Symptoms of fatherhood

Posted by – December 2, 2015

(or, as a way of answering the difficult question “what is it like to be a parent”):

I was reading “Rabbit, Run” by John Updike. The main character, Rabbit, has abandoned his wife, Janice, and two-year-old son, Nelson. Now his wife has given birth to their second child, and Rabbit turns up at the hospital.

“Now I’ll have somebody to side with me against you and Nelson.”
“How is Nelson?”
“Oh. Every day, ‘Daddy home day?’ until I could belt him, the poor saint. Don’t make me talk about it, it’s too depressing.
“Oh, damn,” he says, and his own tears, that it seemed didn’t exist, sting the bridge of his nose. “I can’t believe it was me. I don’t know why I left.”

Later, when Rabbit has come home and is talking to Nelson:

“Yop. Where Mommy?”
“At the hospital.”
“At hop-pital? Come back Fi-day?”
“That’s right. She’ll come back Friday. Won’t she be happy to see how clean we make everything?”
“Yop. Daddy at hop-pital?”
“No. Daddy wasn’t at the hospital. Daddy was away.”
“Daddy away”—the boy’s eyes widen and his mouth drops open as he stares into the familiar concept of “away”; his voice deepens with the seriousness of it—”very, very long.” His arms go out to measure the length, so far his fingers bend backward. It is as long as he can measure.

Before, I don’t think that would have moved me much, but knowing that that’s about how a little kid really thinks and speaks, it’s very poignant.

0 Comments on Symptoms of fatherhood

Respond | Trackback