Down to the last feeble days of his life, I feared the sound of my father’s voice raised in anger. Hell, here I was an old man myself, a few months from sixty, and he could still scare me even though a stiff breeze could have knocked him over. He outwitted me by getting that old. It would not have been seemly for me to have gone up to that dried up old man and knocked him flat to the ground and kicked him repeatedly as I had so deeply desired to do in my youth. But fear breeds anger and even when he was dried up, I could still feel that heated impulse to do him grievous bodily harm down there poking at the inside of my chest like that monster in Alien.
As a youth, in my teens and in my twenties, I had also desired to knock him down and to beat him to a living pulp. But prohibitions against raising your hand to your father are deeply interwoven in the fabric of the superego, and to top it off I was fairly certain that had I attacked with vigor, he would have felt little or no compunction, about knocking the crap out of me. He was, throughout most of my adult life, bigger than I. I was skin and bones and while he was too mostly all those years of laying brick and blocked had developed his shoulders and arms.
Being a male or developing male hood—or whatever you might call it—is a treacherous thing and has much more to do with the male’s relation to the father than to the mother. He was a first born son and so was I. We would inevitably have knocked heads, I think, even in the best of conditions. But I burn somehow when in my mind’s eye I see, as if I am peeping through a keyhole, the old man with one of my infant brothers. The old man holds him up on his fingers and encourages him to walk and when he does the old man reaches out and pulls down the diapers around the infants ankles and he falls, not far, because infants don’t have far to fall.
I can’t quite describe the ripping inside I still feel, as if muscle were being pealed from bone, when I think of that little spectacle. My father laughing, the baby falling, and feeling myself torn between laughing and wanting to scream, what the hell are you doing, especially, when he would do it again and again. And below that, just below, to feel fear at what might happen if I did scream just that: what the fuck do you think you are doing? So the whole thing just gets wrapped up inside in an explosive ball.
When I mentioned to a kindly friend that my father was on the verge of death she said be sure not to leave things unsaid. Have you said what you have wanted to say, have you asked the questions you wanted to ask, because if you don’t it feels terrible if later there were things you wanted to say and wanted to ask? I assured her that I had asked all the questions I wanted to ask. I did not say that the only thing I had not done that I was sure I would regret upon his death was that I had not beaten the living crap out of him while I still had the opportunity.
Some day I hope not to feel that and I will be all the better for it.