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Talking With My Dad

There are some conversations with my parents that I will always remember because the content of the conversation was so memorable.  The day they told me they were getting a separation.  The morning my mom asked if I wanted to go buy a new car. The day they told me I couldn’t go to Japan like I had planned. The phone call when I told them I was engaged.  The two times I told them I was pregnant.  The conversation I had with each of them during my second pregnancy when I found out I was having twins.

Those conversations are memorable because the content was so important.

There are other conversations that seemed so common at the time, but years later when I look back on them, I realize how significant they really were. Specifically, I remember a conversation I had with my father.

It was the fall of 2000. I guess you could say it was my first adult conversation I had with my dad. I had just returned from college for the first time.  I had left for college as a 17-year-old and celebrated my 18th birthday in the first few weeks of school.  I was now home for my fall break.  It was an election year, one that held significance to me because it was the first time I would be able to vote.

I grew up in an area where people didn’t really talk about their political beliefs too much.  Or maybe they did but I was just a kid and didn’t care so I didn’t listen. Many people held jobs where you couldn’t really take sides politically.  That being said, I assumed everyone was Republican. My father had worked for a Republican U.S. Senator for several years of my childhood and I just assumed that was the right party (excuse the pun).  I specifically remember finding out one of my friend’s parents were Democrats.  You might as well have told me they were Communists. I was devastated.

So you can image my shock when I attended a liberal arts school in upstate New York.  Saying you were a Republican was like saying you supported the Nazis.  I went from thinking I knew a lot about politics to being very quiet on the matter.  I was hearing things about the Grand Old Party that I had never heard before.  The picture they painted of Republicans didn’t quite match the fond memories I had with the former coworkers of my dad at the annual summer picnic.

But back to the conversation.

I arrived at my dad’s house in the evening. My father and I started talking about what life at college was like. I had been elected to Student Government so I filled him in on the different requests we got each week at our meetings. Different student groups arguing about different campus policies and staging protests and sit-ins.  I often felt that some of these students would have been better suited growing up in the 1960′s. This was a year before 9/11.  It’s funny how things that seemed to matter so much before that day seem so insignificant now.

Somehow the conversation turned to politics and I remember asking him to help me see his side of things. This was the most important man in my life at the time and I needed to know how he could sleep at night knowing he was a card-carrying Republican. So he began to explain his side of things.  I told him things I had heard at school and he told me why he disagreed.  I asked him about specific issues and he gave his thoughts. Only he wasn’t talking to me like a child.  He was talking to me as an adult.  I was an adult talking politics with my dad.

Eventually the conversation changed to how I was enjoying my classes.  To be honest I don’t really remember what else we talked about.

But I will always remember sitting in the living room that night talking for hours with my dad.  For so many years, our conversations had been about curfews, chores, allowances and school.  And now here we were, talking politics in the living room like a couple of adults.

I still have to ask my dad to help me see the Republican side of things.  He helps me see that life is not always black and white.  It’s not that the Democrats are always right and Republicans are always wrong like I was taught by my former college classmates. Sometimes both parties are wrong.  Sometimes neither one has a perfect solution.  There has to be some give and take and compromise on both sides. I credit my father for helping me see that.

Happy birthday Dad.