I was twelve. It was Hanukkah and I was hiding in the men’s room of a dingy reform Synagogue near Mechanicsburg, PA.
My father had just informed me of the two prayers I’d need to learn to be Bar Mitzvahed and I was now doubled over on the toilet, stressing hard enough to shit blood diamonds. I was near tears, terrified of confronting my father. He had always scared me.
I exited the bathroom slowly, looked my father in the eye and told him I wasn’t going to be Bar Mitzvahed. “Why?” he asked. “Because it wouldn’t mean anything to me,” I said. He cracked a bad joke, said okay and never mentioned it again.
I’m pretty sure that was the moment my father started respecting me.
Eight years later my father sobered up and entered AA. Suddenly he was emotionally engaged and interested in my life. I found it highly annoying. I tried my best to dissuade him from flying west to accompany me on a road trip back east, but he insisted.
We were in the middle of Kansas when the lights went out. I was staring through the windshield, it was noon and yet it was dusk. The sky was the color of frozen coal and hail began pounding so heavy on the roof that we needed to yell to communicate.
Air raid sirens blared and windows shook as we entered the dimly lit lobby of a nearby motel. The second we got our room key I began insisting that I was going out to see a movie.
That’s how much I wanted to get the fuck away from my fucking father.
I lost the argument when the desk manager told us that there were three tornadoes in the area and the movie theater had been damaged. The next morning I awoke to my father doing yoga at the foot of my bed – sweaty and breathless wearing nothing but crusty, old-man, Fruit of the Loom, Tighty-Whities.
I hated him so much.
it’s sunny, I’m driving and I’m doing everything possible to make my father pay for twenty years of lost friendship. He asks me a simple question. I give a terse response. He shakes his head and says, “You’re a fucking asshole.”
I turn away, smirk and think, That’s awesome. I can definitely be friends with this guy.
That was the moment I started respecting my father – which was followed by ten wonderful years of friendship, love, trust and laughs.
Eleven years after his funeral my father’s actions continue to remind me that it’s never too late to script a new beginning – even if it means battling your asshole son to make it happen.