Hello! As you may have noticed, the writing's slowed down here -- we are in the midst of a heavy rotation of back-to-back visitors. (Our friends and family know the best time to come to Seattle is in summer, when the sun is out.) We're nearly done with B&B duty, though, so please stay tuned for more!
Dinner is easier -- just family. Although this is the first time we've all been in this city together, most of us have visited my sister enough individually to have dined with her at the place she's chosen for this evening, one known for its seafood. We settle in at the table together, laid with heavy silverware and votive candles, as if we've been doing this for a lifetime.
In a way, we almost have. Fine dining -- whether it's while traveling or at my parents' house -- is what my father has come to enjoy, of very little else, in the last fifteen years, so this is what we do with him. He cites his busy hospital schedule as an excuse for his lack of hobbies. I look at Almost Dr. Sis, who'd usually rather be out -- alone or with friends -- than in on free afternoons and evenings, and know my father's limits are more a product of temperament than anything external.
I'm an admitted homebody. And maybe, just maybe, if I'd become a doctor myself, I would be, like my father, too exhausted to do more than eat. That I resemble him in many ways -- habits, aversions, quickness to anger -- has been undeniable all my life, as much as I've been dismayed as I've grown more and more aware of these similarities. On a scale of predictable to spontaneous, we both skew away from the impromptu and, as a result, miss out on the joys of surprise, happenstance, discovery. Or so I believe, when I see the tension in his small, dark eyes, which mirror my own, as a well-laid plan goes astray.
My father is also, more often than not, testy and demanding, intolerant of change or other people's differing opinions. When these tendencies are at their worst, he's able to clear the living room at home just by walking into it, each daughter conveniently finding a reason to disappear, if only because conversation among us is impossible -- too likely to invite a lecture or judgment from him, born of his need to be in control. Left alone, then, he dissolves into the couch cushions, remote in hand and laptop on his knees, lost to their steady stream of I'm not sure what for the rest of the night, save for our evening meal together. Even then, the news blares from across the room. We try to ignore it; he does not.
I see what he misses -- and what I miss -- because of who we are, and the fear that I will become him tightens around me like a straitjacket. It's irrational; I know I have a chance at a different life than he may ever have because I do see, do fear. Still, when I'm feeling frazzled or inflexible, I have to remind myself that I'm not my father's carbon copy, even as I resist and moderate the tendencies we share, perhaps more rigorously than necessary.
For more from this series, please click here.
Are All Relationships Predictable?
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