To honor two of the most influential men in my life on Father’s Day, men no longer with us, I am going to do a very 21st Century thing and blog. So here is a bit about my dad, James Joseph Reynolds (1931-2014), and my brother, William Lee Hodges (1958-2013).
My father is gone. I’ve written posts about him before. I miss him, and Father’s Day is an obvious reminder. Two years he’s been gone and some days I miss him so badly that I can hardly catch my breath in that moment of grief. Other day’s I almost forget he has died… those moments when I think of something I want to tell him and I feel like I can pick up the phone and call him, like he’s still around. I read somewhere that as women are growing up their fathers play all the male roles in their life; dad’s, boyfriends, bosses, sons, all future male roles. I thought it was strange when I read it, but i’ve come to believe it. Father’s are, after all, for most of us, our main, if not only significant male role models growing up and to some degree we learn how we behave as women around men from our fathers.
I didn’t realize the depth of my dads own influence on me as a person until after he died. The realization didn’t come because of his death, more as the result of my own aging. I’ve become more introspective as I’ve gotten older. Like a lot of us do, I mostly speak my mind, I say what I mean, I have more confidence.
My dad didn’t always want to talk, he was very comfortable with silence, sometimes he really preferred it, he liked to be alone. However, he also insisted on finishing a conversation. If you were going to engage, you were going to finish. You were going to state your case, your idea, your subject and you were going to support it with facts, opinions and examples. You were also going to listen to him, his opposition or support, his rebuttal or agreement. And, most importantly, you were going to finish the conversation. This is why my overuse of the word “whatever” in my teen years drove him absolutely insane. It was disregarding, disrespectful, and it ended a conversation that was not really finished.
One of my dad’s greatest gifts to me, and one I never thanked him for, was our conversations, his complete presence in the moment and his insistence on finishing. It was in these moments that I learned to speak my mind without fear of the reaction. It’s how I learned to think through what I was saying, how I was saying it, how it might be perceived, it’s affect, and determined if I really believed what I was saying, if it was worth saying. It was when my opinion was valued even if no one agreed, and I was valued. These were the grand moments where I could be myself, totally and completely myself, all of my flaws and insecurities out in the open and still feel unconditional love. This held true for me throughout his entire life, this is the person that loved me unconditionally no matter what I thought, felt, or said.
I lost those lessons, and that feeling, as I became a busy, responsible adult raising my own family with little time to consider my own not always popular thoughts. Somewhere along the line I let hesitation stop me from speaking at times when it would have been better for me to speak. Then my dad started needing help as he aged and as I cared for him I grew even closer to my father, and somehow while listening to this brilliant conversationalist, I got my own voice back along with some confidence. Today, I finish my conversations. Thanks dad!
When I was 5 years old I wanted to marry my brother. I told everyone, all my friends, all my neighbors. I loved him and I wanted to marry him and that seemed reasonable. Most people laughed, to my friends it seemed okay (they were only 5 as well), and there were also a handful of adults that tried to make me understand why I couldn’t and why it wasn’t okay to go around talking about it to everyone. Billy was 9 years older than me and he was everything you might consider a typical older brother to be; protective, super protective. I still think till this day that it is fine for a girl to have an older brother that she is certain will beat up anyone that causes her physical or emotional harm. It may seem primitive or unnecessary but it felt good.
He also teased me relentlessly my entire life. To the point of tears, to the point that I spent an entire Christmas locked in our car because I was mad at him and wouldn’t come in the house. Teased me in ways only people with older brothers could possibly understand.
He also loved me and didn’t hide it. He was a very strong man with undeniable machismo that you would not want as an enemy that called me “sweetheart” and “honey” as an adult. He was raised around a bunch of women, he understood us, he knew how to speak to us. He was kind and gentle with his sisters. (Most of the time).
As adults we could talk for hours about the subject that tormented us, the hurt we had been dealt, the thing that scared us. Because we shared that same story. In as many ways as we were different, we were also very much the same. We viewed certain events that I will not mention in this blog the same and were affected the same. In this we really were the same, the female/male version of each other. And in my brother I could see myself and I knew he was the only person on earth that understood me completely in this matter.
Not mentioning the subject may seem cryptic in a blog, but some things are best left unwritten and what is important here is that Billy and I understood each other on this and I don’t think anyone else really did, not entirely. Now he is gone and there are times when I really need to be understood, to discuss, and there is no one.
My brother was far too young and had too much life left ahead of him when he passed, too many Fathers Days left. I miss him terribly but will always be grateful for having had a brother in my life that understood a part of me that no one else really can. Thanks Billy!