I get the ideas for these essays from a lot of directions. This one is the result of two words that I just received in an e-mail.
Some younger friends and former colleagues of mine are planning a trip in early 2021, or whenever COVID-19 permits it, and we’ve been trading e-mails back and forth regarding it. My last e-mail ended with “I still think it’s a bad idea, but at least be careful, dammit!”
The response I got back was those two words that gave me quite a pause. The young lady simply said, “Yes, Daddy.”
She’s not my daughter or daughter-in-law. Her husband is not my son or son-in-law. Their daughters are not my granddaughters. And yet she made me realize that our relationship is that of a father and daughter. I could dismiss it and consider myself as a surrogate father since her’s passed away when she was young, but it’s more than that.
The Evolution Of Roles
As we go through life, we take on many roles. I was a precocious, extremely annoying smart ass brat, at least until I learned to civilly say “that’s not exactly right” instead of “how could you think that, ya dumb idiot!”
In school and in sports, I learned teamwork and moved into the teammate roll. Teamwork was mostly with the guys since I was starting to lust after everything wearing skirts (back when girls still wore skirts to school). I suffered the losses with our teams, just as I celebrated the triumphs.
In the military, I learned to follow orders and to give orders. In business, I found the same “follow orders and give orders” situation with my colleagues. The faces had changed but the guys were still my teammates. In time, I took on new roles as a husband to my wife and then as a father to our children.
The Roles Get Tangled
I found that eventually roles were starting to get tangled, particularly with the gals. After a while, I realized that my relationship with the women I worked with was starting to evolve. They were still all teammates from a professional standpoint, but were also becoming daughters, spouses, and grandmothers.
To my “daughters” I was a mentor, counseling them professionally, encouraging them to strive for their goals. To the “grandmothers,” I was in the same relationship with them as with my own grandmothers. Each was someone that I “looked out for,” trying to cushion them from some of the annoyances of life. The “spouses” were the equals, regardless of our actual positions, that wouldn’t hesitate to disabuse me of any of my nonsense. In other words, they didn’t cut me any slack and I was better for it. They were the eyes in the back of my head, just as I was always looking out for them. Time marched on and despite my added years, I felt that those roles were still pretty much the same.
But then I read Kathy’s words in the e-mail.
I stared at the words, thinking about how I related to all the people I know. The “grandmother” relationship is gone. I’m older than the ladies I used to consider grandmothers. The “daughters” are still there, but their numbers have swelled, so that they have crowded out the “spouses.”
I thought about my guy “teammates” and found that the situation has changed there, too. In most cases, they have become “sons,” but overall I’m no longer a member of the on-field team and have become a coach or a dad.
I remember as a young man, the first time someone addressed me as “Mister” and used “Sir.” It was a coming of age transition. Now I seem to always be a “Mister” and a “Sir” to everyone.
Maybe I’ve become an elder of the tribe.
Maybe I’ve become everyone’s Dad or Grandfather.