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    I had a hard time connecting with my dad. Now that he's dead, I'm learning to love him for who he was.

    By Elise Seyfried,

    • When my dad died at 67, no one was surprised because he smoked packs of cigarettes a day.
    • I tried to connect with him over hobbies that didn't involve beer or cigarettes.
    • Now that I'm 67, I'm learning to love him the way he was.

    If my father was an advertisement for physical fitness, he resembled the "before," not the "after" picture — overweight, a big beer drinker, a four-pack-a-day smoker. Even in my wedding photos, there was a lit cigarette in his hand. When Dad died after a massive stroke at age 67, none of us was particularly surprised.

    Dad seemed to have no memories of his youth — at least none he cared to share. In elementary school, we were told to ask our parents about their childhoods. When I approached my father for his recollections, he responded, "Tell your teacher…" I waited eagerly, pencil in hand. He continued, "Tell her… that it's none of her damn business." I still remember my embarrassment. Nine-year-old me realized that, apparently, my father's life was none of my damn business either.

    I tried so hard to connect with him

    In my early teens, I thought I could endear myself to this odd, distant man by sharing a hobby with him. His main hobbies involved beer and cigarettes, but he also loved listening to the radio . This hearkened back to his own lonely childhood. A radio had been his constant evening companion when his parents were out on the town (which was almost nightly). Dad grew up on the sidelines, an eavesdropper on life. While he never told us which programs he enjoyed in those early years, by the time my sisters and I came along, he'd become an avid listener to a police scanner. From behind his home office door, we'd hear the sound of the dispatcher's voice, the mysterious numerical codes indicating robberies, assaults, and car chases in progress.

    One week, when Dad was away, I memorized a sheet of paper I'd found with the codes, hoping for some meaningful father-daughter time. When he arrived home and turned the radio on , I said, "Domestic dispute, huh?" He coldly replied, "No. What are you talking about? Those codes have all been changed." And with that, he turned away, causing me more embarrassment and disappointment that Dad didn't care about the effort I had made.

    After he died, I thought about Dad less and less. He had stayed on the sidelines of his daughters' lives, just as he was a silent listener to other people's dramas on the police radio . And so, I sidelined his memory from mine.

    I'm the age he was when he died

    I'm 67 now, the age Dad was at his death. While I expect to live a good bit longer, as this anniversary arrives, I find myself wondering how much time I really do have left. I am much healthier than he was, but I realize that's no guarantee of longevity .

    How do I mark the day when I'm older than he ever got to be? How do I use whatever time remains to me? I know I will refuse to sit on the edges of life, listening passively to other people's adventures. I will continue to engage with my family, my friends, and the world. I will, as always, be very different from my father .

    But here's a curious thing. Though I seem to be an extrovert, I too struggle to connect with people sometimes. I too can be awkward, can say hurtful things to those I love. I too have parts of my past that I don't want to share. Maybe, not totally different from Dad after all.

    Now, I think about him every day. Now, I realize that my big mistake was always expecting my dad to be something he wasn't capable of being. In my heart, I know it hasn't been fair to judge my father so harshly. For 67 years, he struggled along and did the best he could. I will try to live "smarter" than Dad did, to eke out more quality time on the planet. But now I remember that lonely little boy, listening to a radio in a darkened apartment, with compassion.

    On this Father's Day, when we both are 67, I'm finally learning to love my father just the way he was.

    Read the original article on Business Insider
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