This afternoon, after I texted him that I was burnt out and running on fumes, my father told me that he was worried about me. To put this in its proper perspective: he spent the first half of the day in chemotherapy.
It’s not the first time that he’s made me feel petty for my complaints. It’s always unwittingly, I should point out, and usually by example rather than word; my dad is no guilt-tripper, and when he says he’s worried about me, he means it. But when he was my age (sorry, I know how boring that phrase, and this idea, are) my father had two kids, was going to school, working a full time job, and attending to a wife slowly dying of leukemia in the hospital. To be fair, though, he didn’t have a Twitter feed to maintain. So, you know. Perspective, y’all.
A friend of mine, who recently became a parent, described the experience to me thusly: we all go through short, “emergency” spurts of panicked, no-time-to-stop work in our personal and professional lives; we get through them by keeping our eyes on the horizon. Parenting, he said, was like that — except for no horizon. That’s a completely depressing and terrifying thought, and I feel, to a certain extent, like he was probably overstating. But the fact remains that two haircuts from now, I need to be somebody’s version of what my dad was to me (this is pending me finding time for a haircut), and so I’d like to be able to take whatever comes in some sort of stride, without overly relying on my old pal, pictured here. If not that, I’d at least like to be able to fake it convincingly, and that means little to no spontaneous bouts of sobbing, which is kind of my signature thing.
Incidentally, talk like this often leads to exhortations not to “glorify busy.” I have to say, in all the self-important schedule-bragging in which I’ve engaged and to which I’ve been subjected in my life, I don’t think I’ve ever really heard anybody glorifying busy — more like a series of cries for help. This is one, I guess. So was the text to my dad. And rather than excoriate me for my egocentrism, Dad took a minute out of fucking recovering from fucking chemotherapy to show his son some care and compassion.
At least my kid’s grandfather will have it together.