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Husband & Father

June 17, 2017


Many never marry, many others never have children.

Despite optional choices, tragedies, ambiguities each year the Hallmark Machine sucks our human frailty with a guilt that compels buying their stuff for those you should prove your love to. Options have consequences.

Despite all temptation and expectation, marriage and parenthood are options. No matter how much love allures or motivates, seduction does not mandate a marriage license or impregnation. The desire to bond, have sex, marry, and even to follow thru on pregnancy are gateways, not sentences.

But consequences are unknowable. What seems right now is often a very bad idea later.

My parents, their parents, most others all followed a path started by love. The path for them led to different places than they expected. Often disappointing places.

My father had a mother who was unhappy enough that a year after his birth a backstreet abortion killed her in 1911. His father went on to marry twice more. My mother’s father was a sweet loving man that my mother flew away from to be an artist, then she bonded, hard, to my father at 20 – after fleeing college for New York City. I cannot imagine either father was sanguine about these consequences.

Children are not their parents. The necessary independence often shocks those who birth them because it’s usually a rejection – mostly of the parents’ expectations. We have a hard time following our own best selves, let alone the impossibility of others following your hopes.

But we parents want for those we somehow feel part of. We cannot help but direct, cajole even threaten or guilt. That is we cannot but try to help if we care. After having two children who radically changed my parents’ expectations, they largely left the third, me, alone.

They fully provided all necessities, except safety. My father paid every bill until my last tuition bill. I never felt entitled to more, but I felt alone.

Fatherhood is not a job description. I know, I am one. My parents had devastating preconditions before me – and my children, good men, are exquisitely different. They share sexual orientation, a love and facility for singing, and their parents and not much else.

But my sons have more in common than I did with my siblings – and far more than I did with my parents.

Father’s Day may whitewash the Dad Relationship to cash in on the guilt of unmet expectations, the hope for perfection, or just the deep, natural love I still hope for in my long dead parents – but it’s a huge answer for a trillion unresolvable inadequacies.

Living my first 16 years to avoid any trauma to anyone, I was able to avoid problems pretty well. That year my father was up in a Buffalo, where I had been sequestered in mid-century and my mother regularly visited.

I was approaching maturity in self-reliance, so when my drunken father was railing against his unmet expectations before our Christmas tree (that I had provided that year), I felt it was OK to simply suggest to him that he could quit his New York City life, I did not need private school, I could deal with college, he had a home in Buffalo.

“No.” he said. “You do not understand.” he slurred.

No, I did not.

Humans seldom understand other humans, but some of us created some of us, and we love them, we think they love us. But we, I, are often clueless about love. Hallmark knows enough about love to make a huge amount of money so we can all feel better.

On Father’s Day, that love is transacted for those with living parents or have children. But that near universal marketing vehicle is a complicated knot of conflicted, unresolved, incoherent realities.

It’s Father’s Day weekend. I wish I understood mine.

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