Thursday, July 21, 2011

For Better and Sometimes Worse

The call made me want to drop whatever was on my schedule and rush to my daughter's side. No, there was nothing of any real consequence going on that would mandate my presence. She was just grousing about a long and difficult commute to work. She was frazzled, a little late, and a little unhappy. It was nothing that a deep breath, and a few moments of reflection would not cure. But for me, and all my over-the-top instincts, it was a 4 alarm fire.

I have never been able to moderate my "over-protective" gene. It serves neither me well, nor those who are the subject and object of my concern. I have been fortunate to choose a life partner who shares none of this nonsense. I am given the "get a grip" lecture in its various incarnations, on a regular basis. But, it doesn't help.

I know my children avoid mentioning anything relating to difficult moments in their lives to me. "Put Mom on the phone" is as much information as I get. I then must stand anxiously in the wings, trying to read my wife's inflections and her words to try to comprehend the depth and scope of the problem. I am just "Dad being Dad" and am the absolute wrong answer to the question of who is in charge of giving perspective and space to any issue.

That being said, being sympathetic, or empathetic, as the situation dictates, is not a curse, but a blessing. I believe it is one of my strongest and best qualities that I genuinely feel for the plight of my fellow man and try to look at each situation from the perspective of the aggrieved.

However, with the rest of humanity, there is a distance that separates. I can feel for them, but I am not in their face and running over to wipe their collective noses. The masses can live their lives with a vague comprehension that there is someone out there who cares. On the other hand, my family must contend with the constant droning of a voice needing reassurance that everything is "ok".

Sometimes, I see my wife and son cut conversations short when I enter the room. This is the signal that there is some "calamity" from which I am being excluded. It is as though they are shaking their heads as they contemplate me, and my imagination, creating enormous mountains out of molehills.

I share an extraordinary closeness with my children. We find many admirable qualities in each other and understand the depth of the love that exists between us. Yet, I know that I am the last person they need to be in touch with when the train has not come on time, or the cough is lasting into the 3rd day, or it is too hot, or too cold, or too dark or too light. I am for better, or for worse, who I am. And while it is often for the better, sometimes, I know, it is not.

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