Jason Davis: Like father, like son

Mar. 09, 2014 @ 08:34 PM

Just moments after I awoke this past Monday morning from a fitful night of sleep, I received an unexpected call.

Glancing at the phone’s screen I noticed it was my sister, Lori.

My mind wondered, “What’s happening? Why’s she calling so early? Who died?”

Swiping to answer, I braced myself for the worst.

“Hello?” I said, pensively.

Her words hit me like a ton of bricks.

“Happy birthday to you...” she began singing.

Yes, March 3 was my birthday.

Normally, I wouldn’t care about a birthday. It’s just another day to me, and, as they say, age truly is nothing but a number.

But this year was different I found out, thanks to my big sis.

“Do you realize that you’re now the age Dad was when Mom had you?” she asked.

My previously waning attention to the early-morning call snapped to hyper focus.

“What?!?” I asked.

“Yeah, Dad was 36 when you were born.”

I knew this, of course, I’d simply never considered I might actually one day be the same age my father was during a point in my lifetime. It was a strange thought.

We exchanged a few more pleasantries, catching up on each other’s lives from 300 miles away, before ending the call.

Still, as I readied for work I was nearly numb tumbling the question through my mind.

Am I becoming my father?

Sure I’m getting older, everyone does, but I couldn’t really be turning into my Dad, who I always considered just short of ancient growing up.

But as I progressed through my morning ritual, I began to see that yes, I was becoming the elder Davis.

The first sign showed up as I had my morning shave.

A white hair was peaking out with the rest of the morning stubble. Wait, make that two, three, oh no! Four!

Things got progressively worse as I noticed in the mirror a dark stray hair growing out of my shoulder region. Where did that come from?

Panicked, I checked my ears. Thank goodness, safe there.

After I completed the morning ritual and boarded the commuter mobile to head for the office, I continued the father/son comparisons.

Progressively creaky joints? Check. Receding hairline? Duh. Increasingly cranky? Oh course. Volume of the television loud enough to wake the dead? Huh? Oh, yeah. 

OK, I am becoming my father.

After the initial shock at my own mortality began to wear off, I realized that’s not all bad.

My father, who’s wife — my mother — died at age 38, did a Herculean job of raising a teenage daughter and 3-year-old son.

We never wanted for anything. Through his own personal sacrifices, we had all we needed and then some.

Dad made sure we were well-behaved kids that respected our teachers and stayed out of trouble at school. He was largely successful in that, if you forget that one paddling I earned in sixth grade for talking in class. Neither of us were ever suspended, arrested or otherwise detained by the authorities.

David, our father, taught us wrong from right. He taught us how to put others before ourselves.

And, most importantly, he taught us how to love.

In some cases, it was a tough love. We weren’t given some of the freedoms our peers had. My sister had a curfew earlier than some of her contemporaries, and I was never allowed to grow the trendy rat-tail of the rural Appalachias in the mid-1980s. Thank goodness.

But beyond the tough love, my Dad, unlike some men, had no reservations about expressing his love for his children.

“I love you” was a common phrase in our home. And Dad backed it up every day, working long hours in a factory to keep food on the table, the mortgage and utilities paid and clothes on our backs.

Those necessities, and love — above all — are what children need most.

As a father myself, maybe my father is who I should strive to be.

Maybe becoming Dad isn’t so bad after all.