Thursday, October 9, 2014

My Father, the Fisherman

Recently someone asked me about my dad and I described him as a fisherman.

The response was unconscious, really. It just fell out, like a Freudian slip, and I surprised myself as I said it, because I had always thought of my dad first as a businessman, and I always though it anyone had ever asked me about my dad that is the first thing I would say, "He is a successful businessman."

The response, perhaps, best captures the gradual transformation he is undertaking. Many men retire. One day they are working, the next they are not. There may be a party, formal recognition of one's achievements, the ceremonial packing up of the office into a cardboard box with one's personal effects.

But not my dad. His 'retirement' has been gradual. Every week, every month, every year, he sells off one more shopping center, whittles down his staff by one more person, goes in one hour later, or doesn't go in at all one more day a week.

In theory, he still has an office somewhere. I am not sure where. Since, I stopped working for him in 2010 it has been as hard for me to keep track of his work as it has been for me to keep track of my own job, change my three kids' diapers, make them meals, pay their preschool tuitions and still find time to be an attentive and dutiful husband to my wife. But when I do talk to him, I always try to make a point of asking him about work. Is he working on anything? The answer is usually no, but every once in awhile he may tell me he is tying up a piece of land to try to put an Autozone on or working on a lease for a new tenant at his property in Jupiter. When I used to call, it was easy to get him in his office. When I call now, I miss him a lot because he is out on his boat.

The truth is my dad has always been both a fisherman and a businessman. I never thought of the two persons as mutually exclusive of one another, but in my mind, these two people are very different and when I told someone my dad was a fisherman, it became immediately difficult to reconcile that person with the man who once drove a Porsche 911, wore Carrera sunglasses, and owned half of the leasable square footage in Palm Beach County.

I have old photos of my dad, a lean man with a big nose, big glasses, and big ears holding a gaff with a dolphin just plucked from the sea. In short, he has always been a fisherman. That is to say, he has always been both a fisherman and businessman, and I have memories of going out on his boat as a child fishing.

This was a big part of my growing up. I didn't become a fisherman. I don't know why; it is complex. Sometimes, I was seasick. Sometimes, I was just bored. Sometimes, we caught fish. Many times, we didn't. But I kept going. These are some of my fondest memories of my time with my dad, especially our trips to the Bahamas.

I don't have a lot of memories of my dad sitting down to play with me. Maybe the opportunity didn't present itself. Maybe he wasn't that into legos. I don't know. I have a lot of memories of my dad growing up, but they are mostly of me doing with him the things he loved. Like fishing.

Growing up, my brothers and I were shuttled back and forth between our two divorced parents. I spent every other weekend with my dad. I don't remember how old I was, but I have a very distinct memory of my dad taking us to the gym, it was a Nautilus club, with all Nautilus machines when work-out machines first came into vogue as an alternative to free weights.

My brothers and I sat on the bench, watching my dad work out. We may have colored or read books, but we most certainly didn't have an iPad or Gameboy to keep us occupied.

We spent a lot of time with my dad. He took us places. He took us out to dinner. He took us fishing. I try to spend a lot of time with my kids now, hoping they will one day remember that I spend time with them, too. But I don't fish and I don't have a lot of hobbies. I like the idea of hobbies. I think I haven't had time for hobbies because I've been so focused on parenting, but I think a time is coming soon when the two will merge. I know the boys are dying to do stuff with me. Moreover, I strongly suspect they are dying to do stuff I like to do, too.

Don't get me wrong. I love to build legos as much as they next guy, but my role is mostly the searching out of hidden pieces, the mindless sifting through thousands of seemingly identical bricks, and I don't know how much more my knees can take.

I can't wait for the day we will all get to go camping, hiking, rock-climbing, and skiing. I know it is soon. I hope they want to run with me, even if it means riding their bike or scooter next to me. My dad was not a runner; he was a jogger, but I run now, because he jogged then.

My sons (and daughter) won't have a lot of memories of fishing with their father, but--hopefully--they will have lots of great memories of doing other stuff with him. Brewing beer comes to mind. I know there will be more.

And they may even think of their dad as not only a diplomat, but also as someone else. 

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