Cat’s in the Cradle

I’ve been waking up the last two days with a song in my head.

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
“When you coming home, dad?” “I don’t know when”
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

It’s so achingly sad: a father who is too busy for his son creating a relationship where the son becomes too busy for the father.

My father was of a generation that this was normal, or not weird in any case. He grew up before WWII, and was drafted to serve just at the end of the war. That’s a long time back. He’s also shy, a bit of a prude, and a snob. I put all that in his basket, but I don’t really care.

Sure it would have been nice to have a closer relationship with him. I don’t remember him playing with me much, but he did. After the divorce, he got me an electric car racing track. I got to use it on school holidays when I came to visit. It was a boy’s gift, probably, but I loved it. (He didn’t do the thing of, say, getting me a bowling ball with the holes too large then reclaiming it for himself, but then again, he didn’t bowl.) He had no idea what to do with girls, I don’t think.

We did walk a lot, and I remember liking it so he must have gone slower for me, or adapted it for me in some way. We had hikes in an arboretum; the trails were called white oak, green oak and red oak. They were a series of loops each longer than the other, and it was fun when we did the long one.

He taught me things: like trees have names, and that when you know their names, it’s like meeting old friends. He knew stars, too (but I don’t think I’ve ever spent much time in a place without too much light pollution to see stars.) He knew birds, and some flowers (but my step-mom is the real expert.) We’d go out in the woods and spend time with his friends, and they became my friends, too.

And now he’s lost all that. He’s tired all the time these days. It might be the cancer or it just might be the memory loss keeping him from being attached to waking things. I’m glad to be seeing him at Christmas. He tells me every time on the phone that he loves me and my sister, and that he’s happy we turned out well.

And that’s enough. And even if it weren’t, it’s what we’ve got. So I have some things in common with the song, but I don’t think it’s the words, but the sadness of it.

Here’s just a truism: with friends and partners you should ask for respect, and love, and someone who listens to you and supports you. With your family, you just deal with what you’ve got and it’s better to just accept it. Parents are often good for one period of your life, but not others; they might be good with two year-olds but not teenagers. Kids get mad because “their parents don’t understand them”, but we are in a continual evolution all of our childhood. It’s hard to love someone (your own kid) who keeps moving the bar every damned year. We go from needing them to take care of our poop to asking them to explain our teenage existential crisis, or how screwed up the planet is. Poop is a lot easier to deal with.

I’ve kept Foro close to me all week. He is sitting here watching me write and not cry, but get a bit sniffly. I’m glad I have him to remind me to be softer, and give love. It’s what I’ve got.

Foro: the blog writer’s personal therapist

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