After the death of our mother, there was an interesting relationship shift in our family.
The first four of my parent’s children were girls; the youngest was their only son. Our Italian mother easily interacted with each of her children, but our German father was more reserved. He didn’t engage in a lot of conversation or activities with his kids, though we knew we were dearly loved by him.
Our mother was the conduit of information among us, as we became independent and lived separately from our parents. We learned from her of births, deaths, illnesses, marriages and divorces in our extended family and friends. With two of the siblings living out of state, this lifeline to news was an important way for us to feel connected to people we rarely saw, but about whom we cared.
Once Mom was gone, we hoped Dad might fill this role of ‘family crier’. Not only would it keep us in the pipeline for information, but it would give us topics for conversation with Dad beyond the weather and sports. Unfortunately, he never filled those shoes (though others of my sisters did keep us up-to-date on the comings and goings of the people we knew), but Dad ended up filling an even more important role in my life.
While Mom liked sharing news, I learned that Dad would talk about meatier subjects, like faith and values. We enjoyed many hours, often very late into the night, talking about soul subjects. The later the evening grew, the more philosophical and deeper the conversations became.
Dad outlived Mom by nearly 15 years. As we laid him to rest, I realized that even though my mother was the parent who was so comfortable in day-to-day conversations with her children, my father was the parent who truly knew me.