I recall my parents exclaiming in frustration, “I hope someday you have a son just like you!” Say it they did, and surely enough, I did.
Those words rang in my head for years before it happened. It was like being tied to a railroad track and being able to see the train bearing down on you from afar. You know it’s coming, you know you can’t escape it, and so the anticipation lasts just long enough to drive you crazy.
You lie awake nights sweating, talking out of your head, eating coffee grounds (I just forget to turn on the coffee maker … 47 times) fighting back tears. And then one day the stork knocks on the door and drops off the little bundle of joy with a note attached. It reads, “Good luck! You’ll need it!” That’s not a great indication of things to come.
Seriously, both my parents passed years before my bundle of joy arrived. However, I am certain that many times during the years we raised my son, I could hear laughter from the sky. Often were the times that friends looked at me horrified just because I would shout “Stop it!” to the sky during a completely unrelated conversation.
I’ve received the calls from parents who were concerned that my son was leading their sons down the garden path of destruction. Oh, I was able to muster up a defense, always beginning with utter astonishment at the mere suggestion. However, in my heart I braced for some devastatingly familiar act my son had commited, which I was certain was a product of the “Parents’ Curse” cast on me by my parents.
I recall being brought to his elementary school class on “Show and Tell” day. Proudly, I stood before his classmates extoling the virtues of what I did for a living. The class erupted in laughter, and I hadn’t even gotten to my prepared jokes yet. From the corner of my eye I could see movement. And that movement was my son making fun of me behind my back. Just then, I would hear my parents’ laughter from somewhere beyond the clouds.
Please understand, I love all my children, and there are enough stories of woe to fill many pages just like this. And while it sounds like Chuck was a devil-child, he wasn’t quite as bad as his father, but I didn’t have to raise his father.
There were times when we would go to retreive he and his sister from a play day with friends, and I would have to fish him from beneath their bed where he would cry screaming, “Don’t make me go home with him.” Of course, the parents of the friends all looked suspiciously like I was an abuser. Thanks son.
I once attempted to remove the disruptive child from a Sunday church service. Just when I thought I had made a successful, unnoticed escape, his cries were heard over the voice of the preacher in the sanctuary, “Pray for me people,” he said. The entire congregation followed us to the parking lot making certain I didn’t beat the child. Trust me. The child knew what he was doing. How do I know? He was me. Just in the reincarnated state provided by the “Parental Curse.”
So now, years later I find the “Parental Curse” continues, but only better. He has a beautiful daughter. Yes, I said a daughter. She looks like him, she acts like him/us, and now he stays up nights sweating, talking out of his head, eating coffee grounds and fighting back tears. The laughter he hears isn’t coming from the sky though. No, it’s coming from me when he calls to ask advice.
Friends and neighbors, there are no sweeter words in any vocabulary than, “Dad, I’m sorry. I see now what I put you through.” In fact, they are so sweet I will often pretend I didn’t hear him the first or second time he says them just so he will say them again. It can happen for you, too, but you must be patient, have good medical insurance that includes mental health and not mind people avoiding you when you go out in public because you’re wild-eyed and drooling.
Believe me, I don’t wish anything bad for my son or granddaughter. I would jump in front of a bus to protect them. However, watching her put him through the quasi-normal anguish that comes with child-rearing makes me feel like I have a front row seat at an Elvis concert. It is wonderful. I will be standing by watching, waiting to help (really just listening as I still don’t have the answers) and enjoying thoroughly.
Mom and Dad, here’s to you. But couldn’t you just have left me a note instead.
Herb Day is a longtime local radio personality and singer-musician. You can email him at [email protected] and follow his work at http://www.HerbDayVoices.com and http://www.HerbDayRadio.com.