I don't know if it's because my parents are retired, or because I'm getting older and we talk about different things now, but I love that during this period I'm getting to see so much more of my parents' personalities. What I remember from growing up is probably typical of a parent/child relationship. My mother and I fought, and my dad - he was the silent enforcer of rules. As I got older, my father was the one whose standards I strove to live up to and my mother was the one who drove me crazy.
You know, typical teenage stuff.
Now I'm seeing new things and I can't decide if they've always been there and children/work/life got in the way of showing it as clearly, or if I was just too young to pay attention.
Like, my mom? She's got this volunteer/give back to the community streak that I can see in myself 100%. Looking back it's always been there, and I can now see it was in the twice annual purging of my closet for Goodwill event. But now? She's volunteering in several different places and for a variety of reasons. Sometimes because she has a particular skill set (Spanish-speaking) and sometimes because she enjoys the perks (ushering at auditoriums and being able to see plays/musicals for free.) I always knew we were alike, she and I, and I suspected that this was why we clashed so violently and so frequently, but it's nice to see that the softer sides of our personalities match up just as much as the harder sides. Who knew?
My dad is the more surprising personality that I'm learning about. He's always been quiet (and because of this, many boyfriends found him extremely intimidating.) He came home from work and didn't talk about his day or his achievements. He had his books and movies and he had his time to relax. He didn't talk much unless he had something important to say. Unfortunately for me, the important things that he had to say to me had to do with decisions I made that he didn't approve of. This is not to say that he didn't say nice things too (like, say, simultaneously embarrass the hell out of me/delight me by singing "Daddy's Little Girl" to me in the middle of a crowd of people) but the personality that I felt was more of an authoritarian parent than a "real" person. Now? Well, he's always been extremely generous and loyal to his loved ones, but he is done working. Done done. As well he should be, given he started working at the age of 12 or something ridiculous like that. He is not interested in volunteering, and after years of the rigid rules of the business world, he is now not interested in participating in events that he doesn't enjoy. I love that, because I can totally relate. He's also really bitingly funny and delights in making me uncomfortable. (Seriously? Dirty jokes from your dad?) He especially enjoys my surprise when he says or does something that I deem "out of character" for him. He acts all innocent like, "What, you didn't know this about me?" when we both know I didn't. Because really, do I know his character? To me he's always been a conservative business executive. But was this just his job, or is that his personality too?
This is a question I was faced with after a recent visit home and the following exchange:
Emily: (upon seeing Angelina Jolie on the cover of some magazine promoting 'Salt') "I can not believe how beautiful she is. I hate to say that, because it's so unoriginal, but I saw her on 'Inside the Actor's Studio' once, and she's every bit as gorgeous as this photo. And she wasn't even unintelligent. I mean, come on!"
Dad: "Yeah, but she treats Brad really badly. I think they should break up. Brad should get back together with that other girl, Jennifer."
Emily: (gets really quiet and studies her father intently) "Dad, um, how did you learn to say those words?"
Dad: (looks up in surprise) "What? I read things. I think that Jennifer Aniston was better for him. That Angelina girl is crazy."
Emily: (laughing out loud at this point) "Wonders never cease. Should I get you a 'Team Jen' tshirt?"
Shortly after this, he was musing how it's "not fair" that I don't plan on having children because I should have to go through what he went through/is going through. Which of course sparked a hilarious exchange between my parents when my mother piped in "What do you mean, what YOU went through?"
I have no idea what they're talking about, though. I was a perfect angel.