I remember hot summer days when I was about 15 waiting for Dad to come home from work. His time of arrival never varied….5.30p was dinnertime and newspapers were delivered into the boxes at the entrance of our neighbourhood shortly before he arrived. At about 5.15p, I’d go outside, walk to the side of the street, get set into “proper” race starting position, and run down the small paved hill 100 years from our house to the neighbourhood entrance where the newspaper boxes were located. If Dad hadn’t pulled in by then, I’d run back up the hill, get set, and race the 100 yards back to the paper boxes again. Over and over I’d run imagining myself the premiere track star of the world until Dad’s car would make the turn at the entrance. Sometimes, when cars were pulling out of our neighbourhood, I’d “race” them trying to beat them to the entrance where they’d pull out onto the highway. On one most confusing day, while “racing” a car down to the paper boxes, the driver shouted out his window to me as he pulled out onto the highway, “Fancy motor you’ve got there!” (I’m still not sure what that means!)
When Dad finally pulled in, I’d grab the newspaper out of our box, hop in the passenger seat, and have him all to myself for the 15 seconds it took to drive to our home from the paper boxes. Later, as I neared onto 16, Dad would leave the car running, get out, walk around to the other side of the car, pick up his newspaper from the box, get in the passenger seat, and let me drive the car the 100 yards from the entrance of our neighbourhood, up the hill, and into our driveway. I felt very “adult” and important. I had graduated from the days when he would sit me on his lap and let me steer to this…100 yards in the driver’s seat. Exciting!
My dad is a newspaper junkie. For as long as I can remember, he would spend the time after work and dinner sitting in his chair reading his newspaper from front to back and back to front until he went to bed for the night. It was annoying when one of us tried to get his attention because he could never really be torn away from his paper. Sometimes, he even fell asleep in his chair still holding the pages of his paper open! Am sure you can see why I was anxiously running to the paper boxes wanting to get to him and commandeer his attention before he got to the newspaper.
On Sundays, it was worse! The SUNDAY PAPER was huge and took all day to read. He sat in his chair after church and dinner out and perused the SUNDAY PAPER from end to end only ever looking up to see a Steeler touchdown or a homerun from the Pirates game on TV that day. But even that’s not the worst of it….my dad, ever the practical, one year even wrapped his Christmas gifts to my mom in newspaper! Now that is a real newspaper junkie!
I remember when I began reading sections of the paper myself. I started small with comics and the like, but eventually Dad began pointing out a new teen column or a story on one of my interests thereby slowly indoctrinating me to THE NEWSPAPER. I felt very important to realize I was thought of at all in his otherwise solitary world, though I did still view THE NEWSPAPER resentfully as an adversary for his attention.
It’s almost funny how competitive I’ve always felt with THE NEWSPAPER and how much of me has learned to adapt around THE NEWSPAPER to get to my dad. I even know conversation with him needs to happen as he comes into the kitchen to refill his iced tea glass, answer the phone, or eat lunch when Mom has it ready. Suffice it to say, when I got married, we didn’t sign on for a newspaper delivery!
Even my sons recognize Dad’s obsession with his paper commenting on how he religiously reads in his chair. They find it more humourous than I ever did. As they’ve grown up, they’ve been very close with my dad and from time to time he’d clip out a little comic he found amusing or a story that reminded him of something they did and post it to them or hand it to them in person if he knew he’d see them soon.
These days, the paper boxes at the neighbourhood entrance have been separated and moved in front of houses to save cars from stopping at the entrance. But even now, every time I go home, I know I can count on a stack of newspapers being on the table next to Dad’s chair in the living room and him not being too far away. Some things never change.
It took me a long time to understand that sometimes the headlines don’t tell the real story. It took me a while to figure out how to read between the lines. What I had always seen as a barrier in the way of my dad’s attention to me has now become both a hallmark and a gateway in my mind. Once I realized what I was dealing with – the typical 1950’s mentality where men do not openly express emotions – I began to see that small clippings sent in the post, an article saved to share in person, a comic cut out with a comment penned in, and/or directing our attention to an article of interest were actually visible and tangible signs that demonstrated quite clearly that Dad has been paying more attention than we ever knew.
(photo credit: Getty Images) I borrowed from Google Image Search