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On Disappointment

(Experimenting with style.)

Just let it out: I remember after my uncle got out of jail him and my dad futzing around my Grandma June’s house in Arabi. They were working on his bike, or just dicking around, and the beer was flowing, with talk of high school hijinks, something about pot smoking behind the swimming pool, then a slurred warning to “do as I say, not as I do.” I remember swimming (oh how I still love to swim), and how fancy my grandma’s house was (she was the only person I knew who had a pool), and my dad mentioning his idea to run pipes along the hot pool-house roof to heat the water. Was it pride I felt at so creative and ambitious a plan? Then he said something about bacteria growing in the heat, and abandoned the idea just as quickly. Later he mentioned he’d made a plan with his own dad for that same roof. They were going to rebuild it to add a second story, somewhere my dad could stay Greg-Brady-style, and they even drew up plans, but his dad didn’t follow through, and that was the problem, my own pop said, that his dad never followed through. He’d make these plans, big and elaborate, but they never went anywhere. (Something I myself am heir to. It’s not just genes. There’s a laggard’s inheritance.) Is that irony lost? Like paradise?

I remember seeing an ad in the 90s for gilette razors, I think, with triple the blades for a closer, less-irritating shave. My dad pointed out how dumb that was, since it’s the same number of razor strokes, just all at the same time, and I thought, “What a good observation,” and there was an affinity, I felt it, because I imagined my dad to be like me, smart (whatever that means), and it’s a natural feeling to think loved ones are like you, that you share values and interests, anything besides DNA.

How disappointed he must be. He’s a biker type, tattoos and a Harley, ponytail and omnipresent beer in hand, and in ’85, after I was born, when he held me that first time (assuming he ever held me), I bet he thought, “This is my son, my first born son, and he will be like me. He’ll shoot pool and hold his liquor and get in fistfights and kick-start a motorcycle from sitting.” This is my son, with whom I am well pleased, because we’re all little gods in our own way, creating things in our own image, even if the paint brush is just our dicks and the paint our spunk. How disappointed he must have been when I turned out to be me, a corruption from the template, something unplanned. Smart (relatively), nerdy (in a bad way), disinterested in motorcycles (loud and dangerous), small and weak (not even scrappy), left-leaning (and left-handed), and irreligious (or is that irrelevant?). All those wasted expectations, that happy heart flutter when first he thought of the future, a future we’d make together.

I do like to play pool. So there’s that.

Of course, I suffer from the same. When Petra was born, I couldn’t help but wonder how she might be like me. Will she like to read, and think about the world, and do all the other pretentious bullshit I fill my days with?

Maybe she’ll like motorcycles. We’ll come full circle.

I’ll do my best not to impose my own interests on her. I’ll do my best to let her be her.

So long as she’s also left-handed.

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