When it finally dawned on me as to the subject of this column, writer’s block made sense. Sometimes these columns aren’t as easy to write as one might think.
Growing up in our home, my parents had absolutely opposite parenting styles. My mother was the gentle one. She still is for that matter. It broke her heart for my dad to have to move into the nursing home.
She worried what people would think of her. So I did the only thing I knew to do and tell her that it was my decision he go, not hers. When it came time to sign or not sign a Do Not Resuscitate form for my dad, I signed it, not her. That is all I knew to do.
Mama was always the nurturer. She reminds me a lot of her mother, my Granny Free.
Dad on the other hand was the one that dished out the discipline. Surely many of you can relate to this. I would act up when Dad wasn’t home and Mom would say, “Wait until your Daddy gets home. You’re going to get it.” But she never told him. And it didn’t matter how bad I had been. She just didn’t have it in her to see me get a spanking.
Dad was the one that pushed me to strive for excellence. It didn’t matter whether it was sports or academics, nothing less than your best was acceptable. And he was never one that cared much for making excuses. So I knew better that even try to make one.
I often wondered why his expectations of me were so high. He pushed and he pushed hard. And in many ways, the pushing hardened me.
I remember the day my Granny Free died. I was in my early 20s. I was as close to her as anyone in the world. We were all gathered at the old rock house in the Keithsburg Community.
I was standing on the front porch with tears running down my face. Daddy came up beside me and said something to the effect that I needed to be strong for my Mama.
For many years of my life, I felt resentment without any understanding of why he expected so much out of me.
And then he got sick. I was suddenly thrust into a situation that I had never been in. His illness was beyond my control. The situation was sickening to put mildly. My brother was in Afghanistan. The pressure I felt was tremendous.
I was forced to ask myself some serious questions. What could I do? Then it dawned on me. The only thing I could do was be strong for my Mama. The words he spoke to me the day my Granny Free died came back to me. My raising suddenly made more sense than it ever had.
No parent is perfect. We all make mistakes. But I look back on the expectations that Daddy had of me and realize that he did the best he knew how. He was preparing me for that dreadful day that I went to their home to find him in the floor not knowing where he was.
Oh, he might not have known exactly what situation I would find myself in, but he was preparing me to take the helm and be strong for my Mama.
I sit with him now and can’t help but think back to the expectations he had of me and how unreasonable I thought they were. Then I think about the times when I got older that he pushed and I pushed back. I look back on those times with guilt and shame.
We unfortunately don’t get any do overs in life. There are no mulligans. We must simply live with the mistakes we’ve made and move on.
I walked in the nursing home one day and Daddy was vomiting. He motioned for me to help him. The only words he could get out were, “You know more than I do.”
I thought to myself, “No Daddy I don’t. I really don’t. But you have my word that I will always try to be strong for my Mama.”
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.