When I was eleven years old, my father retired at age fifty-five. Being the youngest of six by twelve years, my father's retirement when I was so young afforded me a lot more time with him than my older siblings. In that regard, I guess I was blessed. I missed out on a lot of the family stories, the anecdotes and what not that my older siblings shared-- but I did get a chance to make a lot of fresh and new memories with him.
My mother didn't retire until I graduated from high school. So when I'd have doctor/dental/orthodontic appointments it was my father who would take me, not my mom. For awhile when I was having to go to the orthodontist once a month over in Plattsburgh, my father and I would go to O'Toole's and split a grilled chicken Caesar salad. We'd listen to music (generally of my choosing) on the drive home. He actually didn't mind my choices in music as it was often music by Chicago, Tower of Power, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, the Sons of Champlin, and various groups cut from that and similar cloths.
In 1993, my father & I drove 3 hours to Latham, NY to see my favorite band, Chicago, live. We did the same trip in 1994, and in the summer of 1996 when I was home from college my mother also joined us on our trip south to see Chicago (that time it was in Saratoga Springs).
I didn't rebel like many teenagers. I mean I had my streaks of independence, and when I did "leave the nest" for college, I REALLY left it by going to a college over 600 miles away. But I didn't see the point in rebelling or doing things that would hurt or disappoint someone whom I loved and respected so much. My father's disapproval would have been unbearable for me, so I made it a point to never do anything that would get his disapproval.
That's not to say I'm not close to my mom too... I am, in some ways moreso than I am to my father. When Toni & I were going through some rough spots with her parents, it was my mom not my dad I'd go to. But I know she'd tell him about it... And I know, even without him ever saying the words, that it broke his heart as much as hers whenever he'd hear me in pain/distress.
So now as Toni & I discuss how much we want to start a family, there is that fear in the back of my mind. Will I be as good a father to my kids as my father was to me and my siblings? I've got a rather tough act to follow, but if I'm even half as good a father to my kids as my dad was to me, they're going to turn out well.
The one thing that does give me sadness though is knowing that those kids that Toni & I hope to have won't have the chance to get to know my parents the way my nieces & nephews have. I know my father-in-law is going to be a good grandfather and an excellent role model. But I want my kids to know both sets of their grandparents.