One afternoon, many full moons ago, my older brother telephoned our dear ol’ Pappy. Brian wanted to impart, to our my-way-or-the-highway father, that June, his wife, was less than nine months away from bequeathing the in-laws its first grandchild.
More poignantly, however, my brother-the-interventional cardiologist and his wife-duh-lawyer (a marriage obviously made in Jewish heaven) had decided that even with his 20 years of formal education and her nineteen, that they had never had a course on parenting.
So, my brother said, with only his right brain at work, that he and June were going to take a six-month course on how to raise a child.
My father, who was somewhat flummoxed, snorted: “Didn’t I already teach you that?”
My brother paused and thought for a nanosecond before responding: “Perhaps I ought to take a 12-month course.”
Not bad, really. Considering that Brian’s turbid sense of humor usually came off about as limp as a swinging bunt.
Later my dear ol’ bourbon sippin’ pappy would, with the bare-fang restraint of one of his notorious guard dogs, telephone me at the old Philadelphia Bulletin where I was a columnist. In his usual testy verbal demeanor he demanded to know, even though I said I was on deadline, if he had been a good father.
Now obviously my successful and multi-tasking Father was not one to carry family pictures where he sat on his money. If Freud would have psycho analyzed him it would have provided one of those demonstrative moments of eureka!
My father declared many times he never needed, or even desired, to be liked – he needed to be a father.
And of that, he was guilty on both counts.
Oh, yeah, my safe and quick deadline exit with Dad that day on the telephone was to laugh hysterically. I told him I promised to send him my monthly bar bill.
Hmmm….I wonder what I meant by that.
The point to be made here is simply this: If you’ve never been hated by your children, then you’ve never been a parent.
And in truth, as it has been stipulated by most offspring, parents are obviously the last people on earth who ought to have children. I resemble that. But, my brother, of course, having taken the bloody, darn course, did a much more noble job.
Nonetheless, the question that keeps percolating generation after generation is: What’s the problem with kids these days?
Because we’ve certainly got trouble in River City.
And (if you’ll be glad) I’ll be quite frank. The trouble is us.
Raise your hand if you can blow your child’s nose and smack him on the rump at the same time.
We’re a mess. Therefore our children are a mess. So try to imagine what our children’s children are going to be.
On second thought, don’t. That is, unless you are heavily medicated. It’s even messier than the making of sausage and the passage of legislation. It’s a problem we don’t want to face in the bathroom mirror, nor across the dinner table.
At the same time there are too many who freely walk among us who are strongly convicted that the government should intervene – even more than it already overly sticks its Pinocchio nose in now.
Let me tell you plainly and simply: It weren’t no government that made us fat, ugly and stupid. Oh, it may have exacerbated with welfare, and DHS and credit cards and ADC and all those other despoiling government toys that enabled most of us to become parents long before we stopped being children.
But let’s get something clearly understood: The government ain’t there to help us, even unintentionally; it is there to take our money and boil us all in the pot of capitalism where only the scum floats to the top.
How long did we have to kick the government in the groin before the Feds admitted we afflicted our own soldiers with Agent Orange in Vietnam? Wasn’t it our own National Guard that killed scores of unarmed miners and their families in Ludlow, Colorado on behalf of the fat cat mine owners? And after 911, and until we shot bin Laden a few weeks back, who got punished with long lines and impossible rules that did nothing except enrich Bush, Dick and the gang of Sodomites.
Besides, when the government decides to do something for all of us that definitely means that only very few of us are going to really prosper. The rest of us get the stick shift. It’s an old saw that when you try to help everybody you end up helping nobody.
Anyway, this got me to thinking what most everybody acknowledges: That a vast majority of our social problems today is due to the breakdown of the family. But nobody’s been doing much about it. In fact, next to nothing.
I’ve said this before and I’ll keep repeating it until even my latest-ex learns not to be a nattering nabob of negativism. (She still can’t walk and talk without splitting her negative infinitives.)
Everything is a war. Even raising families. And nothing succeeds without a leader. Parents have gotta lead; children have got to dance backwards (some in high heels), and everybody’s got to give it up for G-d and country.
Like the General who simply explains his high combat casualties: Regrettable…but necessary.
My father was right…again. Now ain’t that a bitch.
I remember a dinner discussion when the screaming winds of battle in raising a family had pretty much stilled to a breeze. I was heading off to college and my brother happened to be home on a college break. My unilateral father announced that if he had it to do all over again he would have been even harder on us as we were sprouting like weeds through cracks in the cement.
I couldn’t quite fathom what gulah or stalag he was conjuring between those omnipotent puffs on his omniscient corn cob pipe.
Was he fair?
Did he persistently terrorize us?
Was he nuts?
Hell is chocked full of them.
But, we get what we get. And I got a man whose own father was killed by a streetcar when my father was only 16. And his mother died of cancer when he was 21. And at the end of WWII he was an orphan who had to quickly become a man. He didn’t have the time or money to play with toys. In fact, he didn’t have any. He used to joke, that he was so poor starting out that if he wasn’t a man he would have had nothing to play with.
There was one lingering lament by my father during that time when my brother called about his parenting course and I was sending him my bar bills. To this day it echoes to remind me that as bad and tough and cruel and unfair that I thought he was, I could have had a far worse situation.
“Perhaps if my father had been there for me past my teenage years,” he said in a plaintive moment, “well, then, maybe some things would have turned out differently.”
But, of course.
And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony.