Friday, January 12, 2007

Poor Dad, Poor Dad

Just like Mr. Rich Dad, Poor Dad (RDPD), I have two fathers. Unlike RDPD, mine are are both poor.

Poor dad number one has money and he tells my wife that he plans to give it to poor people he doesn't know... unless I apologise.

Poor dad number two pretty much depends on the monthly social security check and wisdom of the occassional patron. When I could afford it, I sent him small monthly stipends toward the purchase of a future painting.

PD One doesn't speak to me anymore. He threw me out of his house five or six years ago. His lovely daughter won't speak to him if she can help it. She can. He doesn't have her phone number.

My conversations with PD Two generally last several hours. We talk every couple of weeks on the phone. He lives 2000 miles away.

PD One lives on a mountain. Literally and figuratively. The view is fabulous. It really is a treat to watch storm clouds or dust storms gather themselves at the mountains' peaks, then pour across the valley sky like a huge wave on a string. ( I lived the in guest house next door off and on for a few years.)

But it's apparently lonely at the top. The companionship of caregivers and a second wife - whose commitment to ecology includes recycling spoiled food from the wastebasket for her husband's meals - doesn't seem to mask the absence of loving and appreciative children, among other things.

That's not an entirely accurate characterization, actually. I do love and appreciate PD One. But ever since he ordered me out of his life, I've found that it's far more pleasant to love and appreciate him from a distance.

In the beginning, the experiene of exile was utterly wretched. My heart felt like a smashed orange being twisted on the ribs of a juicer. But eventually, and yes somewhat sadly, I discovered that he had done us, my wife and I, a favor. Is there a word for a good tragedy in Greek or in English? Something other than, say, "clasic."

Poor dad, he promised, again and again, that the day would come when I would stand in his shoes and understand. "Just wait," he'd say, "till you're standing in my shoes." He must have said it a lot in the course of 20 or 30 years, because it still rings in my ears as if he had just left the room.

I have a few pair of his cast off shoes. He bought the best. And they fit me, though I'm a couple of inches taller than he used to be. But I still don't undertand. Well, perhaps I do, sort of. Sort of like the way a scientist might understand what happened to an miserable frog or mouse in trapped in some awful but important experiement. It's a clincial understanding without comprehension or approval. It's the best I can do right now.

PD Two never promised that I would be able to stand in his shoes, let alone fill them. I can't even remember what he wore, aside from dirty sneakers. They couldn't have cost much. But if ever there were a man I wanted to emulate, whose shoes I truly yearned to fill, he's the man. The man and the master.

1-12-06 2:02 am.

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