Digging

This week’s reading by Andre Dubus, Digging, reminded me much of my own father. Like we have discussed in class today, Dubus’ father seemed like a distant, serious, yet loving father that expressed his love through his actions rather than his words; such as buying the hat, bringing Dubus to boxing matches, etc. My father was also like that – he would often only express his feelings through his actions and gave me lots of tough love.

When I think of my dad, I always think of that myth about lions pushing their cubs down the cliff so that the cubs can grow stronger – that’s what my dad was like to me. Fiesty, I would always climb back up, seething with anger, determined to bite his arse off this time but he would whack me again effortlessly with his merciless paw and send me tumbling down again (I guess that part of my character is different from Dubus’ was to his father).

My father had always been a stubborn perfectionist. Every note played on his violin had to be right. Every detail that pertained to his work had to be done right. This trait was what made him successful 30 years ago he decided to come to America alone, with only enough money for a one way plane ticket, to pursue a doctoral degree in physics. He (tried to) instill this trait in me. Whenever I presented something, whether it be a project, assignment, etc. to him, he would always find something about it that needs improvement (whack. Lion cub down the hill again). He never helped me with my schoolwork, never helped me around the house when my mother left, only took me to the doctor when my symptoms were life threatening. He would saunter around and give a curt nod of approval sometimes, or buy me food I liked occasionally without saying much (like the hat and BLT sandwish from Dubrus’ dad, I guess). Deep down, I know he loves me and he did this only to train me to become independent.

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2 Responses to Digging

  1. elizabethparisi says:

    Helen,
    I’ve heard you speak in class numerous times about your relationship with your father and how it has shaped you. I think the analogy you made about the lion cub is a good one, and it really lets us know how it feels to be in your position. It sounds like the thing that makes you most different from Dubus, though, is your inclination to act. While Dubus struggled to find his strength, it sounds like you have found your strength in the struggle to obtain your father’s approval/gratitude. You mentioned how it makes you angry when he “knocks you down the cliff”, and that you pick yourself back up every time and try harder. However, you also expressed the cycle of disappointment that you go through as you pick yourself up and he knocks you down again. It sounds like your father holds you to the same standard that he holds himself (perfection). This is difficult for you because it is one thing to strive for perfection within yourself, and a completely different thing for a parent to not accept anything less than perfection from their child. You may have been missing a feeling of acceptance from him because of this. However, I really like how you compared his occasional approval and buying you things you like to the way Dubus’ father demonstrated his pride by buying him a hat and sandwich. I think it is great that you look objectively at your relationship with your father and can feel his love although it is not openly mentioned. It took Dubus until late in his adulthood to identify these things about his father, and I think you deserve a lot of credit for being able to understand your father so well at such a young age.

  2. maknouk says:

    Hi Helen,
    I enjoyed and related a lot to your post. I really like the analogy you used about the lion pushing his cub to make him stornger. This is often a characteristic in parents and children relationship. I was also writing about in my blog how we do not often see right away why our parents do this to us because we are looking for the present moment fun or reward. Just as you described, it can be good that our parents do this to us because it helps us to come back stronger. Just like it took Dubus realized how much he appreciated how much his father pushed him to work because of the things he learned from it, I think you too will later on see why it can be important for our parents to push us because later on we will have experience and strength.
    Also, I agree with Elizabeth when she says that sometimes it can be hard to live up to our parents idea of perfection. That is why I always tell myself that I’m only human and I dont need to be perfect. However, this is not to say I don’t have to try my best. I believe giving your all and expecting and accepting imperfection is okay. None of us are super humans, so having imperfections is normal and realistic.
    Marina Aknouk

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