Mavec: ‘I love you, Mr. Daddy Man’
My dad came to visit last week, as many of you may know from seeing him or meeting him around town. We had a nice visit, playing Uno and watching the Indians baseball games (he’s a huge Cleveland sports fan, obviously).
I cannot remember the last time I spent so much time with my father. Has it really been that long? Growing up, my dad was my best friend. He was the first man I ever fell in love with, as it should be. He played games with me, tucked me in at night, volunteered to chaperone on field trips, attended the annual Father/Daughter dance with me, sat through all of my basketball games, bowling matches and community theater performances and spoiled me rotten. From the time I was born until I was a too-cool teenager in high school, I spent every free moment with him. We were inseparable.
But life happens. I went to college, and my dad got sick. He was in the hospital for what seems like forever during my freshman year at Ohio University. After that, our relationship changed. In part, that was due to his illness my dad is living with Bipolar Disorder. What a lot of people don’t realize is how much a mental health disorder not only affects the person living with one, but also the people around him or her. To me, my father isn’t the same person that I knew growing up, and I’ve spent the last four-plus years trying to understand and get to know someone new.
It’s frustrating at times. Most of the time, though, it’s embarrassing.
I was nervous about my dad coming to visit me here. Being new in town and still getting to know everyone, I was afraid what people might think of me or say about me or my dad once they met him. I worried for days before his arrival that he would tell too many jokes or say hi to too many people.
Once he got here, however, I realized there was nothing I could do except try to enjoy our time together. My dad has his antics, as everyone does. Yes, sometimes his are a little more “out there” than everyone else’s might be, but he’s happy with himself. I learned that I cannot change who he is now because he doesn’t want to change. I miss the way our relationship used to be, but I’m glad that I have the opportunity to build a new one.
Sure, most of his jokes will never be funny to me and I’ll get annoyed and embarrassed when he talks to strangers for too long, but these are things that I am learning to deal with.
Spending last weekend with him, I was able to get a few glimpses of who he used to be. Like when he told me about the Jell-O Room for the five hundred thousandth time, “Because there’s always room for Jell-O!” don’t ask, I don’t understand it either or when we talked about a past visit to the Cleveland Science Museum when I was in grade school. Reminiscing on old times reminds me that he still cherishes our relationship, too, and that he’ll always be my daddy. I love you, Mr. Daddy Man. Thanks for coming to visit.
Mavec is a reporter for the Tribune.
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