My Father, My Son, My Self
My father still looks remarkably like I remember him when I was growing up: hair full, body trim, face tanned, eyes sharp. What’s different is his gentleness and patience. I had remembered neither as a boy, and I wondered which of us had changed.
My son Matthew and I had flown to Arizona for a visit, and his 67-year-old grandfather was tuning up his guitar to play for the boy. “You know ‘Oh, Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam’?” my father asked.
All the while, four-year-old Matthew was bouncing on the couch, furtively strumming the guitar he wasn’t supposed to touch and talking incessantly.
My father and I were once at great odds. We went through all the classic resentful and rebellious teen stuff: shouting matches, my weird friends, clothes and beliefs. I still vividly recall the revelation that finally came to me one day that I was not my father, and that I could stop trying to prove I wasn’t.
When I was a boy, my father wasn’t around much. He worked seven days a week as a milkman. But even at work he was the task-master in absentia. Infractions were added up, and at night he dispensed punishment, though rarely beyond a threatening voice or a scolding finger.
I believed that manhood required that I stand up to him, even if it meant fists. One day some friends and I buried our high school’s parking-lot barriers under the woodpile for the annual home-coming bonfire.
We hated the things because they kept us from leaving school in our cars until after the buses had left. I thought the prank was pretty funny, and I mentioned it to my father. He didn’t think it was funny, and he ordered me to go with him to dig the barriers out.
Can you imagine anything more humiliating at age 16? I refused, and we stood toe to toe. Dad was in a rage, and I thought for an instant that the test had come.
But then he shook his head and calmly walked away. The next day my friends told me that they had seen him at the bonfire celebration. He’d climbed into the woodpile in front of hundreds of kids, pulled out the barriers and left. He never mentioned it to me. He still hasn’t.
Despite our father-son struggles, I never doubted my father’s love, which was our lifeline through some pretty rough times. There are plenty of warm memories – he and I on the couch watching TV together, walking a gravel road in Crete, Ill. , as dusk, riding home in a car, singing “Red River Valley.”
He had this way of smiling at me, this way of tossing a backhanded compliment, letting me know he was prod of me and my achievements. He was a rugged teaser, and it was during his teasing that I always sensed his great, unspoken love. When I was older, I would understand that this is how many men show affection without acknowledging vulnerability. And I imitated his way of saying “I love you” by telling him his nose was too big or his ties too ugly.
But I can’t recall a time my father hugged or hissed me or said he loved me. I remember snuggling next to him on Sunday mornings. I remember the strong, warm feeling of dozing off in his arms. But men, even little men, did not kiss or hug; they shook hands.
There were times much later when I would be going back to college, times when I wanted so badly to hug him. But the muscles wouldn’t move with the emotion. I hugged my mother. I shook hands with my father.
“It’s not what a man says, but what he does that counts,” he would say. Words and emotions were suspect. He went to work every day, he protected me, he taught me right from wrong, he made me tough in mind and spirit. It was our bond. It was our barrier.
I’ve tried not to repeat what I saw as my father’s mistake. Matthew and I cuddle and kiss good-bye. This is the new masculinity, and it’s as common today as the old masculinity of my father’s day. But, honestly, I don’t believe that in the end the new masculinity will prevent the growing-up conflicts between fathers and sons. All I hope is that Matthew and I build some repository of unconscious joy so that it will remain a lifeline between us through the rough times ahead.
It was only after having a boy of my own that I began to think a lot about the relationship between fathers and sons and to see – and to understand – my own father with remarkable clarity.
If there is a universal complaint from men about their fathers, it is that their dads lacked patience. I remember one rainy day when I was about six and my father was putting a new roof on his mother’s house, a dangerous job when it’s dry, much less wet. I wanted to help. He was impatient and said no. I made a scene and got the only spanking I can recall. He had chuckled at that memory many times over the years, but I never saw the humor.
Only now that I’ve struggled to find patience in myself when Matthew insists he help me paint the house or saw down dead trees in the back yard am I able to see that day through my father’s eyes. Who’d have guessed I’d be angry with my father for 30 years, until I relived similar experiences with my own son, who, I suppose, is angry now with me.
More surprisingly, contrary to my teen-age conviction that I wasn’t at all like my father, I have come to the greater realization. I am very much like him. We share the same sense of humor, same stubbornness, same voice even. Although I didn’t always see these similarities as desirable, I have grown into them, come to like them.
My father, for instance, has this way of answering the phone. “Hello – o,” he says, putting a heavy accent on the first syllable and snapping the “o” short. Call me today and you’ll hear “Hello – o,” just like the old an. Every time I hear myself say it, I feel good.
This new empathy for my father has led me to a startling insight: if I am still resolving my feelings about my father, then when I was a boy my father was still resolving his feelings about his father.
He raised me as a result of and as a reaction to his own dad, which links my son not only to me and my father, but to my father’s father and, I suspect, any number of Harrington fathers before. I imagine that if the phone had rung as the first Harrington stepped of the boat, he’d have answered by saying, “Hello –o”.
For reasons to profound and too petty to tell, there was a time years ago when my father and I didn’t speak or see each other. I finally gave up my stubbornness and visited unexpectedly. For two days we talked, of everything and nothing. Neither mentioned that we hadn’t seen each other in five years.
I left as depressed as I’ve ever been, knowing that reconciliation was impossible. Two days later I got the only letter my father ever sent me. I’m the writer, he’s the milkman. But the letter’s tone and cadence, its emotion and simplicity might have been my own.
“I know that if I had it to do over again,” he wrote, “I would somehow find more time to spend with you. It seems we never realize this until it’s too late.”
It turned out that as he had watched me walk out the door after our visit – at the instant I was thinking we were hopelessly lost to each other – he was telling himself to stop me, to sit down and talk, that if we didn’t he might never see me again. “But I just let you go,” he wrote.
I realized that his muscles just hadn’t been able to move with the emotion, which is all I ever really needed to know.
Not long ago, Matthew asked me, “sons can grow up to be their daddies, right?” This was no small struggling for insight, and I was careful in my response. “No,” I said, “sons can grow up to be like their daddies in some ways, but they can’t be their daddies. They must be themselves.” Matthew would hear nothing of these subtleties.
“Sons can grow up to be their daddies!” he said defiantly. “They can.” I didn’t argue. It made me feel good.
All morning I am anxious. Matthew and I are about to leave Arizona for home, and I am determined to do something I have never done.
There is a time in every son’s life when he resents the echoes reminding him that, for all his vaunted individuality, he is his father’s son. But thee should also come a time – as it had for me – when these echoes call out only the understanding that the generations have melded and blurred without threat.
So just before my son and I walk through the gate and onto our plane, I lean over, hug my father and say, “I want you to know that I love you. That I always have.”
我的父亲还看起来非常像我记得他在我成长的过程中:头发全、身体修剪,面对棕褐色的,眼睛敏锐。有什么不同是他的温柔和耐心。我记住了也作为一个孩子,我不知道,我们已经发生了变化。 我的儿子我和马修已经飞到亚利桑纳州去游览,和他的67岁的爷爷正在开始他的吉他继续为男孩。“你知道。“噢,给我一个家庭环境里漫步”时也不要?”爸爸问。 这段时间,四岁的马修一直在沙发上跳跃,口里还絮絮叨叨个没完吉他他不应该摸一摸,说个不停。 父亲和我是一次伟大的几率。我们经过了所有经典的怨恨的,以及叛逆的少年其他的东西:大喊比赛,我的怪朋友,衣服和信仰。我仍清楚地记得的启示我终于有一天,我不是我的父亲,并且我能停止尝试证明我自己。 当我是个孩子的时候,我的父亲已经不在人世太多了。他每周工作七天为一个送奶员。但是,即使在工作,他也是个缺席监工。增加了违规着,晚上回家他再惩罚的威胁,但却很少超过了声音和骂的手指。 我认为,作为男子汉,我勇敢面对他,哪怕是吃拳头。有一次,我和几个朋友埋把学校停车场的栅栏柴堆里,准备下一年一度的篝火,庆祝放假。 我们恨这些栅栏,因为他们让我们离开学校之前,我们的汽车公共汽车已经开走了。我觉得这恶作剧很好玩,我提到我父亲。他一点也不觉得好玩,他命令我和他一起去把栅栏扒出来。 你能想象在16岁时还有比这更丢脸的吗?我拒绝了,我们针锋相对。父亲气极了,那一刻,我意识到考验的时刻到了。 但后来他摇了摇头,平静地走开了。第二天我的朋友告诉我,他们的学生
我的父亲，我的儿子，我的自我 我的父亲还在看起来非常像我记得他在我的成长过程：头发充分，身体装饰，脸晒黑了，目光炯炯有神。所不同的是他的温柔和耐心。我记得既不作为一个男孩，我不知道我们哪发生了变化。 我的儿子马修和我已经飞到亚利桑那州进行访问，他67岁的祖父是他的吉他调音，玩的男孩。 “你知道'哦，给我一个家，野牛在流浪'？”我的父亲问。 一直以来，四岁的马修一直在沙发上蹦跳，偷偷拨弄着，他不应该去触摸和唠叨吉他。 我父亲和我曾经在伟大的赔率。我们经历的所有经典不满和叛逆青少年的东西：喊的比赛，我奇怪的朋友，衣服和信仰。我还清楚地记得，孩提时，有一天来找我，我是不是我的父亲，而且我也不必证明我是不是。 当我还是个孩子，我的父亲不在家。他每周工作7天，作为一个送奶工。但即使他是在工作任务中缺席的主人。违规行为加起来，晚上他再找一个威胁，但却很少语音或骂手指惩罚。 那时，我认为，我站起来向他成年，即使这意味着拳头。有一天，我和几个朋友被埋在为每年的家庭来木堆篝火我们高中的停车场，很多障碍。 我们痛恨的事，因为他们不停地离开巴士后，才离开我们的车离校。我以为恶作剧很好玩，我刚才给我的父亲。他不认为这很有趣，他命令我和他一起去挖掘出来的障碍。 你能想象16岁以上的任何丢脸的吗？我拒绝了，我们针锋相对。爸爸是在愤怒，而且我意识到考验的时刻到了。 但是，他却摇摇头，平静地走了。第二天，我的朋友告诉我，他们曾看见他在篝火庆祝。他已经爬上了几百个孩子的木材垛前，拿出了障碍，并离开了。他从来没有提过我。他仍然没有。 尽管我们父子斗争，我从来没有怀疑过我的父亲的爱，这是通过一些非常艰难的日子我们的生命线。有很多温暖的回忆 - “。红河谷”，他和上一起看电视，黄昏漫步在克里特岛，伊利诺斯州，砾石路沙发上，骑在一辆汽车回家，我唱歌 还常常对我微笑，这种折腾讽刺挖苦的恭维，让我知道他对我的自豪，我成功的喜悦。他是一个坚固的挑逗，这是他在开玩笑，我总是感到他的伟大的，心照不宣的爱。当我老了，我能明白，这是多少男人为避免脆弱的感情。我也学着他说“我爱你”时他的鼻子太大或者领带太难看。 但我不能回忆起我的父亲或拥抱或发出嘘声我说他爱我。我记得他旁边依偎在周日上午。我记得强，在他的怀里打起瞌睡了温暖的感觉。可是男人，即便是小男人，没亲吻或拥抱，他们握了握手。 有倍多以后，我会去上大学，有时候我非常想要拥抱他。而肌肉是不会把这种情绪。我抱着我的母亲。我摇了摇与我父亲的手。 “这不是一个人说什么，但他做什么才是最重要，”他说。语言和感情靠不住。他每天去上班，他护着我，他教我分辨对错，他让我在思想和精神艰难。这是我们的纽带。这是我们的屏障。 我尽量不重复我为我父亲的错误看到的。马修和我拥抱，亲吻告别。这是新的阳刚之气，它作为共同作为我的父亲今天日龄阳刚之气。不过，说实话，我不相信，在年底前把新阳刚之气会阻止父亲和儿子的成长的冲突。我只希望我和马修是无意识的快乐建立一些仓库，以便它仍将是我们之间通过今后的困难岁月的生命线。 只是在有我自己的孩子，我开始思考父亲和儿子之间，看到了很多的关系 - 与理解 - 我与卓越的清晰度自己的父亲。 如果有一个人从他们父辈普遍抱怨，那就是他们的父亲缺乏耐心。我记得一个阴雨天，当我和我的父亲约六是把对他母亲的房子，一个危险的工作时，它的干，何况雨天新的屋顶。我想帮助。他不耐烦地说没有。我犯了一个场景，并获得唯一的打屁股我记得。他曾笑着多次在该内存在多年，但我从未见过的幽默。 只有现在，我已经在努力寻找自己的耐心的时候，他帮我马修坚持粉刷房子或锯在后院的枯树我能看穿我的父亲的眼睛的那一天。谁知道猜我会与我的父亲生气了30年，直到我眼前我自己的儿子，谁，我想，我很生气，现在类似的经历。 更令人惊讶的，出乎我的十几岁的信念，我在所有不喜欢我的父亲，我来到了更大的实现。我很喜欢他。我们分享同样的幽默，一样的固执，甚至一样的声音。虽然我并不以为这是可取的相似之处，我已经长大到他们，开始喜欢他们。 我的父亲，比如，有这样一个接电话的方式。 “喂 - 哦，”他说，把第一个音节上了沉重的口音，抢购的“O”的缩写。给我打电话，你会听到 - 就像老一“你好澳”。每当我听到自己说的话，我感觉很好。 这对我父亲的新移情使我一个惊人的见解：如果我现在在解决自己对父亲的感情，那么当我还是个孩子我的父亲还解决了他父亲的感情。 他提出作为一个结果，又是他自己的爸爸，这不仅联系了儿子对我和我的父亲，但我父亲的父亲，而我怀疑，任何数量的哈灵顿反应前我的父亲。我想，如果手机响了作为第一哈灵顿下船，他不得不说，“你好- o”的回答。 对于以深刻，太琐碎告诉原因，有一年前，当我父亲和我没有说话，看到对方的时间。我终于放弃了我的固执，并参观了意外。两天来，我们交谈，一切并没有什么。谁都没谈，我们没有看到对方的五年。 我走了，沮丧，因为我去过，和好如初是不可能的。两天后，我收到的唯一一封信我的父亲给我。我是作家，他的送奶工。但信的语气，节奏，情感和简单可能是我自己的。 “我知道，如果我有它做一遍，”他写道，“我会以某种方式找到更多的时间陪伴你。我们似乎从未意识到，直到这已经太晚了。“ 原来，由于他看着我走出门后，我们参观的 - 在瞬间我想我们是无可救药地输给对方 - 他心里一直嘀咕，留住他，坐下来谈谈，如果我们没'吨他可能永远见不到我了。 “但我还是让你走，”他写道。 我发现他的肌肉只是没有能够移动与情感，这是我早该知道的。 不久前，马修问我：“儿子长大后能成为他们的爸爸，对不对？”这是不小的洞察力挣扎，我在我的反应谨慎。 “不，”我说：“儿子长大后要像他们的爸爸在某些方面，但它们不能被他们的爸爸。他们必须是他们自己。“马修将听到其中的微妙。 “儿子长大后就跟爸爸一样！”他说挑衅。 “他们能做到。”我没有争辩。这让我感觉很好。 今天早上我都感到焦虑。马修和我将要离开家亚利桑那州，我决定做一件我从未做过的事情。 在每一个有儿子的生命时，他的模仿提醒他，他的所有吹嘘的个性，他是他父亲的儿子。但你也应该来一次 - 因为它为我过 - 当这些回波只喊了几代人融合在一起，没有威胁的模糊认识。 所以只是在我儿子和我步行穿过大门，走上我们的飞机上，我搂着我的父亲说，“我想让你知道，我爱你。我一直有。“