How to Make Your Dad's Insults Mean Nothing
- 2011 Feb 10
My dad is significantly healthier than we expected. Accompanied by his visiting physical therapist, he yesterday shuffled to the end of the short block outside his house and back. Not exactly ESPN material. But also not exactly teetering on the edge of a grave.
From his kitchen window I watched him in the glow of the afternoon sun making his way down the sidewalk. He's so thin now, and stooped. He moves so hesitantly. As I stood watching him, my wife Catherine put her arms around me.
With my eyes still on him, I said, "In a play he once did, he leaped backwards, from a dead stand, up and over a couch. It was an amazing thing to see. He's standing in front of a couch, when something surprising happens—a gunshot, or whatever—and his instant fear response is to leap up, fly backwards, and land perfectly standing behind the couch. It was crazy. What made it so surprising is that he didn't seem to bend his knees before he leaped. He didn't squat and jump. He was just … suddenly, shockingly airborne. It completely stopped the show, every night."
What a physical specimen my dad was. Six-four, fast as lightening, and crazy loose.
Anyway, some of you have expressed the slightest concern that I might not be sort of emotionally all right just now. I appreciate that love! But please, set to ease whatever concerns of that sort you might have.
I have always made a Giant Point, internally, to cleave to the truth. This isn't hard to do, of course: the truth isn't some shrouded mystery we have to lure forth from of its deep, dark cave. It's always right there before us, so clear and obvious a child can see it. (Well, children can't not see it.)
So I always knew the truth of my dad. He was unhappy. He was angry. He couldn't show love. He hid from any sort of emotional engagement. His gift with language was almost a curse, insofar as it allowed him to be so funny, and so charming, that he could always get tons of love, without having to give any love at all.
The man is funny. That's pretty much his whole thing in life.
Anyway, I've always known that my choice in life was to hang with the truth—to insist on its validity; to refuse to pretend it's anything than exactly what it is; to let it tell me what it is, instead of visa-versa. I could do that, or … not do that.
I've seen what happens to the lives of people who don't do that, who insist they can create for their own an enduring truth more real than the real truth. I was seeing it from the second I was born.
Yeah, no thanks.
You go out and grind yourself to death in a job you hate.
You get married to women you don't even like.
You spend your life hating the world because you can't control it.
You have children you wouldn't know from strangers.
You be that guy.
I'll be the guy who … well, first of all, gets the heck out of the house you created as soon as he possibly can.
Um. Not to be angry or anything.
Anyway, here I am, now, back in my dad's house!
Ahhh. The cycle of life.
Except as much as it's a cycle it's also straight line, running directly from birth to death.
And throughout all the time you walk that line, you either hold hands with God's truth, or you go it go alone, blind and staggering, hoping you don't get hit by a car, or trip, or fall down a manhole.
Um … We interrupt this blog to report that at this moment my dad's in the kitchen, trying to make oatmeal. He's loudly moaning and groaning, greatly huffing and puffing. Thus does he let me know that he wants me to come and help him.
So I will. I'll do it wrong, of course, and so anger him. And he'll call me stupid.
And, for the zillioneth time in my life, I'll then feel the truth right beside me, its warm arm on my shoulder.
And my father's words, as ever, will (alas) mean nothing.