As a young man, being compared to your father can be a blessing and a curse. You want to be your own person, yet you’re glad someone notices certain qualities about you – unless, of course, your dad is a serial killer.
And as you mature and your dad becomes an “old man” and maybe a bit of a square, being compared to him may not be the highest compliment to you.
That was the case with me until recently, when I realized that I, myself, am on the inevitable path to “old fartedness” and started to examine my father’s life a bit more closely.
For most of my youth, my father worked evening shifts as a line cook and sometimes as the chef. This logistical fact made it harder for him to have an open line of communication with any of his seven kids, since we were getting ready for bed when he was just getting home. Besides, we were a bunch of independent kids anyway.
So as I got older, I would do things to honor him by piecing together the few bits of his life that I did know at the time. I knew he liked Carta Blanca, so I would drink it during trips to Mexico or stateside if by slim chance I would find it.
I knew that his father was a mariachi and an instrument maker. My dad seemed to shun that lifestyle, even though as a young kid, he would wander the streets offering serenatas for money. This might explain why he never pushed music on us kids.
Later, whenever I would find myself in mariachi squares in Mexico, I would admire the musicians, imagining my grandfather among them, but I would also befriend the kids who were hustling for empty beer cans or even shining shoes. That’s who my father was as a kid, working any job he could when he was just 10 years old.
My father never pushed anything on me and never questioned my decisions. He is a man of few words and not much of a risk taker. I always thought my adventurous, social side was a result of my mother’s genes.
That is, until I started to ask my father questions about his life as a young man. Put simply, I learned that my dad was a cool dude. He was a bit of a ladies’ man as well, and always wore the latest styles and tried to be muy suave – like Elvis.
He drove the coolest cars and listened to all the latest hits from across the line. He couldn’t always understand what they were saying, but it’s how he learned English, he would later tell me.
My dad was with it. Or in his own words, he was “with the times.”
That’s how he explained it to me one day when we were listening to the radio and Little Richard came on.
“Mijo,” he said to me, “I used to listen to this music … and Fats Domino … and Elvis.”
“Mijo, I was … I was with the times.”
I’m glad the line of communication eventually opened up between us.
So, now when I furrow my eyebrows or put on my reading glasses, my wife tells me I look just like my dad. I smile and say, “I do, don’t I?”