Thursday, December 28, 2006

Even a blind munkee finds a banana...

I helped my father out with something this week.

Now, that may not sound like much of an accomplishment for some of you, but for me, it's a big deal. My father is a very, very intelligent, very, very learned man.

And for about 31 years and 318 days of my 31 years and 320 days on Earth (give or take), I've found myself in the position of Padawan to his Jedi master, if I'm even worthy to claim that much credit.

My father was a college professor widely known for his fearsome grading. (I was rather proud when one of my friends referred to another professor's tough grades as making her a female version of my father.) He was the standard by which tough graders and intimidating academics were measured, from all I could tell. (Same friend talked all break about getting into one of my father's classes; he dropped it within days of the start.)

(Best thing about it: He drew the freshman comp rotation for my fall year in college, and many of my classmates were headed to Bloom U. Suddenly, people I hadn't talked to in years were inviting me to parties, asking about me off at college, etc.)

Anyway, I got a nice education, I've done a lot with my career, and I still find myself abysmally failing to measure up to his standards most of the time. (Not the standards he sets for me in the sense that I think I do make him proud, so much as the standard he sets with his intellect.)

My Dad and I didn't always get along as well as we do now. In hindsight, and somewhat at the time, I always sort of got the feeling that while he unquestionably loved me, it was a little tough for him to talk with a child nearly 40 years younger. You know, like he was waiting for me to get a little older so we'd have stuff to talk about besides baseball.

When I got home from college one semester, after taking my first (and only) Shakespeare course, he was asking me about my final in the car on the way home - I think I'd flown home - and I got the feeling he'd been waiting 20 years to be able to talk like that with me. A good, intelligent discussion about something - other than baseball - that we could talk about like adults. He was quite pleased with my answers, too. (I got an A in the class, thank goodness. Rest in peace, Professor Hart!)

Not too long after that came one of the proudest, happiest moments of my life. My parents took me to see a Broadway show, "An Inspector Calls," and afterwards, on the ride home, they were talking about something that happened in the staging of the play that they couldn't quite figure out.

For the life of me, I can't remember what it was, or what it meant, but I knew - I could interpret the symbolism, based on some stuff I'd picked up at school in my English and history classes. So I told them. And they hadn't thought of it.

I knew something my father didn't!

Who needs a bar mitzvah? I had become a man!

So anyway, back to the present day. My father writes scholarly articles - a man's got to keep busy in retirement, eh? - on various subjects, including mysteries. So he's working on a piece on the so-called armchair detective, and I pointed him in the direction of "The Bone Collector,"which I'd read some years back after seeing the movie.

And today he was telling me how he's going to work the author, Jeffrey Deaver, into his article because his detective is, in fact, quite relevant to the subject.

I guess it probably either sounds silly or incoherent to try and explain how his simple thank-you e-mail means so much to me. I mean, I'm a bright guy with a good job and a track record of success in intellectual endeavors of all sorts, right?

But my Dad's my gold standard when it comes to knowledge. I know trivia. Stuff. He knows information. Stuff you can use.

When you are that impressed by someone, and you love that someone so much, it means a lot. Even the little things like this. I helped! And it's like I'm 5 years old.

Except when I was 5 years old, I could make him smile, but I don't think I could impress him or surprise him.

I don't know if my being able to help him out here exactly impressed or surprised him - and it's enough to just please him, really. But it impressed and surprised me.

Oh, happy day!

1 Comment:

Jewels said...

Eric, if you were anything like MY daughter at five, I bet you surprised AND impressed him on a daily basis.

I like this post. Sounds like you had someone worthy of your adulation to look up to. ;)

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