Thursday, April 10, 2014

Getting to Know my Dad, Pre-me

When we were in Disney World a couple of weeks ago, my oldest son fell in love with the Peter Pan ride.  His favorite part was flying over the city of London in the pirate ship.  Thus began his obsession with London. 

"Is London real?  IT IS???  Where is it?  When can we go?"

I told him that we were probably going to go next year (true), and that I am very familiar with London, as I lived there for two years when I was in my early twenties.  

"You LIVED in London?  When?  Where was I?"

Trying to explain to a child that they did not exist is more difficult than I anticipated.  He seemed unable to comprehend that I had a life before him.  To him, life for everyone started when he joined it.  We all started existing when he started existing.  

I find the whole thing very cute, and I'm not surprised.  Because I feel the same way about my parents.
Whenever I see an old picture of my parents - a picture from their childhood, or their wedding day, or even my mom pregnant with me - it's hard to fathom that they had a life before me.  It's hard for me to imagine them in diapers, going to prom, or getting drunk in college.  Who were they then?  It's not something I think about often, but it is a weird feeling when I do.  

"Did you really exist without me?  Before me?"

I liken it to seeing a teacher in a grocery store.  It's just all kind of weird and wrong.  

Most of us never really get to know our parents -pre-us.  We hear stories, and we see pictures, but it's all abstract.  But last year, I got to know my dad a lot better.  The "pre-me" dad, that is.  

When my dad was in his twenties, in the 1960's, he joined the Peace Corps and was sent to rural India.  I have always known this, and in many ways my dad's passion for India was ingrained in my childhood.  I traveled there with him twice - once at the age of 4, and once at the age of 9.  I have heard many a story of his time there - of living in a rural Indian village with no electricity or toilets; of building latrines; of sleeping on a table; of eating spicier food than one could imagine, of learning how to play the sitar, of contracting elephantitis in order to avoid going to Vietnam (true story!), of flying back to America to see Washington, DC on fire in the view from his plane, in the wake of Martin Luther King's assignation - but these stories were always abstract and obscure.   

My dad had always though of writing a memoir of his time there, but he is a busy professor and therapist, and the demands of life and work got in the way.  But a few years ago, he finally did it.  It took him a couple of years, and many edits and rewrites, but he finished it.  When he did, I read it.  And I loved it.

My dad and I have always been very close, but of course, there is a "pre-me" person that was foreign to me.  But this book has helped me get to know that "pre-me" dad, and I have to say, I think he's a pretty cool guy.  The stories he has told me from the time I was a child are now vivid and clear, and he has quite a story to tell.  

I may be biased, but I think his book is amazing.  It's well written, and in fact, a page turner. Anyone who has traveled abroad (or wants to) will relate to it, and its historical context, in the shadows of the Vietnam War and the turbulent 1960s, is fascinating.  All of the profits from the sale of his book will be donated to the non-profit village school in Anavatti, India, where he lived as a Peace Corps volunteer.  

So without further adieu, here's a link to his book (click here) - you can buy it on your kindle, or in hard copy.  I highly recommend it!  


  1. How great to get this special insight into your dad's life that few of us ever get to learn about our own parents. Although...I guess our kids could just read our blogs...if we have entries pre-kids.

  2. I am a huge fan, but/so I must tell you: I believe it is "without further ado", not "adieu". Keep them coming!


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