Thursday, February 02, 2006


Parents possess the greatest capacity to inflict pain upon their children.

Yesterday, I visited my old home and got victimized by a whole lot of unnecessary and seemingly ineluctable emotional pain, courtesy of my step-father. He is a good man, a moral and ethical person, an excellent provider for his family, and I do not attribute any of his acts to malice, but there are things he says and does that are hurtful, plain and simple. His words, propelled by the issuance of his loud and unassailable conviction that he is always correct, cut deep.

The nature of our relationship has hardly varied from the first time I met him. I suppose it was my own fault thinking that time would mellow even the harshest of voices. The thing is, even as I finally broke down away from his presence after all was said and done (seeing me, a 37-year old man helplessly in tears, after affecting an air of insouciance throughout the entire episode, is not a pretty sight), I could not bring myself to hate him. It didn't (and still doesn't) make sense and in fact goes against the entire grain of my character.

Despite my age, my personal and business achievements, my writing, despite everything I've done, I will always be as he sees me, no doubt as a 12-year old son of another man, a popinjay without anything to show. I can never be good enough, never be a "real" person. In his eyes, I am already locked in stasis, frozen in time, stultified, bereft of the benefit of growth or experience or maturity.

We are forever children in the eyes of our parents. But can we not, without surrending the nature of the parent-child relationship, meet as adults and at least talk as intelligent human beings? Can we not put aside, even for the span of a single 5-minute conversation, the roles that nature, circumstance or choice have assigned us? Must every word, every nuance, every action be interpreted through the lens of the superior/inferior dichotomy? Must parents continually remind their adult children that their parental authority trumps any other conceivable aspect of interpersonal relationships? Must ad hominem-style arguments be forever part of the parent/child rhetoric?

My step-dad is over 70 years old. I am not in this world to change him or his worldview. I am not even his bloodkin as I am constantly reminded. My assigned response is to just shut up, be vilipended, and take it all without a single word of defiance, like I did yesterday and in the previous years. I did not talk back because of deeply ingrained respect. My role in the drama is writ in stone.

When I was young, I longed for a father.

Now that I am much older, I must confess that I still do.

The nature of paternal relationships is ever complex. It is tempting to label certain behavior "right" or "wrong", to pass judgment on things said and done, to crumble in the face of relentless haragues or to stand and fight even though the battle is pointless and can never be truly resolved to anyone's satisfaction. In the end, what matters? After the flurry of words, what happens?

We pick up and move on and repeat the cycle.

After everything, when I got back home, I hugged my daughter and told her how much I loved her. The everpresent fear I have concerning fatherhood is this: that given my paternal role models, I will end up tormenting Sage in the years to come. That I will be like them.

I can only hope, given my determination and force of will, that I do not take the same path my fathers did.

That I do not learn by their examples and break the cycle imbued in my paternal spirit.


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