When He Was A Boy

Yesterday, I listened to a Father’s Day interview with Saul Bellow’s son, Greg, on PBS. I was making my 40 mile pilgrimage to Winston-Salem to buy things I can  not find locally. I was half-listening and thinking about what I had written that morning. The interview was slowly drawing me in, with his memories of growing up with Trotsky parents and the reality of his father’s fame. He discussed his book, Saul Bellow’s Heart. Greg was the oldest of five children, four sons and a little girl -all with different mother’s. Greg was listing the age differences and I was stunned when he said he was fifty years older than his sister! Wow! That got my attention.

The interviewer asked a question about his relationship with his father and whether is was different than the relationship his siblings had had with his father. After, my “d’uh!” comment, Greg Bellows said something that hit me like a brick:

You need to understand, I knew my father when he was a boy.

Dad the week I was conceived

Dad the week I was conceived

And, you dear reader, need to understand that I had a fractured relationship with my father. Since it was, after all, Father’s Day –that phrase caused a cascade of memories and epiphanies that were like a volcano erupting in my head. I sat in the Costco parking lot, 10 minutes later, speaking rapidly into my iPhone’s transcription service. (hopefully, I relieved some poor NSA drudge of a boring morning)

At some point, in my life, I realized my father was a very young man when he became a father. But, I never considered the fact until that moment in the car yesterday: that he had never become an adult. At least, with me and in my relationship with him, he was always the angry boy bemoaning his ‘glory days’. He loved to blame my mother and me for destroying the promise that was his amazing future. Eventually, my sisters and I learned of the existence of another son, and even more recently I was contacted by an adoption agency for facts about my father. He apparently sowed a lot of oats when he was young. The latest unearthed son was conceived the week my father married my mother, in a wedding where only she smiled back in the photos. A few others were conceived that summer and later. I am forever grateful, I left my home state and married men from outside New England!

Dad was football quarterback, descended from hard working French Canadian and German immigrants. My mother was the head majorette in a rival High School, her family included 6 passengers on the Mayflower, the Elizabethan D’Arcy’s and a Danish King, Gorm the Old. Obviously, a match doomed from the start. I look at pictures of Dad now and think ‘that kid was in a James Dean fan-funk’. 

But, he gave me the best gift a father could give his daughter, a Bad Boy trope and the knowledge that I wanted to spend my life with a good man, not a boy. I have been blessed with two loving husbands, the first was Scottish version of Magnum PI a strong manly man with a red mustache and curly light brown hair and freckles. He was the love of my young adulthood and I mourned him for many years. Now, I share my life with my soul mate, the love of my life, my best friend and partner. He is the tall thin dark brooding type, kind of a cross between the Edge and John Cusack. The first time he tried to change the oil in my car, he drained the transmission fluid. He plays computer games, is not crazy about most of the human race and loves me and our dogs. Recently, we have both discovered to our utter amazement, his skills in editing.

So, yesterday, if you celebrated a loving father in memory or in life, I take off my hat to you! I don’t envy you, I can’t envy something I have never known. But, knowing the love of two good men, I can imagine a Father’s love must be frigging awesome and my hat goes off to you! But, if you are like the many of us who spend father’s day intrigued or hurt, please try to embrace the true gift your father gave you -the ability to recognize the Good Guy.

I thank my Dad for warning me off the Bad Boy Trope and into the arms of two good men! I might have had a different life had my father been a man and not a boy, but I am not complaining!

You need to understand that I knew my father when he was a boy.

Thanks Dad and I hope you have found peace somewhere or a second chance in a new life!

For More Interesting Reads on alternative Father’s Days:

Oh, and if you are a Bad Dad and still alive, –you still have time to repair the damage or change. Even saying ‘sorry’ can help if you are too broken to change. Don’t let your kids sigh in relief when they get the news you’ve died.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sandy Bruney
    Jun 17, 2013 @ 11:51:17

    Not fun to have a philanderer for a father, but you emphasize the plus side of it. I pity the poor husbands who can never live up to their wives’ “Daddy’s Girl” image of her father, which would be the other side of the paternal coin.


  2. natalieratcliffe
    Jun 22, 2013 @ 00:33:03

    I’m glad you took the Good Guy route, so many of us turn to the Bad Boys because it’s what is comfortable and what we know. I’ve got a shed full of the ghosts of the Bad Boys who still haunt my nightmares. (They do make for incredible writing material, even if they rattle their chains too often and too loudly). I’m so happy that you got to experience the love of two good men and that they were men. I feel like, especially now a days, the world is filled with forty year old boys who never learned the word responsibility.

    Like Sandy, I’m happy that you are able to take a positive spin on things. Kudos to you. Thanks for sharing Cris!


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