I spent the first 50 years of my life waiting to turn into my dad, but it never happened. I'm not like him. At least that's what I thought.
Life Parenting

Rite of Passage: Discovering My True Self

I spent the first 50 years of my life waiting to turn into my dad, but it never happened. I'm not like him. At least that's what I thought.

By Russell Heidorn of russellheidorn.wordpress.com

Every boy eventually turns into his father, as the saying goes. And for some, this can be scary as they eye their dad as arrogant, ignorant, or just plain embarrassing. But not me. My Dad had awesome traits that I couldn’t wait to inherit someday.

The first thing I noticed as a kid was my dad as the king of directions. When we went on vacation or some summer resort somewhere, he always knew how to get there without ever using a map. He knew which roads to take, which to avoid, and even what landmarks were along the way. He was always confident, relaxed and got us there on time.

Dad was also great at playing games like cards, Mastermind, and Yahtzee. His favorite was Pinochle. He knew exactly what cards everyone else had just by looking at his own hand. He knew whether he would win or lose before the play even started. In my eyes, he was a wizard that could see into the future.

As I moved into adulthood, I noticed other things. Dad was not charismatic or an energetic extrovert. Instead, he had a peaceful, quiet demeanor and a subtle sense of humor. He was not one to liven up a party but rather filled the room with a presence without calling attention to himself, like the warmth of a fire in a fireplace. 

Sure, he had his faults too. He was tight with money, obsessive over his yard, and at one time had been a smoker and an alcoholic. But as he got older, these seemed to diminish. Some he was even able to turn into positives. When he joined AA, he eventually became a role model for other alcoholics. He made friends with businessmen, heavy metal bikers, and just everyday folk. He was not a talker and didn’t spew advice, but what little he did say was insightful. He was like a guru that had found that inner peace. 

So I waited, eagerly, for that day to come when I’d inherit his wisdom, his charm, his subtle sense of humor, his ability to make friends, and yes, even his driving and card playing superpowers. I waited even as I struggled every day with my own faults.

First of all, I’m horrible at directions. Even with places I’ve been to many times I still take the wrong exit or turn left instead of right, forcing my GPS to say “recalculating” so much I can feel the frustration in her voice. Oh, and I suck at cards too. I always get fooled by the bluff, I never anticipate the trump card and I lose even when I have a great hand. I’m invisible at parties. I get intimidated by people I don’t know. And I never know the right thing to say when it matters most. 

But I was okay with all that. I didn’t mind my shortcomings, because I knew someday it would all go away. Someday I’d wake up and magically be different, happy, and at peace.

Then one day I woke up and I was 50 years old and still waiting. I was smack dab in the middle of middle-age and I still didn’t have his traits. And I wondered how much longer I’d have to wait? How much longer would I have to struggle with my own faults until they would finally go away?

That’s when I realized: That day is not going to come, is it? Until that moment, it hadn’t dawned on me that I’d never adopt my dad’s traits. It never dawned on me that who I am now is who I will always be.

It was a shock, like noticing the sky was blue for the very first time. Instead of my struggles and shortcoming just crumbling away, this was who I was. These were my traits and they’ll never go away. I will never become my father and somehow I just have to live with that.


So now what do I do? I thought. Well, if Dad were here, he’d say in his simple way “It is what it is. No sense dwelling on it. Accept it and move on.”   

So I did.

Now, every day I wake up with the same old traits I’ve always had. I still screw up advice to my kids, I still lose at cards, I still miss turns going places, and I still feel awkward in social situations. But at least I’m no longer waiting to change. And in many ways, I’ve learned to embrace my faults. Since I can’t tell a joke, I tell bad jokes with the hope of seeing how big my kids roll their eyes. I still play cards, but now I focus on having fun instead of winning. I screw up, I laugh at myself, shrug my shoulders and move on with life.

Then one day a new revelation crept into my mind. Out of all the amazing traits my Dad had, I had missed the most important one of all. He never tried to be anything other than what he was. He never tried to be the life of the party, or an amazing thinker, or even a superhero. He was just a Dad doing Dad things. Did he have faults? Sure. But he accepted it and was at peace with who he was.

That’s when I realized. Finding peace with myself was the only thing I really had to do. Sure, I’m not like my father, but I ended up just like him anyway.

I guess I achieved my dream after all.


About the Author

Russell Heidorn lives in suburban Minneapolis and scatters his time between working and family while pursuing his dream of writing music and fiction. He is currently working on a novel about a suburban man who scatters his time between working and family while pursuing his dream of writing music and fiction. However, any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Read more at russellheidorn.wordpress.com.