Sunday, June 11, 2017

On Fathers, Dreams and Regret

This past weekend I took a road trip alone with my father from my home in Liverpool, New York to a piece of property in Delaware. Twelve hours in a car with my father. We're both talkers, so lack of conversation wasn't going to be a problem. Conversation wandered from the sordid hillbilly epic of my father and his Delaware neighbors that was the reason we were going down there (my father has a friend named Snake and it wasn't the guy from the Simpsons) to how he believes that Donald Trump will make America great again (that wasn't a great conversation and was changed quickly) to how he thinks people that hate Muslims are morons (my father is a paradox). After taking care of everything and headed home, we talked some more. It was mellower and somehow deeper conversation.

Now, first let me add some brief context to this. While we were in Delaware and my father was conducting the business he needed to, I managed to finish read Dennis Lehane's MYSTIC RIVER. My God, if you haven't read this book, it is a master class in novel writing. I can't think of a book that moved me this much since maybe GAME OF THRONES. No, really, That level. Anyway, there is a great passage in that novel that I read while at my daughter's lacrosse practice that made me gasp so loud that I was afraid the people around me thought I was having a heart attack or something. It was a short, two sentence paragraph that just blew me away:

"It seemed to Sean-sometimes-that he and his father may have once talked about more than just incidental things, but for the life of him, Sean couldn't remember what those things may have been. In the fog that was his remembrance of being young, he feared he'd invented intimacies and moments of clear communication between his father and him that, while they'd achieved a mythic stature over the years, never happened."

There are many sons out there that read that right now and probably had the same reaction. There are many sons out that that read that paragraph and shook your head because you have no idea what that's like. I think most of us sons fall into one of those two categories. I fall into the former not the latter. And I'm okay with that. But as my father and I talked in the car, I talked about dreams.

One of my students' favorite questions is what would I have told the high school me if I could go back in time. I tell them that I would've told 16 year old me to take his writing a little more serious than I did. I follow that up by telling my students then they would've never met me. When asked why, I tell them that'd I'd probably be writing televisions shows instead. When I told my father this, he said what a lot of people do: it's not too late. I laughed.

I'm a 44 year old father of two. I have responsibilities that supersede my dreams. My father scoffed at this. This is a sticking point between the two of us that I won't discuss here. I'll save that for the therapist. As selfish as I think I am sometimes, I don't have that in me. My whole job now is to do the best job to provide for my kids, emotionally and financially. I can't follow some whim that I dream of being a writer so I'm just going to quit working to go follow some dream. I said that I missed my shot. My shot now (writing novels and such) is down the priority list and my father again scoffed. Then I said my sole job was to do everything I could to make sure my kids could achieve their dreams. It was at that moment that I realized I had kind of unconsciously taken a swipe at my old man. And that was not my intent. I'm uncomfortable blaming my parents for any of my errors, habits, mistakes, psychosis and hang-ups,

This was a good time to shut up. But you know how that goes. So, I kept talking and I mentioned regret. I don't have a ton. I really don't, but I recognized an aspect of my personality that may have held me back. First, I don't take risks. My father agreed with that. I always took the safe, comfortable route. Comfort being the key word. The path of least resistance. There was so much I should've done, moved outside what I was comfortable doing and take a risk. Why did I stay working at Wegmans when I could've lived with my dad in Queens and experienced New York City? Why didn't me and my friends leave to go southwest or to Florida? Why didn't I just pack my car up and go somewhere? Because those were risks and I didn't like taking a risk. And I was never willing to sacrifice that comfort to take a risk.

So, now here I sit. A weary high school English teacher that secretly dreams of being a television show writer. Maybe I'm the paradox.

1 comment:

Lynn Kazmirski said...

It was a very interesting read since I know both of you. You can put your dreams on a shelf for a later date but don't ever bury them or they will also become regrets. Your dreams of writing that novel may not be the priority right now, but it is still a dream. You can write that novel when you're ready. Take in all the joy raising your kids can bring and enjoy because its gone before you know it.You will have so much more to bring to your writing after raising a family than you ever knew possible. So, hold on to your dreams and create some new ones.