Monday, January 1, 2007


My former wife was an artist. Always had a camera. If it had been left to me, there would be exactly zero pictures of my boy. As it is, there are untold millions. But I don’t have them. That’s okay with me, but it’s nice to get a photo now and then, especially given current circumstances. And he just sent me some. But you wouldn't be interested.

What’s that you say? You want to see them? Well, thanks for the interest, but... Oh, you insist? Well, it’s very flattering, but I... What’s that? You won’t take no for an answer? Really, your desperation is quite charming, and I’d hate to be rude -- it’s just that... Oh, you’d be devastated if I didn’t share them? You say life would hardly be worth living? All sweetness and beauty would flee from your soul? Only bitterness and anguish would remain? Oh alright then. You’ve talked me into it. I certainly don’t want your life to be ruined, as you so pathetically assert would be the result of my declining to share with you a few pictures of my wonderful son.


It is traditional to send out a Christmas picture.

A day at the beach?

My, that's a big one.

No wonder they hate us.

Didn't believe me, did you.

This is what we did before there was cable.

So there it is.

I find myself in an odd position. I knew that boy so well I could practically read his mind. Now my son has acquired a set of life experiences with which I have nothing to compare. He must be an utterly changed man. In many ways, he will be a stranger to me.

Of course I miss the little boy I knew so well. But my son will return to me and the opportunity in that return is that I will meet him as an equal, now -- insofar as that can ever happen between father and son. The challenge for me will be to come to know my son as a man, and as a friend.

This is no small thing. I'm not good at making friends. If we hadn't known each other for so many years, I don't know that I would be friends with my son. That's just me. There is some number of people that I like, with whom I will never be friends -- that level of trust and shared experiences and intimacies ... how could I ever have that? But I am not some other father, who must make enemies of his sons.

Yeah, that came out of left field. A couple of days ago I remembered something from my middle teen years. My father came up to me and ripped off my shirt. Tore it right off my body. Buttons went flying. He was trying to shame me, for some reason. I don't remember the details -- it happened over thirty years ago. Isn't that an odd memory? The didactic point he was attempting to illustrate was that I was a weakling. But I wasn't. My hairless bare chest didn't support his premise, given that I had significant muscular development. Didn't diffuse his anger, but it undermined his point. Don't recall any more details. Except that he would have found something else to be angry about, or some other way to drive me away, as he did with all his sons.

No, I'm not actually bitter. It's an ugly and troubling story, but I don't have any emotion about it. It's just a weird memory. And it stands as a symbol of what I knew I would never be. My son always knew he could trust me. That's worth more to me than anything. Now, when he returns, I will find pleasure in his company, and I will tolerate with patience and love both the irksome habits he will have developed and the youthful arrogance he will still have -- as I will take pride in his character and his strength and his excellence.

Here I was, thinking I was doing you a favor, after you groveled and pleaded so prettily to see these pictures. But you have done me a favor. Thank you. Sharing them has made me glad. Thanks.



Anonymous said...

That's a beautiful post.

As i read it:
Your father was THERE
Your father actually expended energy ON YOU
You had a valuable moment, shirt off, muscles flexing as if to say
"I am becoming my own man"

Valuable stuff to those who's father's were not there.

Damn irony.

...another father

Anonymous said...

A sniper, Jack?

I have three sons and am constantlyfearful that my own arrogance will one day drive them from me. I hope, as you noted about your own son, that my kids will always have faith in me.

Jack H said...

Greetings A. You certainly put a positive spin on the matter. I don't think that particular instance can be salvaged. It amounted to a rape -- there is no lying back and enjoying it. But you greater point is correct. When he wasn't being controlled by his particular demons, he was due all the respect and honor a father merits. This isn't one of my driving themes here, but I've given it a lot of thought, and the best answer I can come up with is that, until toward the end, he really did do mostly what he thought was right. I won't find fault in that.

The devil, of course -- like God -- is in the details.

D -- Arrogance. Yeah, I think I might know something about that. We're all such experts, at almost everything. When my boy was very little, it was an actual act of will on my part not to just do things for him, to get them done already. Finally, when he was whatever still-very-young age, he said in a tone of exasperation, "Dad, let my tie my own shoe!" It was chastening, and instructive. Let them fail, and love them. Provide an example of patience, and their failures will be small, and instructive. We need to apologize when we're wrong, and praise their courage and integrity. Easy, right? Cuz they don't have to call, when they're grown. I don't.



nanc said...

i will have the most difficult time letting my son go when the time comes - my life was not complete until he entered it. quite perhaps one of the most exceptional 15 1/2 year olds on the planet - so full of goodness and light. my husband and i have decided both our children can stay as long as they'd like or need. we would like to see three or four generations under our roof.

J.T. said...

You do just fine making friends, and furthermore, recongnizing the need to get to know your son in a new role puts you light years ahead of most fathers. Lets face it man, your dad just tore your shirt off before you flexed burst out of it yourself.

Jack H said...

Greetings N -- May the generations rise up and call you blessed. His excellence is your own.

J -- Oh, did you speak? Usually I don't bother to notice morons. [Ed.'s note: Here, Jack is attempting to be witty. He believes that ingraciousness is amusing, and it gives him a chance to reveal his true self under color of humor. Also, he's using it as a way of diffusing the sense of awkwardness he feels when confronted with kindness or affirmation. He is extremely emotionally stunted. But you should see his abs!] I suppose you're one of those neanderthals who thinks the chick deserves to be raped because of how she dresses. [Now we may observe Jack's latent bitterness. Recall how he blustered that he felt no bitterness. Yet another inconsistency. This is a very diseased mind. But he's so hot!] Why don't you just keep your retarded observations to yourself, Dr. Phil. (Here Jack believes that by throwing out gratuitous insults, he can alienate the commentor, and thus preserve the isolation that his insecurity demands.) Hopeless, is all. [A non-sequitor. The panel of experts assigned to Jack's case believe that this "hopeless" is a subconscious reference to himself. Jack has exhibited a great deal of self-destructive behaviour, and his existential dispair frequently bleeds through.]