the size of the inner self

Page One hundred eighteen                                                                                                       

Friday 11 February 2011

My father was a small man, when you measure in terms of physical size.  Small men, I think, often feel they are less masculine and taken less seriously than taller men — they have this extra little stab to the male ego that taller men are spared. Even as a child, before I became a small adult myself, I could see that taller adults didn’t treat the small adults in my family quite the same way they treated other, taller grown-ups. This is something I’ve talked to short people about over the years, and I’ve found many who’ve noticed the very same thing: we short folk are not real grown-ups, and don’t need to be taken very seriously. We are not granted the same adult status, and all of this happens in the bigger folk way down there in the subconscious. We are patted: on the back, on the shoulder, on the top of the head. Perhaps we are akin to poodles. We are chuckled at when we’re upset. So many more examples there are of short people being infantilized. And if I have found that attitude extremely infuriating and demeaning as a woman with no fragile male ego issues, how must harder must it be to be a short man.

But on a different level, my father was enormous. His enormity is one of the reasons I’ve never married, though I’ve always wanted to be married. Yes, it’s Freudian, and yes, it’s also to many a tiresome cliché, but I’ve witnessed it too many times to deny its truth:  many people seek out in their spouses a lot of the qualities of their opposite-sex parent. And I fall into that category, though I didn’t become aware of that until I was in my thirties. I was seeking in men the very best parts of my father, and to this day, at this cronehood age of 58, I haven’t found them. Not enough of them in one man to make him someone with whom life could be shared.

Of course, not only the great things about Dad were huge. Some of his flaws were pretty darned big too, and certainly I haven’t been looking for that in prospective husbands. I’ve wanted the flaws to be much smaller than they were in the proto-type. Well, I think anybody would.

Inside, at the part of the self that can’t be measured with a yardstick or shot with a camera, my father was a huge temper, at times. Hugely spiteful and mean, at times. Hugely afraid of certain things, but did anyone but me ever see that? Enormously insecure and in need of ego-boosting, which he mostly didn’t get. Remorse. One of the things I wish I’d been able to do differently while he was still here.

But if he was terribly afraid of some things, and never spoke directly about these “unmanly” fears, he was as brave as Heracles in many others: Physical pain, hardship, deprivation, discouragement, the guns shot from ships’ decks in battles at sea. He wasn’t afraid of hard work. Often when we were young he had his full-time job for the defense department, as well as one or two part-time jobs. In addition to all this he did most of our car repair, most of the remodeling and painting and repairing in the house, took care of the yard, grew a vegetable garden every year, and still made time for many family outings, and to come to our little school performances, and to play baseball in the yard. He had a prodigious memory and a penetrating intellect. In his forties he finally got his GED, and was the top scorer in New England for that particular sitting of the exam. He was devastatingly (to me) musical, could pick up just about any instrument you can name and learn to play it by ear. As a little girl, I thought this was nothing less than amazing. I still think it’s pretty damned great.

My father was a small man. And he was also a very big one. Twelve years gone now, and so much business that was never finished. As with all humans, I cannot have unequivocal feelings about my father. I find people extremely mean and difficult to bear, and he was no exception. All that is truth. But so is the rest: the large excellences of the man who was my father. I wanted to tell him these very things before he died, but wasn’t allowed. Because of the particular nasty dynamics that go on in my family, I was shut out from his dying and from his funeral and from his burial two months later. Shut out of all it. I didn’t get to say those things to him, and now never can. So I say them here, at the twelfth anniversary, to micro-chips and html.code and faceless shadows who might read. Say them, perhaps, to nearly nobody, but to fill, in at least a small way, the need to say them.

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(tapestry & elf at www.gaelsong.com   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(the text is green because this Greek man was born on St. Patrick’s Day. in March he liked people to call him O’Nakis)

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all photos, graphics, poems and text copyright 2009-2011 by anne nakis, unless otherwise stated. all rights reserved.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Babs said,

    February 11, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    I remember Bill as a big man. He was the guy who took charge when one day one of the cats got hit by a car on Central Street. We kids were shocked, horrified by what we had seen. We ran up to him breathlessly jabbering about the cat in the road. “All, right. All, right” he said. “You kids calm down.” , and we did calm down. Because he told us to do it in a voice that we could trust, he would take care of it. He got a sack and picked up the lifeless orange form from the road and took the cat home. We got back on our bikes and continued pedaling up and down the street. Sometimes, when something awful has happened all you want to hear is someone tell you “It’s going to be O.K.” I still remember it after all these years.

  2. braon said,

    February 11, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    And that orange cat was MINE, Babs. Either Jeffrey or Jason. And while Dad was calming YOU, you can bet he was fighting down his own fear of having to tell me, because he knew how deeply I grieved my animals. I’m glad you remember that he could be counted on in an emergency. Thanks.


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