Finding Fathers: A Warner Bros. Picture (Middle)

Part Two of the essay I wrote years ago concerning my relationship with my father. Over the past week I saw my dad for the first time in a couple months, and I think some things were straightened out. So the anger and rage I had when I first started working the essay into this blog are gone, but since the one or two people who read this blog asked me to continue, I will:

The years that spanned between then and college were in numerous permutations of the "weekend Dad" ritual that millions of kids in similar situations enacted. Many of those weekends blur together now, specific events and conversations rise only to wisp away on the smoke trailer from my father's preferred brand, Benson and Hedges. I remember his second wedding in the stone church with the kittens in the back, my dad dancing with his new wife to the strains of As Time Goes By from Casablanca, our favorite movie. Preparing Chicken Elegant in the kitchen of the small apartment. Walking along the Appalachian Trail with my dad, step-mother, sister, and brother. Getting my brother to eat an olive at Christmas dinner, and then watching as he proceeded to vomit all over the table. But more than anything else I remember watching movies. We would all sit in the living room, usually with seafood marinara or something from the Italian restaurant in town, and we would eat and laugh and watch. All types of movies, all different eras. I remember being in that apartment watching Paul Newman and Robert Redford jump off the cliff into the roaring river below in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I remember being amazed watching him cry during the bicycle chase scene in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. I even recall talking about how great a movie Streets of Fire was, even though I didn't really like it - but I knew my dad did.

Somewhere in those years of viewing we gradually dropped the roles of father and son. I don't know how I thought of him. My mother was really both parents to me. My father played a role that was part uncle, part friend, part personal bank. Someone to have fun with on the weekends, because he liked the same things you did, and you usually never went away empty-handed. I think this was the same for my father. I was someone he could brag about to his friends - the son who made National Honor Roll, who got his name in the paper (too bad it was something on the civil war instead of for sports - I think his proudest moment was when I got a mention for an "honorable finish" in a cross country race I ran - the only sport I participated in for High School), who he could impress his knowledge and expertise on and get acknowledgement in return. As far as I knew this never seem to bother him; he looked happy with the obligatory "thank you" and "I love you" that I tried to regularly bestow on him.

Looking back now, it bothers me now that it didn't seem to bother either of us.

Adolescence puts all kids at odds with their parents. With my father and I, the diminishing frequency of visits, my growing desire for getting laid and his growing passion for getting drunk made it harder and harder for either of us to pay attention to the other. Each of us began to see the other person as a stranger, a separate person that wasn't connected to the Jungian archetypes we had etched in our brains of "father" or "son."

College, and the new physical distance it put between myself and my parents provided the impetus to allow the rose-tinted glasses a father and son wear for so many years to finally fall away from where they were hanging on the tips of our noses. We could glare (at a safe distance, of course) at what lines and scars the years and events had put on us. I saw my father not only as fallible, but corrupted. A man who drank too much, was beat down from his job, and stopped caring about anything other those thing that might directly affect him, the poor target for life's petty jokes. God's fool. Everything was too hard; there was no time. Calls became infrequent - visits practically nonexistent. I found myself hating him, damning his faults and belittling his worth to me. Eventually we stopped talking altogether.

I never bothered to think of what he thought I had become.