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Dad, Is That You? Or, Is It Really Me?

Reflections on becoming your parents

By John Addyman

‘One thing I’m sure I do that certifies me as having turned into my father – and I’m a little ashamed of it, but I can’t help myself: I hide the packages of cookies and doughnuts from my wife.

There have been times in my life when TV commercials upset me.

Normally, they occur right before elections when I’ve had a whole field of candidates right up to here and I’m looking for something to throw at the screen.

But a Progressive Insurance commercial — the one teaching people not to become their parents — really floored me.

The leader of the adult class invites a middle-aged guy to sit down.

“AAAAAAHHHH!!!” the guy grunts as he takes his seat.

“Did you hear it?” the instructor asks the class. All the guys nod.

I do that.

Or at least I DID do that until I saw that commercial.

“Have I become my father?” I asked myself…and I immediately stopped making noise when I settle into a chair.

Then the conversation ensued.

When I was a lot younger, I’d have talks with myself and they were usually pretty one-sided because I didn’t know anything. Any newlywed worth her salt knows that her husband’s mind is an empty beer can.

Now that I’ve been around the block a couple hundred times, the discussions I have with myself are multi-faceted, with a lot of voices and opinions being expressed. I hear my voice from different ages, offering opinions based on experiences that I had going through life (what educators today would call “evidence-based learning”). I even argue with myself in my dreams. I confessed to my wife a few weeks ago that I’d actually awakened in the middle of a dream to shake hands with my dream self.

She suggested I’ve had too much snow and too much pandemic.

But back to the noise and the sitting down and becoming my father.

Did my dad make a noise when he settled into a chair? He certainly did.

And did I change my own behavior when I realized that I was replicating him? Yes right after I saw that commercial.

But that also got me thinking about the other noises that men of a certain age make.

For example, I make the “lost husband” noise a lot.

“Honey?” I say as I walk through the house, trying to find my wife. I am lost because I don’t know where my watch is, or what time we’re going to have dinner, or if today is the day I have to be someplace I’ve forgotten about. I am lost.

Did my father make this noise? He did.

And I make the coming-out-of-the-cold-into-a-warm-house noise, announcing the local atmospherics to my bride.

“Wow! It’s cold out there!”

My wife, of course, is a sentient being. She can look out the window. She knows we have a thermometer on the back porch. She always has her phone, with the village’s temperature on it, within three feet of her…but I tell her it’s cold anyway.

Did my dad do that? He did, but he always added a significant stamping of the feet, whether he had snow on his boots or not. I don’t do that.

Then there’s the getting-out-of-bed-in-the-morning groan.

I slept two bedrooms away from my parents, but we always knew when my father was getting out of bed. In his later years, when he got louder, we called him “The Bear,” and for good reason. He also added snorts and sneezes to the daybreak litany of bodily verse.

Here there’s a little difference between us: I don’t groan, I growl. I hate to get out of bed in the morning. Always have.

And here I add something my dad never did…perhaps my son will replicate it I say “OW!” a lot in the morning. I found out many years ago that as you age, the warranty runs out on some of your hardware and software…suddenly. So, you wake up and ask yourself, “When did that stop working?” I can no longer curl my toes around a sock on the floor, for example. There are places on my back I can no longer reach to scratch.

Or, which happens more often, is that I wake up and ask, “Oh! Why does that hurt?” And I rewind the day or days before to figure out what I did that I shouldn’t have done, or did properly, but too many times.

And when it comes to furniture, I’ve also stopped again thanks to the commercial making noise when I unbury myself and rise from our deep couch.

I get up, smile and walk off, triumphant, looking for a room where she can’t hear me when I moan.

One thing I’m sure I do that certifies me as having turned into my father and I’m a little ashamed of it, but I can’t help myself: I hide the packagee of cookies and doughnuts from my wife when I bring them home from the store. Luckily, Progressive Insurance hasn’t found that out yet.

But I think my wife has.