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May 11th, 1982
Walking home from the East Village meeting tonight, I think about how utterly miscast my father was in his role as Husband and Father. He was a wild man who could never fully take to the niceties of a happy home. Abandoned by his own father as a little boy— he grew up hard and tough and mean in the savage Missouri country of the Depression. He grew into a handsome young buck— strong and cocky and confident. The army took him out of Missouri for the first time. He was a soldier— young and tough and full of piss and vinegar. I have a picture of him when he was in the army— posed in front of a Quonset hut in Alaska. And, after the service, he returned to Missouri. And Rosalee was pregnant. The bad dream begins. Suddenly, the dead wife. The premature baby in an incubator.
The freedom, vitality, and virility of his life was over. Trapped by a sickly baby in an incubator and a dead wife. Alone now, he had to accept this unavoidable responsibility. A boy in his early 20s with a kid to raise. And he could just never get it right. Marriage to Natalie— a pitiful, veraciously insecure girl who saw this young stud and his motherless child as an automatic HOME. FAMILY.
Ladies and Gentlemen, that FAMILY never worked. Two uneducated country bumpkins trying to manufacture what was always a hopelessly distorted version of a decent middle-class life. It never worked. My father’s common laborer skills could never quite match the demands made by my mother for a “Leave It To Beaver” world. Her frightening, obsessive emotional needs could never be met. He was a cow shit-smelling, boozing brawling truck driver who did not fit into the setting of PTA meetings and cub scouts and visiting with neighbors. He was totally unsuited to these roles.
Perhaps my father truly hated me. It was I that had trapped him into a life that would never make him happy. For the first time, I feel as though I understand his not loving me. And this understanding absolves me. He didn’t hate me— he hated what having a child had done to his life. It was I who emasculated him. I had stripped him of his wild masculine freedom— turning him into a shabby version of Robert Young— wearing ill-fitting clothes to Sunday School with his wife and sissy son.
That day in the river, when he raged at me for being a sissy— for being inept— for only being capable of reading books— it was his own life he was raging at— his own wild frustration at playing this role of daddy with his wife and kid having a picnic.
But don’t you see what this means? It means there is nothing wrong with me— this is not my fault. all I did was be born. And that is what ruined my father’s life.