Fathers, Sons and Other Catastrophes

I had a hard time telling my family, especially my father, that all I wanted to do in life was write. It might have been easier to tell him that I enjoyed slunking octagenarians in the toilets behind the local McDonald’s.

Never-the-less, the grand admission was made. Picture a ridiculously self-conscious teenager with his hands in his pockets up to his elbows for the first time really noticing the construction of his sneakers.

It sparked a debate (read: guilt trip) that lasted over a decade.

Get your fucken head straight, boy. If you don’t pay the rent you’re not a real man. Get a job, come home exhausted, be a stranger to your children. What the fuck is so complicated with being responsable?”

My defense, as meagre as it was, went something like this … but I love writing.

Bare with me here as I try to decipher the years of man-speak into something reasonably coherant: changing tyres, shooting rabbits, scaling fish – these are hobbies for real men.

Well … if you put it that way.

It’s been said to me that at least part of the reason I put 30,000 kilometres between me and my father was so that I could write without the weight of all that guilt … which I am not denying. Neither am I admitting that it works all that well. I remember distictly the call I made to my father in which I stupidly divulged the fact that I was holding down three jobs to make ends meet in Berlin, and that I had no time for myself. “That’s my boy.” Said the voice proudly, somehow making me feel proud as well.

Fuck that.

My Dad came to visit me here in Lausanne. Awkward would be putting it mildly. I’m taller, wider across the chest and pack a meaner punch, and the physical presence of my father still makes me nervous.

We were having a meal in an Asian-fusion restaurant, which I was hoping was not too faggy for the old boy, when he hit me with something close to an emotional sledge hammer: “Did I ever tell you my favourite poem?”

I tripped over my own thoughts for so long the waiter inquired of my wife if she had my epilepsy medication at hand.

In my head there’s one question that just keeps echoing back at me: my father knows what a poem is?

He took my stunned silence as a queue to commence, and recited a beautiful piece in Bosnian by Aleksa Sakic.

A tear actually crept into my eye. For the guilt, for the lies, for the years wasted selling the facade as if it were the real person, and for all the fools who bought it.

Naturally, I didn’t let my father see me crying.

And fuck that too.

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