Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fathers, Part 13

From a column published Nov. 11, 1990...

Oh, my father takes such delight in my parental misery.
I talk to him about teenager troubles. I expect a little sympathy, maybe a little advice. Instead, he rubs his palms together and grins. His eyes twinkle, and he has to suppress laughter. This is the joy of revenge.
I say: “I don’t know what I’m going to do with the kid, Dad. He wears combat boots and a motorcycle jacket. I think his role model is Sid Vicious. And his hair!”
My father snickers. He says: “You can’t imagine how good this makes me feel. Now you know.”
I say: “What am I supposed to do when I tell the kid he has to be home no later than a certain time – absolutely, not a minute later – and he shows up two hours later? And when I confront him, he puts on this puzzled look, glances at his watch and shrugs. What am I supposed to do?”
My father says: “Ha ha ha.”
He puts his arm around my shoulder, gives me a poke or two in the arm and says, “Now you know.”

Yes, now I know what the punishment is for being a troubling teenager: You goof on your parents, and 25 years later it comes around and hits you in the back of the head like some nuclear-age boomerang.
I can recall, back in 1965, a dinner-table exchange that went something like this:
Father: “If you would get that ridiculous hank of hair out of your eyes and off your face, maybe you could actually see what you’re eating!”
Son: “I can see just fine. We’re eating bourgeois food in a bourgeois house.”
Father: “There’s that communist talk again.”
Son: “Oh, Dad, the communists aren’t such bad guys. They’re just like us, and they want to be our friends.” (Yes, I really did say that.)
Father: “Oh, they want to be our friends, do they? And I suppose those things on top of their intercontinental ballistic missiles are just invitations to a garden party.”
Son: “That’s a typical imperialist reaction, but I can’t argue this anymore – the band is coming over to practice.”
Father: “Oh great. And I was looking forward to an evening of peace and quiet. Well, at least I can take off my socks and stand in the kitchen, above the basement, and get a foot massage from the vibrations.”
Son: “We have to play loud. The volume is the music, but I don’t expect you to understand that.”
(A long pause ensues in which the elder silently counts to 10.)
Father: “You’ll see. Oh, you’ll see.”

So, 25 years later, I see. I come home from work, put my hand on the doorknob and feel the tickle of vibration. I open the door and am blasted with noise from the stereo. I cup my hands to my face and yell, “WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?”
He yells back, “JANE”S ADDICTION.”
“OH, NEVER MIND!” I yell in disgust and storm out of the room. Then I turn, rub my palms together and yell back, “YOU’LL SEE!”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As they say, "I hope to live long enough to become a burden on my children."

Thus has it ever been and thus will it ever be.

Just as my dad couldn't tell the Beatles from the Stones, I can't tell many of my son's favorite bands apart. But I'm a musician, and my dad was not. What's that mean?