My father, who is will be 91 in a week from today still reads the NY Times, but has trouble retrieving words to express his thoughts. This must be frustrating for someone who was a college professor and then Dean of the College of Education. Having never gotten a college degree myself—a deep disappointment for him—I was excited to tell him my news. I called him on Father’s Day. We chatted about the weather, his assisted-living “inmates,” and his love of our summer place in Michigan. He stumbled over words. Finally, I said, “Dad! I applied and got accepted to Smith College. They have a program for older students.” “What will you be studying?” “I’m thinking of majoring in education!” (I thought he’d be pleased to hear that.) “Oh. Does this program end with a degree of some kind?” “Yes. A bachelor’s degree in Education.” “Not a master’s degree?”
I just had to laugh to myself. His struggle with word retrieval miraculously disappeared during that small exchange. At 91, he could still–and with ease–express his disappointment in me.
That’s okay, I said inside my head. I’m not doing this for you, Dad, I’m doing this for me. You can take that disappointment to your grave, if you wish. That’s your choice. It’s just sad that after the divorce you never really cared to know me, because I’m having a fantastic time getting to know myself.
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