Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fathers, Part 9

Three years after leaving boarding school, just after my junior year at Washington & Jefferson College, I was married. Alice and I moved to Florida, and then back to Pennsylvania in 1972. Two years later, our son was born.

We thought long and hard about a name. I had a boyhood friend named Broderick Washburn, Brody for short. We liked the sound of it. “Are you sure you don’t want to name him Alfred Parker Burroughs IV?” Alice asked me at the last moment. I was wavering, but I said, “No, he should have his own name, be his own person. Let’s call him Brody.”
We compromised, though, and gave him Parker as a middle name.

There was disappointment, even a little outrage in my family. Lulie – my grandfather’s sister – was in a huff. My mother was peeved. “How could you possibly name a child after that horrible, horrible man at the ranch in Mexico!” she complained over the phone when I called from the hospital.
“Who?” I asked, completely puzzled.
“That awful man with the scars all over his face, the body guard, the one who guarded our house, Brodie!” she said.
“I was too young to remem…”
“Broderick would have been OK,” she interrupted, “but now every time I see this child I’m going to think of that awful, awful man!”
Gee, thanks Mom.

The boy certainly looked like his own person. I could detect no resemblance. Of course, many people said the infant “looks just like his father.”
“What!?” I’d say. “Huh? “He weighs like 8 pounds. My nose is bigger than his face. How can he look like me?”

I never did see him as part of me, part of my body. From the beginning, I saw him as this wonderful little stranger that came into our lives. Maybe that was my inheritance, the fathering ways handed down to me from the previous generations. I was content from the start with him being his own person, with his own name.
And like all the other Burroughs men before him, he would find his own path through life.

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