things, my books, Cat (I itched to give him the news, but didn't). . . but not the real question of "What's wrong?"
I no longer have the luxury of seeing my father as indestructible, but it isn't about me anymore. Still, when he looks back at the past thirty years, I wonder what he sees?