Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fathers and Sons

As it is Father's Day, I thought a relevant post couldn't hurt. The complex dynamic between a father and son has been written about before this present attempt -- with more sagacious insight, with more stunning prose, and evoking a greater degree of pathos and emotion. Ancient Greek mythology is inundated with this theme -- i.e. Zeus's father, Chronos, on a hunch from an oracle who warned him that one of his children will overthrow him, ate all of his sons and daughters; Zeus escaped and killed his father. The Bible offers a few stories of its own: the tale of Isaac trip up the mountain with dear old Dad, Abraham; Isaac's sons fighting over his birthright; Judah Macabee had a few sons of his own; and let's not forget God had a kid of his own in there as well (I think they wrote a Testament about [H]im).

More recently, Russian novelist, Turgenev, offers us Fathers and Sons (though this is more of a generational critique); and in the 20th Century, James Joyce complicates it all for us as only he can in Ulysses, while Freud provided us with his pervasive take on the myth of Oedipus. Clearly there have been milennia of examples that point to the darker side of the paternal/filial relationship, but I'm assuming that none of these were considered when Hallmark or whoever created Father's Day.

So, might I suggest some more uplifting reads, music, and movies that may lead us to some more positive ruminations about our Dads.

1. "Indian Camp" by Earnest Hemmingway. A short story about a son who follows his father and uncle who are sent to help deliver a baby at a nearby Native American village.

2. "Father and Son" by Cat Stevens. Most people hit up the cliched "Cats and the Cradle" when thinking of "Dad" songs, but this one far outshines it. The Johnny Cash/Fionna Apple cover isn't bad either. And if you're looking for more of a downer song, then Credance Clearwater's "Somedays Never Come" ain't too bad.

3. Field of Dreams - In my life, no work of art, be it film, novel, poem, or song, has better incapsulated the often traumatic and strained relationship between an American father and his son.

For each of us, the film opens a different wound or inspires a unique set of memories. For me, the images of James Earl Jones, Moonlight Graham, and Shoeless Joe Jackson are inextricably bound with countless hours in my yard, when I was a little guy playing catch with my Dad. Once we hung up the gloves, and my hero worship turned to adolescent, misguided angst, the movie would serve as a topic of debate -- my Dad futilely explaining to me that it was a film about fathers and sons, while I stubbornly contended that it was just a movie about baseball. Throughout these discussions, we shared the unspoken knowledge that we both understood the true meaning of the film, and, more precisely, we both knew that this ongoing debate was just our own way of keeping the lines of communication open as our relationship grew more strained.

I've heard several confessions from friends who say that while watching Field of Dreams with their Dad was also the first time they saw their fathers cry. The moment that a son witnesses this rare expression of vulnerability from their father is one not soon forgotten, for in it is revealed the possibility of a father's weaknesses and what could be a vast sea of inner turmoil usually concealed beneath a stoic facade. Even more, the moment reminds you -- maybe for the first time -- that your Dad is a son, himself, and knows all too well of the lovely and timeless struggle between a father and his boy.

Just to conclude and to point out the obvious, Field of Dreams is about fathers and sons. It's about the strained and broken relationship between a kid and his Dad and their chance at redemption. For many of us, our reconciliation is more easily attained than it was for Ray Kinsella. We don't have to build a baseball diamond or go on a road trip with James Earl Jones. We just need to give the old man a call today, Father's Day, and let him know that we love him and that many more things in our lives, besides that movie from 1989, turned out to be about fathers and sons.

Love ya, Pop.

1 comment:

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