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For a long time, I’ve had a bit of a sting when it came to not having kids. It was something that was thrown in my face as a way to devalue my opinions or me as a person. (I could stay late “because [I] don’t have kids” … I can’t have an opinion on politics “because [I] don’t have kids …” It doesn’t matter what I did this weekend, because it was just me doing it.)
But, as my Dad gets older, I am starting to see something that parents must deal with a lot, and for which they deserve praise.
My Dad lives alone after my Mom, his high-school sweetheart to whom he married nearly 60 years ago, died.
He still gets out and does things and one hobby, in particular, is photography. He takes thousands of pictures a year and always has.
For the past four weeks, he’s been really excited about this photo group meeting. They were going to bring three pictures each that would be shown in a presentation. Each photographer would get a chance to talk about their photos to the group. And there would be mingling before and after.
We do video calls twice a week, and email almost daily, and, like I say, for the past four weeks, he’d describe the pictures he was going to show, talk about which ones he might swap out, talk about what he’d say, talked about meeting people … it was great to see because he was so excited after a pretty rough couple of years. He was like a little kid.
Well, last night the photo group met. All Dad could say today was “I’m not sure I’ll go to these meetings again. Nobody talked to me. They were all in cliques.”
It just broke my heart. I’m actually crying as I write this. The thought of my Dad just standing there, name tag on, looking at his shoes … trying to make eye contact and join a conversation and being rebuffed. He was probably there for a good 30 minutes before the show and at least as long afterward. That must have felt like an eternity to him … it’s just awful.
Yeah, my Dad (and I) can be pretty gruff-looking and neither one of us is good at starting up a conversation. But my Dad takes beautiful pictures and he’s unwaveringly loyal to his friends. He’s got a great sense of humor. He’s a special guy. Why wouldn’t people just talk to him? Is it that damn hard to say “hi” to an older guy standing by himself?
And as I write this, I hear the voice of my Mom, talking about me or my sister and I realize it’s what you parents must feel with your own special ones, as you send them off to school or birthday parties or whatever, hoping they’ll be included, that they’ll have fun and that all the excitement they’ve been building up will be rewarded.
I guess I never really thought about that, so I praise you all for the bravery to face that when you send them out the door.
And please, if you’re part of a photo club in Cincinnati, talk to my Dad.Published in