I’m not the only one out there with conflicting feelings about my parents, or any specific parent. I can’t be. And this blog and other blogs I’ve written confirms this for me.
Today, had he lived my Dad would have been 75 years old. Unfortunately he was only on this planet until he was 64. At 48 years of age I can say with far more assuredness than I felt at the time of his death, that’s too damned young.
My Dad died of liver disease brought on in part by medical malpractice and in part, I’m guessing, with his life long habit of enjoying a cocktail whenever he felt like enjoying a cocktail.
Jerome Mathis Schuett was born September 26, 1937 to Delores and Shelby Schuett in Bellingham, Washington. He was born to people of moderate income and moderate everything else. Which is to say…he was born an American.
He was fiercely proud of being American, but his pride came from little effort of his own. He lived a life in which he tried to do what he wanted, when he wanted, and be damned anyone who in any way inhibited his selfish desires. He was American.
I clashed with my Dad through much of my teens and early adulthood. I never felt he was racist, but in today’s context few would say he wasn’t. He opposed me marrying a black woman. I distinctly remember jokes told in a family setting in my childhood that were racially tainted and disturbed me. But I also remember him speaking highly of people of color who impressed him. I remember him calling me Jackie Robinson for having ignored his opposition to marrying a black woman and saying, “You showed that it was all right”.
I felt he lacked ambition. And I felt a lack of respect for him because of it. But he worked for himself the last 27 years of his life, running his own business. Having done the same for the past seven years I have a new-found respect for how difficult that can be.
My Dad lost his temper far more than anyone would like. He never showed a reverence for Jesus, that I feel. My Dad seldom showed much reverence for anything that didn’t immediately serve his specific need or purpose. But he always counseled me not to hurt others. He always counseled me to NEVER start a fight, but if I did I better finish it.
It’s hard to imagine how my life would be shaped without him. But 25% of our nation is raised without a father. It’s frustrating to think of all the angry episodes he displayed for me in my formative years for all to see; and how in spite of my vow to not do the same how I have on far too many occasions done so.
What I can’t get over, what I can’t reconcile in my heart and in my mind……………………..is how much I miss him and wish he had been available to me for counsel during some of the more trying times in my life.
My Dad was an extremely flawed man. Which, I guess, means that I am likewise. Because I will never forget his death-bed. At one point when he could no longer talk I said, “I hope you’re proud of me.” Though he couldn’t speak he almost cried, and with his reaction told me all I needed to know to forgive him his many flaws, and to love him the rest of my life.
You have parents. Hopefully they are loving and free of the contradictions that cause my conflicted emotions for my father. But as I’ve written before, if he/she is there, if they are present in your life, they have fulfilled more than what more than 25% of American fathers fulfill. Be grateful. Because someday, like my friend Rob McBride told me a long time prior to my own fathers death and a short time after his own father’s death, “forgive him for your own sake. You’ll miss him/them when they’re gone.”
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