The other day, I had lunch with my dad. We met at one of my favourite spots and sat among the couples with tiny babies and hipsters with brimmed hats and laceless oxfords. I had the pumpkin and black bean pupusas and he had the blueberry pancakes. We caught up on family gossip, talked about our respective work and compared plans for the weekend.
And then I tried something relatively new. I asked my dad to tell me some of his stories. He has great ones: the time my great grandfather was implicated in a cockfighting scandal, how my grandfather sent his whip-smart female secretary to law school in the 1940s and then made her a partner, how my dad worked on the election campaign for one of the first black parliamentarians in Canada. Sometimes, I like to get him to tell me the same ones all over again, and sometimes I fish around for new ones, amazed at how many I haven’t yet heard.
I guess this would have made for a good Father’s Day post, but as with so many things in life, the timing didn’t work out perfectly. It has gradually occurred to me over the last year that my time with my parents is finite, and I’m starting to wonder more about them – unlike the first two or so decades, where I dedicated considerable effort to canceling out whatever they were telling me. I’ve always enjoyed a good relationship with my dad, but for so much of my life, I never asked him any questions about himself. I didn’t really ask about our family history. I didn’t ask about the things he did when he was my age, or about the first time he fell in love, or how he decided to become a lawyer, or why I’ve never seen him ride a bicycle.
It’s really easy to forget to ask questions when you’re with someone you’ve known forever; you just sort of take for granted that you know enough. But I guess what I’m starting to realize – as I get older and see more of them in myself – is how much more there is to know, and how happy it makes me to have finally developed a real curiosity about who my parents are.