I’ve mentioned this before, but in case you forgot, today is Bloomsday. You remember, right? It marks the life and career of James Joyce. Why the 16th? Well, Joyce chose the sixteenth of June to be that of the perambulation of the chief protagonist of his groundbreaking novel Ulysses. Now, mining way down, to the bottom, why June sixteenth? If you’ve forgotten, I’m glad you’ve been curious enough to read this far. That had been the date of his first outing with wife to be Nora Barnacle.
They had children and Joyce said that children should be raised by love which is convenient because this particular June 16th is also Father’s Day. Joyce would agree with Swiss child psychologist Alice Miller who looked at child rearing from the opposite perspective. She wrote that the most pervasive and pernicious crime in modern society is child abuse which is at root of all evil in our world. Her biographical analysis of Hitler serves her point well.
I have been fortunate enough to have had both a great dad from whom I solicited advice for the last time the day before he died in 2007 and a great father- in-law (who died just a few months back) to whom I posed a big question nearly thirty six years ago. The former’s words helped prevent me from electrocuting myself that day and the latter gave his assent to something incredible. I miss both dearly and think of them every day. I think they’d agree that men don’t really ‘get’ kids until they have one of their own and know that they would with the Navajo who “think that a baby is fully human when it laughs for the first time*”.
Father to the Man by Tom C HunleyThe OBGYN said babies almost never arrive right on their due dates, so the night before my firstborn was due to make his debut, I went out with the guys until a guilt-twinge convinced me to convince them to leave the sports bar and watch game six on my 20-inch rabbit eared, crap TV. After we arrived, my wife whispered, “My water broke” as the guys cheered and spilled potato chips for our little dog to eat up. I can’t remember who was playing whom, but someone got called for a technical, as the crowd made a noise that could have been a quick wind, high-fiving leaf after leaf after leaf. I grabbed our suitcase and told the guys they could stay put, but we were heading for the hospital and the rest of our lives. No, we’re out of here, they said. Part of me wanted to head out with them, back to the smell of hot wings and microbrews, then maybe to a night club full of heavy bass and perfume, or just into a beater Ford with a full ash tray, speeding farther and farther into the night, into nowhere in particular. Instead I walked my wife to our minivan, held her hand as she stepped down from the curb, opened her door, shut the suitcases into the trunk, and ran right over that part of me, left it bleeding and limping like a poor stupid squirrel.
*Thanks to Dr Brother for fixing me up with this bit from the 12/20/09 NYT Mag. You would not believe the size of my clippings file.