Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Father's Day Feeling

As I have said in the past, I like Father's Day.  Later on today, I will hit the sales and buy stuff for me on sale.  It's not like I'm cheating.  I can't stand Christmas or Valentine's Day.  For me, participation in either of the latter civic rituals is complete hypocrisy.  But I need a new golf bag.  I know where I can get one on sale today.  Somebody is going to buy it.  It might as well be me whether or not I have any "heirs of the body" as the old property law cases used to say.

Besides, most Dads I know would love to treat Father's Day as no big deal.  Here's a true story. Back in April I submitted a essay on Father's Day to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  My editor at that time was a devout Roman Catholic father of a little girl whom he adores.  Here is the following e-mail exchange.

Editor: " This is great.  I want to use it."

Me: "Cool."

Editor: "When is Father's Day anyway?"

Me: "You're asking me?"

Editor: " Yeah well.  It's no big deal to those of us who are actually fathers.  I would just as soon be left alone."

Me: "But that won't happen will it?"

Editor: "Oh no."

Anyway, no, there are no heirs of my body of which I am even remotely aware.  And that's OK.  I assumed that I would be a father at one point in time but it just never worked out.  But on the other hand, I am in a position to do some things with my life and what little money I have scraped together that I would not be able to do if I had to worry about the college fund.  Which certainly is in line with my essentially narcissistic personality.

My memories of my own father are kind of diffuse at this point.  After all, by now he's been dead longer than I knew him.  I know it's different with girls and their daddies, but I suspect Hugh's daughters will experience at least some of the same disconnect when they consult the memory banks when they are in their fifties as well.  Human nature is what it is.  And 34 years, to use my example, is a long time to bear witness.

But what of my father?  Here's what I remember.  He was quiet.  He was shy to the point of social ineptitude.  Looking back at some of the weirder aspects of his personality through the modern prism of diagnosis I wonder whether he had ADD or Asperger's.  He was the kind of guy that could teach thermodynamics and yet fully believe that no one could see him from the outside as he passed by a window in his skivvies.  Which, as one of my shrink friends who evaluates children would say, sounds kind of "aspergery" to me.  Then again, maybe I come by it honest.  My father always struck me as a lonesome person who had something of an impaired ability to relate to others.  As for me, I am not lonesome to the slightest degree and I play well with others.  And yet, for the most part I am the most content when I am by myself.

Maybe I'm a little more aspergery than I care to know.

One of my aunts maintained that he was a drunk.  I don't know about that.  I only saw Dad real bad drunk once that I know of.  It was not pretty and is a story for another day.  Sometimes it takes awhile for dust to settle.  That time has come.  But this is Father's Day.  Today is not the day.  In any event, I do know he was addicted to nicotine and this is why his heart blew up at 53. 

Bottom line.  He was a good person.  He worked hard.  He wore the uniform.  He faithfully did his duty in harm's way.  He was a good provider. He loved his sons.  Like most marriages his had its up and downs.  And from what I could tell from my perspective of limited discernment as a young person, the downs were practically Wagnerian in their scope and intensity.  But over time I have come to see just as bad if not worse.  And he made sure that there were investments in place that were so sufficiently sound that only recently have they been liquidated pursuant to his spouse's Will. 

My father and I clashed a lot toward the end.  In my junior year at Hendrix I began the process of applying for law schools.  I applied to schools all over the country.  While he grudgingly paid the application fees for Vanderbilt, Tulane, SMU and Arkansas, he made no secret of the fact that he wasn't going to pay for me to go to school out of the state.  Which struck me as an odd position for somebody who up until then had routinely disparaged higher education in Arkansas.  Eventually I figured it out.  He didn't want me to leave. 

Unfortunately, he left before I did.

If I am doing the math right in my head, which I am probably not having still no aptitude for math or science which he found unfathomable, Buck Bowen would have been 87 as of this writing.  Most likely, he would not have lived that long given his chain smoking ways along with the genetic predisposition to coronary artery disease that recent testing revealed he bequeathed to guess who?

But I wish he had been around after I returned to Arkansas after getting my law degree from The Tulane University of Louisiana.  I wish we could have played golf.  Maybe we could have worked some of this shit out on the driving range.  Maybe not. 

I wish he could have seen that I turned out OK.  I wish I could have said "Thank you."

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