OK, it’s a made-up holiday. And I really don’t care for made-up holidays. But my dad has been special in my life. He was the one who defended me against my mother. He worked to put me through twelve years of parochial school, so that I can read and spell, and even add, subtract, multiply and divide. Without a calculator. He was the one who did a lot of the maintenance work on cars and houses for me throughout my life, as Barney was not handy with tools. He was the one who knew what it felt like to have bad knees, and bought me a scooter so I could get around. He was the one that you wanted to tend to you if you got sick in the middle of the night. A veritable knight in shining armor.
Of course he is not perfect. And his clay feet have caused me a lot of anguish lately. We are at opposite ends of the spectrum politically. It started with the Jewish Federation shootings in Seattle. A man who had been born Muslim, and had an Muslim name had shot six women at the Jewish Federation here, killing one of them. We talked a little about the news, which he had heard even though he lives in Denver. He asked me if we had a lot of Muslims in Seattle. And I told him that, yes, we had an identifiable community. Later, I remembered all the total crap my right wing uncles were sending him via email, (he had a service where the family could read all mail unless you marked it private) and worried that he would think I was in danger. So I wrote him saying that my experience of Muslims was that they were just people like the rest of us, trying to get along. And then the hammer fell.
I got the nastiest note back telling me that I didn’t know what I was talking about, and should keep my mouth shut. That the Muslims had been the source of all the trouble in this country in the last twenty years. And that I should keep my mouth shut. As it turned out, the man had converted to Christianity, and had a history of mental illness. Just recently, his trial ended in a hung jury. The jury couldn’t decide if he was legally sane at the time of the shootings.
This left me with two warring emotions. One was pure rage. I am a stubborn Irish-American woman, you don’t tell me to shut up. Not when I am closer to 60 than 50. Not even if you are my father. The other was confusion and sorrow. I was very hurt by this, to the point that I called my sister and asked her when my father had turned into a bigot?
I was stunned by this because I had been raised in a community that was largely Latino, and never heard a word about “wetbacks” and “spics” at home. We had many friends in the Latino community. True, there was only one black family in the community, but we never heard anything against them. My Dad and the man in the black family live in the same retirement center. The only slightly racist thing I heard was that I shouldn’t marry someone from another race because it would hurt the children. Forty years on, we know that is bull****, but when I was young, interracial couples were practically non-existent, probably because of these attitudes.
Our other area of disagreement is religion. He is still a staunch Catholic, and I left the church about the time I figured out I could never be a priest because I had ovaries. We just don’t talk about this, but having gotten over the fear that God will strike me down with lightening if I, an avowed Pagan, enters a church, I attend Mass with him when I’m in Denver. And if he ever asked how I came to this place, I would tell him it’s his own fault for sending me to school with the Jesuits, who taught me to think for myself.
We have had a couple of other rounds like this, and there were months I didn’t speak to him, but we have finally agreed to disagree, which is what I wanted in the first place. Not a lecture that invalidated my life experience. Why just today, we managed to agree that reusable bags are better for groceries, but for totally opposite reasons. Well. OK, we did manage to agree on a couple of reasons. We both hate the accumulation of plastic bags that you can’t seem to get rid of. And that both plastic and paper seem to tear when you’re hauling them very far.
So, I love my Dad. I am grateful he is in my life. I am grateful for all he has done for me. We just can’t talk politics and religion.