This weekend we honor our fathers. As in the case of mothers, it is a shame to remember our progenitors only one day a year. For good or bad, our memories of parents obviously vary from person to person. Do we ever get what we want or deserve in a single person? I don’t think so. Nobody is perfect, and it would be a strange world if they were. We all have our little quirks and foibles like it or not.
This is an excerpt from Steve Martin’s book “Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life”. Steve Martin happens to be a favorite of mine, so it was a pleasure to read a little of his story.
“My father,—died in 1997 at age eighty-three, and afterward his friends told me how much they loved him. They told me how enjoyable he was, how outgoing he was, how funny and caring he was. I was surprised by these descriptions, because the number of funny or caring words that had passed between my father and me was few. — When I was seven or eight years old, he suggested we play catch in the front yard. This offer to spend time together was so rare that I was confused about what I was supposed to do. We tossed the ball back and forth with cheerless formality.
My father was not impressed with my comedy act. After my first appearance on Saturday Night Live, he wrote a bad review of me in his newsletter for the Newport Beach Association of Realtors, of which he was president. “His performance did nothing to further his career.’ I believe my father didn’t like what I was doing in my work, and was embarrassed by it. Perhaps he thought his friends were embarrassed by it, too, and the review was to indicate that he was not sanctioning this new comedy. Later, he gave an interview in a newspaper in which he said, ‘I think Saturday Night Live is the most horrible thing on television.’ But as my career progressed, I noticed that my father remained uncomplimentary toward my comedy, and what I did about it still makes sense to me. I never discussed my work with him.
Years later, just before my father’s death, I was alone with him in his bedroom; his mind was alert but his body was failing. He said, almost buoyantly, ‘I’m ready now.’ I sat on the edge of the bed, and a silence fell over us. Then he said, ‘I wish I could cry, I wish I could cry.’
At first, I took this as a comment on his condition, but am forever thankful that I pushed on. ‘What do you want to cry about?’ I said.
“For all the love I received but couldn’t return.’
I felt a chill of familiarity.
There was another lengthy silence as we looked into each other’s eyes. At last, he said, ‘You did everything I wanted to do.’
‘I did it for you,’ I said. Then we wept for the lost years. I was glad I didn’t say the more complicated truth; ‘I did it because of you.’
12 thoughts on “FATHERS”
Yes aunti dear. So sad to not be real. Can I bring lily over to meet Charlie next Wednesday ? I need to give Roberta a manicure as well! Love you and Sam.
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Charlie is waiting patiently for Lily’s visit.
It’s really amazing to read of Martin’s relationship with his father, and to recognize parallels between his experience and my own. My mother always was embarassed by my choosing varnishing as a career, although she seemed to be less so as time went on. And, she never could quite “get” this playing around with a computer that I do. Even when I was published in magazines and brought them home to her, she judged them by the amount of the check.
I understood all of this, though not at the beginning. But slowly, I stopped showing her my writing. It was to precious to me to have her denigrate it. What others thought, I didn’t care. 🙂
Our closest relationships are with a parent, and to to be considered less than perfect in their eyes can be devastating. I suppose when we are born they envision smaller replicas of themselves in some ways. Today’s parents are an amazement to me when every word, every act of each child is complimented immediately with great excitement, much like training a dog. I’m all for approval if warranted though not with as much verve. My mother, grandmother and aunt all seemed to think I was the second coming, while my father, who was away at sea a lot, was more like “What have you done lately?” in attitude. I relished his approval over any other because I knew it to be true.
I think we always keep the most precious things to ourselves. I am sorry for your mother. She was the loser.
It all came good at the end!
I was quite touched by his story. It may explain the way I see him today, not as a comic, but as a serious artist, art collector and musician. Gone are the Saturday Night Live days when he was so darn crazy fun.
Ouch. The father resisting all those years on account of his experience of jealousy and failure, the son longing for his approval. All that withholding. Sigh. I’m so fortunate in the father I had: a warm, nurturing, loving man who liberated all around him with his integrity, grace and contentment.
Fortunately most of our fathers are of that type. Unfortunately there is a jealousy gene built in to so many—even parent strange as it seems.
I always felt Steve Martin had a depth far beyond the surface of his performances…
Thank you for sharing that excerpt.
As in so many, what hurts us sometimes makes us stronger. Thank you Carol Ann.
Hi AK, I enjoyed this post. It reminds all of us to make the most of the time we have.
I am interested in your comment/response to Shoreacres about the unbridled enthusiasm and excessive approval that modern-day parents bestow on their children. I agree with your observations. We have spawned a number of weak males and body-obsessed females…from a genetic point of view, this crop of people does not bode well for future generations. I can’t remember when I last saw a manly man under the age of 30. They all look so tentative, soft, and almost feminine in some cases. The women? In the SF Bay Area, often augmented, self-consumed, and insecure.
Where are we headed?
I’m reading Iris Origo’s autobiography in which she chronicles her family members. Quite revealing and highlights some of the similarities that successive generations foist on their grandparents and parents. Well worth the read.
I am not familiar with Iris Origo, but I’ll check that one out.
I think the thing which annoys me about so many of our younger people is their sense of entitlement. It seems to begin in earnest when they get their first real job and expect a salary befitting the amount their eduction cost their parents. Sadly they get it! Barbie had much to do with loss o female self-esteem or maybe it built it up. Either way what happened to authenticity?