Parental influences certainly shape one’s own perspectives and modes of being. From my own parents I have gained wisdom, character, and a notion of expectations. My mother is a realistic woman. She is neither religious nor especially judgmental. She understands and accepts the messes she makes in life, as well as the messes of myself and my younger brother. She has allowed us in the making of them, granting few restrictions and abundant personal freedom. Her general acceptance and realization of the inability to change another individual, instead rather to let them change themselves, has been imparted upon myself and the ways in which I perceive and interact with others. My mother curses, she does not attend church, and despite her small size and voice is in no way reluctant to share her personal opinion with others, no matter how contradictory it may be. She can hold her wine. Her own parents have influenced her in ways that require therapy. She is strong, independent, yet caring and compassionate. Traits of my father are vastly different.
My father is of extremely religious, judgmental, and demanding character. He is a self-made man, raised in poverty but has persevered through commitment and hard work. He believes his children should be raised in a god-fearing manner and simply does not accept any contradiction or resistance. His values include honor, dignity, integrity, and conformance to the norms of mainstream society. He dresses simply, acts professionally, and speaks politely. Although quick to judge and condemn, he is equally quick to forgive. He loves me. He does not drink, but can enjoy an occasional cigar. It is my belief that he is lonely, that there is an inner self he refuses to project for fear of its nonconformance. Whatever would the church think? In suit of masculinity, he pursues fishing, football games, and weight-lifting. He provides for our family. And he seeks only to be a good father.
There are traits that my parents share, presumably as a result of their many years as a married couple. In a way I consider them both aging hipsters, spending paychecks on alternative and folk music concerts, attending folk art galleries, painting, and a shared transcendentalist’s value of the solitude found in nature. They prefer to spend their weekends in a comforting cabin in Clayton than to shopping or eating in downtown Atlanta. They value education highly, and strive equally to provide a descent foundation and privilege for their immediate family. I love them both as they have loved me, and am thankful for both their patience and high expectations.