When Did I Become Lame?

DaddyNear silence filled our enclosed train compartment. Alex sat across from me. I could hear the tinny sound of whining guitars escaping through his ear buds. He calmly studied the pages of his metal magazine and that really annoyed me. I didn’t care what he was reading, his calmness bothered me. His gum made a loud snap, which pinched my eardrum. I leaned over my newspaper to get his attention.

Screw it.

I sat back and continued staring at my newspaper. After the meltdown the day before, Alex came back to the apartment and eventually apologized for what he’d said to me. This put us back on civil speaking terms, but didn’t do shit in convincing me that he’d change.

I think we apologize way too much in our country – another characteristic of our sales-based society. We have to sell somebody on passing the salt to us by asking “please.” We smile pretty, address people with terms like “sir” or “madame” to get something – no matter how simple or easy. We apologize – the biggest manipulation effort of all – to get over humps with people we depend on. Am I saying we only apologize when we perceive a future benefit? Absolutely.

Okay, clearly I was still wallowing in my funk.

His words keep playing over and over in my mind. Maybe he was right. I was a second-rate father and not worthy of his respect. The more I contemplated this thought, the more it made sense.

* * *

During the first ten years of my life, my dad and I had a blast together. He’d spend hours with me in the back yard pitching me whiffle balls and showing me how to “choke up” on the bat. My constant goal was to hit the ball over the house because that would earn me an ice cream cone. How I loved jumping in the car – just the two of us – to gorge on ice cream just before dinner. We’d go see baseball games where I loved cracking open those roasted peanut shells and throwing them on the ground. He’d take me fishing, which I enjoyed not to sit in a boat twiddling my thumbs, but to eat all the snacks we’d packed.

Alex and I had the same joyful relationship. When he was little, I’d come home from work and he’d run to me and grab my legs. We’d play cars together and build tents in the backyard for overnight camp outs. We were best buddies.

Around age ten, everything changed. Alex’s feet got bigger and he started wearing skater shoes. His clothes were adorned with flames and demonic looking designs. His cute little cherub-like face changed as his nose, ears, and mouth got bigger than the rest of his head. Instead of running toward me, he ran the other direction. Everything I said was suddenly stupid and anything I did embarrassed him.

Bottom line – somebody kidnapped my little boy and replaced him with a pre-teen Martian.

On rare occasions, Alex would warm up to me and we’d have a nice conversation about one of the few things we still had in common like music or food. I’d feel better about our relationship and my heart would be filled with hope, only to be drained bone dry minutes later when he’d tell me my jokes were “lame.”

Not being able to connect with Alex was devastating to me. I felt frustrated and defeated. Most of all I felt betrayed. Raising my little buddy had been a big success then suddenly it seemed my efforts were all vain.

NEXT: On the Road to Shambala


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