Growing up my Dad used to get so frustrated when he would have to repeat things over and over again to me. It is not that I didn’t understand them, it was probably more like I didn’t think it was important enough at the time to remember. Clean your room, don’t fight with your sisters, pick your shoes up from the front of the door were common things I did in which the infamous response from my Dad was, “It feels like I am talking to the wall.”
How many times in life with family and friends do we feel like this happens to us? It is said out of part frustration, part concern, and part genuine love. I never really understood this until you really understand the context for which that phrase is being said. When I was younger I thought would it really be more exciting to talk to the wall? What benefit would my Dad get out of feeling like he could talk to a wall? I came to understand that my Dad said it out of pure frustration but also because he did not want me to fail.
Many times I didn’t understand my Dad growing up or the method to his madness. I would often end up feeling frustrated, angry, or I just didn’t want to talk to him anymore. I couldn’t understand at a young age why he couldn’t effectively communicate what he wanted out of me, and why I wasn’t doing the things he asked. Then it dawned on me like a light bulb, I was not supposed to understand what he was saying, I was just to do what he said.
I think that is the one thing I reflect on most when thinking about my Dad. Could I have understood him better? Did I give him the chance that he deserved to express himself in his own way on his own terms? Could I have been a better listener? Why didn’t I give him the benefit of the doubt? All these questions I have thought about since my Dad died. It is tough because every other situation in life you can do your best to make the situation right, but not when somebody has passed on.
When I see a parent and a child fighting or disagreeing, I feel like telling both of them, “This too shall pass.” Maybe that should be my saying I eventually tell my kids. I thank my Dad today for making me an effective communicator. I never want anyone to feel that they do not know exactly where they stand with me. I pride myself on that because I know how it felt when I never really knew where I stood with my Dad.
The ironic thing is that I have a picture of my Dad against the wall and I talk to that picture all of the time. My Dad would hopefully be laughing. So I guess Dad was right all along. It really does feel now that I talk to the wall, in a much better way…
Always a friend to listen,
Eric Tomei-author I Miss My Dad…
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