17 July 2017

What Silly Icebreaker questions Taught Me about My Dad

The 4th of July weekend my Dad and I went to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. 

We stayed at the rustic cabin he goes hunting with his buddies every year. No electricity, running water, and complete with a fully functional out house.

We laughed, grilled some fresh fish, and had target practice in the woods. It was relaxing, peaceful.

But what I didn't expect was to walk away with a much deeper appreciation and love for my Dad. 
The kind that when someday he is gone from this earth, these few days will be looked back as a time I really got to know my Dad in a new way.

One of the main differences between my Dad and I is our temperaments. I am an ENFJ and he is a much, quieter and introverted person. 

Honestly at times in my growing up, it came off to me that he was emotionally distant or didn't understand me, even though I knew and believed he loved me so much. As I've gotten older and worked through my own baggage, I can understand the dynamic better between us. But there was certainly a time I did not.

So anyway, back to Patty and Dad's Wild UP adventure...

Friday morning we were driving and I just started asking him the fun, random ice-breaker type questions I use with teens on long car rides:
-5 countries you've never been to you want to visit and why.
-If you could only eat one genre of food the rest of your life what it would be and why?
-5 most meaningful movies you've ever watched.
-favorite family vacation growing up.
-you are having a dinner party and can invite any 5 famous people (dead or alive) who would you invite.

The list goes on, but you get the idea.

I was enjoying listening to Dad's answers and eventually as we drove on, he started adding in his own questions too. It felt special, just me and him.

Saturday morning we were driving to Whitefish Point and it was just quiet in the car. All of a sudden Dad pipes up, "Hey, do you want to do some more of those ice-breaking questions?" #wordforword
It was so sweet, and in his own way it meant "Let's talk sweetie."

We did this off and on the whole weekend from greatest fears, regrets, and dreams for the future to the silly like favorite ice-cream flavor or what your spirit animal would be.

Saturday night we were sitting in the cabin eating dinner, chicken kabobs with rice pilaf, grilled veggies, and cold beer. 
We were doing another round of the "ice-breaking" questions and I asked one that tapped a deep place for my Dad.

I asked him what was the biggest regret with his siblings and his parents.
He started tearing up and crying.

It totally caught me off guard. And to be honest I think my Dad too.

He started talking about each of his siblings with a raw, honesty I had never heard; his regrets with them and what he he wished had been done differently. He just started talking and I just sat there listening.

I have seen my Dad cry before, but only a handful of times. As I listened to him, I remember telling myself, "Patty soak this up, pay attention." As if to remind myself someday when he his gone, I'll look on this trip, this particular dinner conversation with such love and remembrance. 

My relationship with my Dad has had bumps and is not perfect. 

But the older I get, the more I see that he did the very best for my siblings and I that he possibly could. He worked hard, loved us kids and my Mom deeply, and has been a wonderful example for me on what it means to be pastoral and meet people right where they are.

I have lots of different memories with my Dad over the years. But this one is really different. I got to know his heart on a deeper level, in a way sometimes what I wished for when I was younger.

I think part of growing up is accepting relationships for what they are, not what we used to wish they were. 

And that's what this weekend reminded me of, the perfectly imperfect relationship with my Dad and how much more I love and appreciate him for it.

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