29 May 2006

Ahoy! -- The Value of a Father

This is so not where I thought this was going to go. But you know, sometimes life just rears up and smacks you on the offside when you aren't paying attention. It was my intent to blog about my adventures this week on the water. But instead, I'm going to blog about fathers. Because today's a holiday, I overestimated the amount of time it was going to take to get me to OCSC, and I arrived nearly an hour early. Which was actualy great; I got to walk down around the docks, sipping a gorgeous cup of strategically-gingered chamomile tea. I then moseyed up into the club room, to await my course. In walks a man. And I nearly break my neck doubletaking. He looks like The Bear. He talks like The Bear. He's the same size, holds himself the same way, even has the same physical and vocal mannerisms. He introduced himself immediately... his name is Bruce, he's my instructor. And thus is ruined the first few hours of my class, as I'm distracted from my primary mission (to determine the difference between heading close hauled versus beam reaching, and knowing which lines to tug and which way to move the tiller to accomplish those things), by a really incredible mental game of "what if". My regular readers may remember some of my earlier blogs about the Bear. He's had an incredibly tough life, and has the tracks on his body and his heart to show it. He's in poor physical health, and about similar mental attitude. He has never been a man who believed in either optimism nor in praise, and frankly, with an eye to where he's been, that's pretty understandable (even while it's been difficult sometimes, as his child, to cope with). Bruce is none of these things. He stands tall, his gaze is sharp, he hops about the moving boat like he belongs there, which he certainly does. He regularly bursts out with comments about how gorgeous the day is, how perfect the weather, what smashing good crew we're all shaping up to be. My classmates and I all beam with pride. Over the course of the day, we get to know Bruce. He was born in Oakland, same as the Bear. He went to Viet Nam about the same time as the Bear, except as Army rather than Navy. He's had a series of business ventures fall out from under him. He enjoys "things that go fast" and has a history of racing, but boats instead of cars...which is a spectacular case of mirror image with The Bear, such that the symmetry made me laugh out loud when Bruce said it. Because only in this world would the Navy guy grow up to race cars and the Army guy grow up to race boats. But anyway.... With so many things the same, I was wracking my brains, just wracking them, to figure out what the singular difference was, where the turning point happened between Bruce and Bear. And then the comment was made. Bruce had a father. Who taught him to sail when he was 10. And from then, he was "seriously hooked". His love of boats has guided the rest of his life. "Kept me out of trouble" he said. The Bear most certainly did not. He had a paternal arrangement, but it wasn't a dad. It wasn't someone who would take the time to take a kid out and show him the joys of anything. The most you could say was that the Bear's dad kept him fed, clothed, and sheltered. It brings to mind the stories about how young male elephants without old bulls around become hard-living thugs, and stampede and destroy. To the point where wildlife managers will bring bulls into territories with troublesome youth, to keep them in line. Because there's something about the male psyche, whether human or otherwise, that requires the guidance of older males to thrive. Notice, that's "guidance". Not just "presence". It matters, greatly, apparently. I know the Bear and Bruce have walked their own karmic paths, learned their own lessons, and have lived their own lives in their own ways. I won't demean either's journey by naming one "better" than the other. Sometimes the roughest roads teach the greatest lessons. But I am more solidly committed than I ever have been before (and that's saying a whole lot) to keeping my boys in tight with their father.

2 Comments:

At 5/31/2006 06:21:00 PM, Anonymous Dana said...

Hmmm, sounds more like the event than the person teaching it. Would Bruce still have loved sailing so much had it been taught to him by his mother or an uncle? Would his life still have led him back to the sea? My guess it would have. I

'm not convinced it's so much the people as the events that shape our lives. Sure they have influence, but I'm seeing how powerful events are, enough so to really allow each of us to make an about face.

And considering how many people are still successful and happy without a father or a mother, it's hard to nail this sort of thing down so neatly.

Really interesting parallels in there though. Dana

 
At 6/02/2006 08:31:00 AM, Blogger SFWriter13 said...

I don't what I can add to your thoughts about the need for fathers. With my son, I've always tried to think about how I want him to think about and remember me in the future as he grows up and eventually has a family of his own.

 

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