Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Digging Through the Past

I've been sifting through the almost 93 years of my father's life since he moved recently from assisted living to an adult foster home. I've read diary entries from the 1930s, a written log of work on a cello from 2004-2007, pages of calculations on gear ratios, and I've plowed through boxes of rusty screws, handmade screw drivers, and an assortment of tools such as electric carvers and micrometers. All of this while my father sits in his wheel chair not even willing/able to take care of basic bodily functions.

What does all of this mean to me or to my father. He has never been an easy person to like/love - some say he may suffer from Asperger's Syndrome a form of high functioning autism. This would explain his inability to empathize and his obsessive need to have everything his own way. I still carry the wounds of being his daughter, but at least I have a better understanding of who he wanted to be. A diary entry he wrote on Wednesday, December 8, 1937 says, " I hope some day to do something that will be worthy of merit from the greatest minds of the scientific world."

Other diary entries talk about building a radio and grinding the mirror for his telescope. He documents the hours and minutes he worked at the post office and the exact amount of each payroll check. He also talks about playing catch with a neighbor and listening to baseball and football games. I try to imagine him as an ordinary teenager with limitless possibilities before him instead of the narrow minded and stern father who wanted to control my thoughts.

This man patented a latch he invented, was one of the first to design a heat pump in the early 1950s, developed theories about electricity and gravity, and researched solar energy before it was popular. He was a whizz with a slide rule, but ordinary human interaction was beyond him.

More than anything this man wanted to be loved and appreciated even though he had little to give in return. By digging through the past, I hope to find a way to forgive and find compassion for this enigma who happens to be my father.

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