I’ve never been much of a family person.
Most of my teenage years were spent with blaring headphones or slamming doors, never to be disturbed.
Going away to college was a dream come true — I didn’t have to listen to anyone telling me to empty the dishwasher. I told my parents they’d be lucky if I called them once a week.
I ended up calling my mom almost daily, and eventually throwing my dad into the mix.
He’s a lot like me — does not speak unless spoken to. After breaking the ice, though, we started having real conversations: Ones about how the world works and how we fit into it.
He’s told me stories about his glory days, shyly confided his struggles, and given me advice on how to make my dreams come true.
He’s even figured out how to send me picture messages — obviously to show off his buddy’s adorable puppy.
In the last year, I think I’ve talked to him more than I have in my entire life.
Growing up, I was always afraid to talk to him. He comes home from work, takes a shower, eats dinner, and reads the newspaper while watching TV until he goes to bed. Weekends are reserved for golfing.
I felt like I was disturbing him if I plopped down next to him without a popsicle as a peace offering.
But the older I get, the less scary he is and the more I look up to him. I’ve learned to truly appreciate everything he does for me, and not just for the obvious things — you know, working to pay for my house and school and almost-1-year-old titanium spine — but for the things that really matter.
Sure, I can thank him for my taste in beer or for my chicken legs, but his wisdom is what really matters.
A friend reminded me of a Mark Twain quote that is just too fitting:
“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
Now, this could be partly because I never bothered to get to know my dad until recently. But I think a lot of people can relate; we spend our whole lives thinking our parents don’t know anything, but one day, they’re suddenly geniuses.
I’ve been homesick for weeks, and I couldn’t be happier to finally go home. I’m ecstatic to spend three hours in the car with my dad, homeward bound.
So here’s my challenge for you: Get to know your family. Really get to know them. Thanksgiving is a prime time for get-to-know-ya sessions. Ask them about their childhoods, their crazy war stories. Even ask to hear the same goofy stories they tell every year — you’ll come to miss them one day.
Just because you’re away from home doesn’t mean your heart has to be away from the family members you left behind. Call them once in a while.
You never know when they’ll finally crack that shell and let their pearly wisdom out.
This column was originally published in the Nov. 15, 2012, issue of The Daily Eastern News.