We are not free. Just because our minds run around like rats in a cage—doesn’t make us free. As much as I might wish to expunge or expel the old man, he is stuck to me every where. It’s as if I have little pieces of Velcro all over me and the old man just sticks to them. I pull off little pieces of him and I turn around and they are stuck to me all over again. Like those little thistles that used to get in my socks and I would pull them out, take two steps, and they would be right back. As if I had my own particular species of flea that lives only on me and won’t go away till I cease to exist as an environment.
I think of those baby ducks that imprint on the first thing that walks by after they come out of their eggs. If a cat walks by, they will imprint on it and the cat will have a host of little ducks following it around. The same with a boy baby and his father; I just imprinted.
I wear a hat and have for years. Hardly anybody wears a hat where I work and when people ask why I wear a hat I say my dermatologist told me to. But really I wear a hat because my father wore one, as he was out in the sun all day. I also for years have carried a thermos with my coffee in it; I always have a Stanley thermos because that was the kind of thermos my old man preferred with his coffee in it. People ask me to do lunch, but I bring my lunch to work with me in a paper bag. I don’t understand doing lunch.
Also I am a workaholic. That’s all I know how to do. If I am not working or producing in some way, I pretty much am not. That’s all he did all his life. Work. What do they say—work, it was his raison d’être. He started at 8; his father found him messing around when his mother had told him to do something, and the father said, if you are old enough to disobey your mother you are old enough to work, and gave him a bucket to carry water to workers in the field. He did not graduate from high school till he was 21 because if you missed more than a month of school you had to repeat the class. They had that rule to keep parents from keeping their kids at home on the farm so they could work them. He studied by gas lamp till they got some electricity from the TVA.
I smoke and have smoked for 40 years. I expect it will kill me. My father smoked. For some reason, I was his son, and my brother was my mother’s son. So when we drove anywhere, I had to sit in the seat behind him and my brother sat in the seat behind my mother. The smoke would blow back in my face. I remember disliking it. But when I bought my first pack, it was like I knew exactly what I was doing just like those damn ducks following a cat around.