Somebody posted a picture of my dad on Facebook today. In it he’s about the age I am now. His unruly hair is sticking out from behind his thick rimmed glasses. I look at him and I see my similarities with him. Some are clearly deliberate on some level, like my choice of eyewear, and the fact I like to wear a hat. Clothing. Others are less conscious, or just the result of genetics. The way I hold my arms. The sticky out hair. The cast of his countenance. His body shape. For all the similarities, there are the huge differences too. His face is pale. His eyes are blue. But there he is, looking through time at his youngest son and his youngest son is looking back at him.
I wonder what we’d make of each other if we met now. He was pretty much over the whole concept of children by the time I showed up. “I don’t really have any actor friends. Actors hate me,” he told me once when he was trying to advise me about my life choices. “They tolerate me if they play golf, but only because they suspect I’ll buy the drinks.” Well I barely play golf. Plus I’m off the booze.
I like fast cars though. And going fast in general. He taught me to ski well by telling me I had to always know where the edge of my ability was and then push just beyond it. Not too far. But never settle. As a result I found my edge and improved, rather than just pootling along. That’s good dad-style general life advice, from skiing to most things. Find the edge and push just beyond it. Too far too fast and you’ll wipe out in a rolling pile of sticks and snow. Too cautious and you’ll never improve. If you find and know the edge of your ability you can grow by stretching it. You might fall over occasionally but it’ll be a fall that teaches you.
But this is what I do with him, having lost him to the present moment so long ago. I sift my memories for things that have stuck, and then I develop them into my own versions of these lessons that were probably just intended for the moment they were given. It would never have occurred to him that I’d still be thinking about his advice regarding the edge of ability. He probably just wanted to make sure he didn’t have to wait at the bottom of the slope for me to catch up. But I’ve extrapolated that moment of advice into a whole philosophy.
He probably would’ve gotten a bottle of something out of me today. I wonder how old he would’ve been. Father’s Day. “And everybody’s wounded” as Leonard would have it. I miss him. I see Max getting presents from multiple sources and I ponder the series of choices and happenings that led to me to where I am now.
I’m wrestling with him now. I’m learning his world a bit by necessity. We are both addicted to that edge. I’ve put it mine into acting. He put his into numbers, which funded the speed. I’m going towards the numbers now to see if I can push an area of behaviour and thought that I have allowed to atrophy unused for decades, so it can fund my quest for other edges.