Beneath his sunny disposition, my father is a deeply troubled man. He has tried to do everything right: he went to college, fought for his country, married a redheaded woman, always worked to support his family, paid his taxes. He bought the right kind of car to transport his family rather than the sporty car he always desired. Yes, my dad has sacrificed to bring happiness to others. Why, then, couldn’t his only two sons return this kindness to him?
When my mother gave my father two strong redheaded sons, he was delighted. What man, in his heart of hearts, doesn’t want other men to carry on the paternal blood line? What man doesn’t want to see his sons take on the world and win? My father, although he would never say this to anyone, is one of those guys.
Sadly, neither of us – me or my brother – did the things my father secretly, fervently wanted us to do. We let him down in every way imaginable, and now he must find a way to cope with the pain. Why were both of us such screw-ups?
-In spite of a long family history of being good at math, neither of us have pursued a career in mathematics or math-related fields.
-I failed to make varsity football in high school, and my brother threw away a perfectly good basketball scholarship to an NCAA school (hint: it rhymes with “nuke”). His graduate thesis, “Folk Singing in 1930’s rural Mississippi,” sits unread on our bookshelf at home.
-In spite of my young age, I failed to vote for Jimmy Carter in 1980.
-As of this writing, both brothers have refused to take on multiple wives.
-My brother shows no remorse for having shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
-We aren’t “ethnic” enough for him.
-My gambling addiction forced my father to sell his most prized possession, a bronzed parakeet the Archduke of Lebishstein-Upon-Ainsworthy gifted him for protecting the commonwealth.
-After a promising childhood, my brother turned into a hideously ugly adult.
-My brother and I both laughed at his one attempt to write historical fiction. “The Meadows of Brunswick,” a coming-of-age story set in Southern Maine about a group of boys who set off to see a dead body, just seemed too familiar. All major publishers agreed with us, but this didn’t take away the sting of having been rejected by his sons first.
-Neither of us contracted a horribly disfiguring disease like elephantitis.
-My brother, while playing in the backyard, accidentally stepped on my father’s favorite anthill. In spite of our best efforts to rebuild, it never looked the same.
-There was the time I spat in his face and called him a lousy cheat.*
-After brief forays into elementary school musicals, neither brother took up singing professionally.**
We have, of course, let my father down in many ways I cannot bring myself to recount here. Suffice it to say there is slim likelihood of a reconciliation. Next time you see my father, show a brave face. He’s suffering under his big smile and gentle demeanor.
*I have no recollection of his incident.
**My mom is more sad about this than my dad.