I was sharing some family history to a dear friend of mine, telling her how my dad had been forced to drop out of college after his father died.
“What was he going to study?” she asked.
I didn’t know. And realizing I didn’t know what my own father had hoped to do with his life has been bugging me ever since.
Growing up, all I knew was that he dropped out of Manhattan College after one year because his father had died after complications from prostate surgery. My dad moved back home to work and to help provide for his mother.
(I also remember hearing that his first job paid $5 a week. Yes, a week.)
He later served in the Army during World War II; I remember stories of him guarding German prisoners of war. He then went to work for the U.S. Postal Service, married my mom and raised a family.
Those were the essential elements of my dad’s narrative, the Reader’s Digest version of his life I carried around in my head like a handy reference guide.
It wasn’t until my friend asked me about my dad’s plans that I realized there’s probably a lot I don’t know about him. At first I was embarrassed, a little ashamed that I had no idea what his hopes and dreams were.
Maybe, like so many 19-year-olds, he had no clue and was just trying to figure things out. I had plenty of years to ask him that question, but didn’t — I was too busy with my own plans, hopes and dreams, and the tedium of everyday life. My dad died 13 years ago.
So there’s a nagging empty feeling in that spot where I carry his memory with me. Live and learn, I guess, although sometimes too late.