Fathers & Sons (Non-Turgenev Model)

belushi

Parental relationships are fraught and shifting things. Some people never got along with Dad or Mom growing up, then grow closer over time. Some people are extremely tight with their parents as children, then drift apart as adults. In either case, rhyme and reason are more words for poetry and science than life.

Michael Moran’s narrative poem provides a snapshot of a moment in time where a dad— heretofore disappointed in his bookish son—beams proudly. The reason? Not a college degree. Not a high-paying job. But Jim Beam.

That’s my boy!

It’s an amusing glance at a moment in time, something poetry is perfectly purposed to provide. Let’s read along:

 

The Day I Made My Father Proud
Michael Moran

The doorbell jarred me
toward consciousness
on a sultry Sunday morning
when I was nineteen,
a college sophomore.
I had slept where the bourbon
laid me—on an old couch
reclaimed from a curb.
The party had sped by,
left me road-kill,
limp and snoring,
so my roommates said,
and now I stumbled
to the buzzing door,
remembering what I had never
completely forgotten—
my family is coming.

Dad at the door.
I mumble, ‘I overslept,’
as he surveys the wreckage
of these tired rooms:
lip-sticked cigarette butts,
crushed aluminum cans,
glasses floating sliced limes,
broken brown bottles,
a sticky wooden floor under
smoked-and-perfumed air.
He turns slowly to me
and winks! ‘We can’t
let your mother see this,’
as if we’d planned the party
together, drank from the same
Yellowstone bottle all night.

We spring to action,
sponging spills, opening windows,
gathering garbage. He spins
through the rooms
with the grace of a dancer—
a miniature Falstaff—
humming old barroom songs
from his Navy days,
chuckling softly, his eyes
gleaming as he hides
the half-emptied Jim Beam.
By the time my mother
has herded all my siblings
up the stairs to the apartment,
we have salvaged it to decency.

You see, he thought I was
too serious, worried that I
read too many books, never
got into real trouble.
I remember the way
he stared at me
one Halloween evening
when I told him
I was staying home
to read King Lear.
His cold brown eyes
were sad, disgusted,
the eyes of an Elizabethan
reveler who had just heard
that the Puritans
had closed the theatres.

But that morning
I made him proud,
couldn’t have done better,
unless, perhaps,
one of the girls
had slept over
and answered the door,
wearing nothing
but my faded
red flannel shirt,
top buttons
undone.

 

Sometimes all it takes to repair a relationship with Dad is a mini-conspiracy against Mom. The key metaphor for me comes at the end of the penultimate stanza, where a flashback of import occurs:

 

I remember the way
he stared at me
one Halloween evening
when I told him
I was staying home
to read King Lear.
His cold brown eyes
were sad, disgusted,
the eyes of an Elizabethan
reveler who had just heard
that the Puritans
had closed the theatres.

 

 

It brings to mind a central truth: Every Dad hopes for his son one of two things. Either Sonny Boy is a chip off the old block (where the compliment lies in the echo) or Sonny Boy does one better by becoming the man Dad always hoped he’d be (where the script is rewritten).

What more could a father ask for? In the meantime, this particular day and this particular paternal pride will do.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One thought on “Fathers & Sons (Non-Turgenev Model)”