The Roles We Play

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about the various roles I play in life — father, husband, son, grandson, CEO, friend, advisor, et cetera. There are a lot. And clearly they’re getting all mixed up as we live more of our lives online, as we live, work, and play on Facebook or Twiter or e-mail (I’m old!) or elsewhere. We’re all finding our way there, while we change the world around us.

But I’ve been struggling with moving between roles the past few days — and it’s got nothing to do with online life — but I would wager is a decidedly non-modern one.

Kathy & I took SPL to Disneyland for his first trip there. We’d been on some smaller outings, like to Legoland, but I’ve really wanted to take him to Anaheim for quite a while. There are lots of reasons to be cynical about Disney and Disneyland/Disney World, but I’m not — I really love it there. I love how it feels, even with crowds. I love all the colliding mythologies. Most of all, I love how it makes kids feel when they ride Space Mountain or interact with characters during the parades or watch the fireworks over Sleeping Beauty Castle.

I’ve been to the parks in Anaheim and Orlando both many times, but obviously it was our first trip as the parents of a 5 year old — so lots of new things to consider in that role.

But we knew earlier in the week that Gigi was in the hospital and might not make it out — and Friday morning before we left the hotel I got a call from Mom about Gi’s prognosis; a few hours later Mom called again to let me know that Gigi had passed away. We were in line for a ride at the California Adventure side of the park (bumper cars for the Bug’s Life section), but the specifics aren’t that important, really.

What is important was that at that moment, a bunch of roles I have all crashed into each other at once. I was trying to be a good son for my mother, who had just said good-bye to her own mother. And I was trying to communicate at least a little bit with Kathy, my partner in all things, so she would know what was happening. The line was moving, though, and SPL was anxious to get into the seat of the bumper car so we could crash into his mother’s car — and so I wanted to be a good attentive dad for him. Over the top of all that, though, and of course, I was mostly Gigi’s grandson, and mostly Gigi’s grandson just felt sad.

I felt those roles all collide with each other a lot over the next couple of days — sort of like waves crashing at the beach one would come in, and then later be overwhelmed by a different one. It was a hard set of feelings to really understand and process and deal with appropriately — I don’t honestly know whether I’ve processed this much yet at all. (Which is one of the reasons that I’m  blogging it — to be able to understand it a little bit better.)

I do know that I was much more aware of the roles that I play in life this week — and in particular, the roles that really, really matter a lot to me. I think it helped me clarify some of the things I love about being a father, a husband, a son — but I know this is all a bit of a moving target. Things change, relationships change.

Mostly, I was very happy to be able to spend so much time with Kathy & SPL at a difficult juncture for me. That, I know for sure.

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