As a father of two unmarried daughters, Bobby spends a lot of time thinking about their future. His own marriage is almost 40 years old already, his daughters rather less. And, despite the evidence of a steadily growing divorce rate, his faith in the institution remains unshaken.
The seemingly clear contemporary preference for other, less formal arrangements has no impact on his considered position.
As a father of two daughters, one married, the other not, I spend lots of time thinking about the future, none thinking about their future. My own marriage is almost 50 years old already, my unmarried daughter nowhere near.
My faith in the institution remains unshaken only if we’re talking pre-21st Century marriages. For me, the seemingly clear contemporary preference for other, less formal arrangements is a positive; it makes the world a better place.
In the fo’daymorning discussions Bobby and I have, fatherhood is a recurrent theme. Rhondall Feeles and his Single Fathers membership—a tautology?—are, we agree, selling rainbows; today’s fathers can’t hold a candle to those of yesteryear.
So we’re intrigued by Hannah Aizenman’s recent poem titled, ‘As a Father of Daughters’:
As a fathom of waters/As a keeper of otters/As a fan of the Dodgers/As a foremost scholar/As a leaver of mothers/As a giver of quarters/As a failure of rathers/As a faithful supporter/As we gather together/As a fear of disorder/As a phantom of operas/As defender of borders/As a frayer of wires/As a friend of the doctor’s/As an author of gospels/As a field after slaughter.
“Poets are supposed to avoid clichés,” Aizenman explains—bits of language so hackneyed as to seem drained of meaning.
She continues thus:
“This poem takes as its title a common expression typically deployed for the purpose of asserting the male speaker’s positional identity as a claim to power and narrative control: a ‘humanizing’ rhetorical gesture that functions to delegitimize and dehumanize women.
“Playing with this idiom, which is also a fragment, […] I hoped to destabilize the imagination that engenders its usage, and destabilize that imagination’s limits.”
Daughters are women too. Is she also suggesting that fathers try to ‘delegitimize and dehumanize’ their daughters?
Lord, put a hand! The many father/daughter relationships I have known don’t even remotely resemble that. My sense is that the limits of Aizenman’s imagination have been destabilized beyond control!
Bobby and I both know only too well what the fatherhood challenge is. A 1970s FPA bumper sticker put it succinctly but eloquently. The challenge lies not in becoming a father, it said, but in being one.
Bobby repeatedly laments the fact that his was an absent father. Like Garrincha’s, his wife had already had nine children—not all girls—when, just like that one day, the man walked out. Like the Brazilian, the s.o.b just stopped bringing home the bacon.
Sonofabitch has never been forgiven; never, methinks, will be. With very salutary consequences for Bobby’s daughters: there is nothing he won’t do for them. His scion must never one day think the kind of thoughts about him that he has thought about his sire…
Lucky me. I was already in my early thirties with three children of my own by the time my old man kicked the bucket.
And in the time God had granted us together, I’d harvested and stored 100 pieces of wisdom fallen from his lips. Many I’ve shared with Bobby; I share but a few here.
My contribution to then Express Editor Kathy-Ann Waterman’s late 1990s series titled, ‘What my father taught me’ was the standpipe story.
Wordlessly, Daddy had once pointed me to a standpipe, its concrete base freshly repaved. Mere months later, he took me back to the spot and enjoined me to study the aforementioned base.
“Water doing it work,” he said. Indeed, close scrutiny revealed that the concavity that would be very evident in a year’s time had already begun to be hollowed out.
It was a never-to-be-forgotten lesson about patience and invisible progress since often offered to my children and my students.
There’s also an aphorism I never once heard directly from his lips. Nor has any of the four girls who comprised tranche two of the 12-children family with whom I shared the house.
Bobby and I agree; it’s puzzling why, despite its obvious utility for boys and girls, he declined to share it with the young ’uns.
Changing times? TV arrived here in 1962. I reached puberty well before Hollywood began to supplant the village as the effective raiser of the T&T child.
Repeatedly, the tranche two quintet heard that ‘nothing ever works itself out; you have to work it out.’ And ‘si bèf pa connaite lageu derrière i, i pas valé graine zabricot’. Which means, translated roughly into Trinidadian, ‘bison wouldn’ta swallow no zaboca seed if he didn’t know how big he bottomhole is’.
But not once did he tell me or my younger sisters that ‘a standing prick has no conscience’.
Do today’s girls and boys hear that message from their fathers? Or do the gospels they hear have entirely different authors?
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