Allan Gurganus, Plays Well With Others:

  • Do I miss my father? Well, my father was a decent man. There were moments of real sweetness: “New York, watch out!” Like so many guys that age – with the Depression and the War each landing a different kind of sucker punch – Dad was also a very very conventional man and hard a one. Remote. He grew up poor, wanting to make a million dollars. And he did! He made his cool million, if the hard way. He went to work on a Monday when I was about one year old and – in many ways – he never really came back home.

    Hard to explain how much of him ended up Missing in Action. Did he choose which parts to sacrifice, and why?

    I mean, he got to live in a beautiful house with a beautiful woman who loved him and with healthy sons who loved him or, at worst, really wanted to. Then he was a retired millionaire, and all of it was just as he had planned, just as any kid wearing an apron ever wished. Stil, it all had to be stated in question form. (No simple joyful assertions: “I have always been lucky in my friends.”) He seemed some hard-earned capital, proud never to have ever been “touched.” Severe penalties for early withdrawal.

    Fact is, Dad didn’t really want other people to have any fun, you know?

    The truth is – (and you are asking for the truth, right?) – most days, I don’t actually miss my father all that much.

    And yet, even now, evenings especially – I feel it. Some chronic low-grade longing, still.

    So, yeah, around office-closing-time:

    I do at least miss missing him.

  • And, later, after the next to last of my friends died, after I escaped New York, didn’t I, moping around the hardware store of my new village, show both his affable surface and his overpressurized triggerpoint? People acted kind to me but I saw they felt they couldn’t really count on me, not yet. They whispered around me.

    In a shed behind my North Carolina house, I bent over some old windows. Each pane reflected the silhouette, stern, bowed, manly yet thickened toward the tanklike – and it was so much him, I had to rush indoors and sit somewhere and miss him.

    Did I earlier say I didn’t, that I only missed missing my father? What a flippant, queenly, overelegant and quite inaccurate revenge on half my being. I recall his three-pointed handkerchief as he headed to the Rainbow Room: “Watch out, New York!” I remember his saying, “Provide, provide, they told us.” I recollect the sight of him, having dragged my mother’s vacuum cleaner out into the garage, him down on all fours purging sand from the Buick’s back-seat carpet, and looking so intense and playful squatting there, using the screeching as something to hide in, his face grown childlike, rapt. Doing good, doing good well.

    Oh, Dad. I never even “interviewed” you.

    Would you, asked, have answered me?

    I will go on record. I still don’t exactly know why you were so strict with your young son. Did you fear that my emotions, my drama, would cut me off from seeming serious enough to be, say, anybody’s dad? That’s not true, Pop. I’ve several friends and children.

    I sometimes miss you, Sir.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2020.12.22 17:59. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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