Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Finer Days

I've never gotten into much detail here, but you may have the impression that I'm not exactly BFFs with my folks. There's a long, long, long story there, but suffice it to say that we had a falling out thirteen years ago and things have never been the same since. We're semi-estranged and I suppose you could say we would be totally estranged, except that I keep (figuratively) beating down their door. I take the blame for our predicament, because although I did some very wrong things, and they did some very wrong things, the difference is that I knew better. In many ways I am more insightful, more open-minded and while my parents didn't recognize they pain they caused, I did. And I did it anyway. Doesn't matter the reason or the ends justifying the means, or any of that. I hold myself to a higher standard than I do them, and for this reason, I take responsibility.

My relationship with my parents now is, at best, strained. The funny part is that I am not so different from them. They would not agree, because as they see me, I am very different. At any rate, I would never debate whether my mother and father were good parents. In fact, they were excellent parents. They raised my brother and I with good morals. They made sure we had good educations, that we were not spoiled but did not want for anything either, that we learned the value of money and a good work ethic. They made a ton of sacrifices for us as well. They did without, so that my brother and I could have better lives.

Like the time I fell in love with a dress for my junior prom. It was nearly $200, a lot of money for a dress at the time. But I loved it and I could tell my mother loved it too. We went to look at it twice before we took my father, the controller of the money to see it, knowing it would be unlikely that he'd agree to such an expensive dress. I remember my dad negotiating the price with the store owner, something that greatly embarrassed me at the time. But then, I failed to see that we were not a rich family and my father had likely never spent that amount of money on an article of clothing before. In retrospect, it was sweet that he wanted me to have the dress--even if it was against his better judgement. I don't know what he paid for it, but I know we walked out of the store with dress in hand that day.

Speaking of things against his better judgement, my parents also didn't think that I should go away to college. They preferred that I commute to school. They didn't think I was mature enough. I, however, in my bratty way, made it no secret how badly I wanted to get away from them, how badly I wanted to go away to college. They took me to see about 12 schools. I loved St. Joe's and Scranton. I liked St. Joe's better, but it is in a city, which my parents didn't like, that their little girl would be in an urban setting, so they decided on Scranton instead. Despite it not being my first choice, I was not unhappy when they made that decision (although as a sidebar, my brother would go to St. Joe's four years later), but they were still uneasy about me going away. It was a huge financial commitment, but I was ecstatic.

Several months later, however, my father, the sole breadwinner in our family, lost his job. It must have been a terrible blow to a man like him, someone who was proud and had the burden of providing for his family. My bratty response to this news was, "Can I still go away to school?" Not one of my finer moments, certainly, but my parents have always reminded me that self-centeredness was one of my flaws. Somehow, although he was unemployed, my parents still managed to send me to Scranton that first year. I have no idea how they managed to pay the tuition. It doesn't matter what happened after that. What matters is that despite the obstacles, despite their own reservations, they made sure I went away to college. The last time we were truly like that, as an innocent family, was when my parents dropped me off on-campus that fall.

So I try to remember, in ways I didn't appreciate at the time, how much my parents really did for me. They are good people. They are good parents. It's what drives me to keep trying.


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