Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"The Cat’s in the cradle"

“The Cat’s in the cradle, and the silver spoon” – the refrain from that Harry Chapin song – came across the radio. I was sitting down at the computer, my morning bagel and coffee to my side, and those words resonated.

Part of it comes from having gone to school with Harry and his brother Tom; but, as Shakespear might say, the song is the thing.. A son saying, as he grows, “I'm gonna be like you, Dad, You know I'm gonna be like you.” And, in the symbolic sense of the theme, does.

We are our parents. For many years I have been exploring why, addressing the time honored debate of nature verses nurture from the perspective of one who has documentation of both in isolation.

Like father, like son. There is ample truth in that – we see it from Prescott Bush’s support of Hitler’s fascism, through his son and evidenced in his grandson’s disdain for laws of civility – like the Geneva Convention – or the laws of faith – like medical and other care for the least ... if only because the leader of the faith declared them to be Himself ... and fascists use, but oppose, all matters faith.

The genealogy of the blood, the nature of the man – released, or tamed, by the nurturing received. Time inserts variation, so the traits manifest are never identical; rather they are evidenced in the options taken. Lacking the direct power of national leadership, Prescott provided funding, having that power – albeit with political constraints – W both voices, and exercises, makes manifest, those traits.

Prescott, a generation removed, can still, as the lyrics proclaim, assert: “it occurred to me, He'd grown up just like me. My boy was just like me.” Facing that graphic reality I turn to look at my own boys – have, will, they be just like me?

I look to their natures – influenced by three maternal lines, and variations in both maternal and paternal influence. The maternal influence, even in absence of a mother, clearly the dominant basis for nature revealed. But inherited paternal traits are amazing – more so, when they are discovered after they appear.

I have it easy – because I have it hard. I know there should be an end to the process – the, “He'd grown up just like me,” point in the process. I have seen it. I have also seen, through the genealogy, a genetic line fighting for the right to end – a male line, which, everywhere, produces predominantly females, or doesn’t reproduce.

There is the bias for religious identity, sometimes revealed in the nature of “goodness”, of smiles and friends; of being recognized across a room. I have a daughter like that – love her, she makes me very proud. She is on the road to perfection beyod that of any of the numerous (literally) Saints in her ancestry.

There is, what I might allow as, steadfastness in a son – who, in his maternally influenced way, has “grown up just like me.” He concerns me. I’m angry at him – but only because, like the boy in the song, he decided, “You know, I'm gonna be like him, yeah. You know I'm gonna be like him”; but confused the “him” with a mixed image of two grandfathers and a father. So he, in the end, he became like none – and all. The end of the line – his genetics end there – a great disservice to his mother.

This old man is too easy to please – just say “hi”, give a hug, and, maybe, say “I'm proud of you. Can you sit for a while?” Without hearing, "I'd love to, dad, if I could find the time.”

Then there is the son who, like his dad, supports his mom – defends her, protects her, and is a credit to his dad, ancestors and the generations yet to come. He has humor, and good sense. There is a direct honesty – no indication of an instinctive need to bullshit, or deceive.

Her is tall, handsome, intelligent and smart. There are those, among his peers, who say he is “cool” – I don’t know the definition they are using, but I tend to assume that it doesn’t infer the type of stupidity which, too often, passes for “cool”. For those old enough to remember “the Fonz” in “Happy Days” – the cool leader, who ended up well educated while retaining his individuality – yep, that’s him.

So far, from when he was little, until the last moment I saw him, he makes me proud. I love him. He has all the traits I suppressed – and he doesn’t need to suppress them ... because he makes them work.

As for the remainder: Try as I might, it is hard to find positives in a daughter who smokes – but says she doesn’t smoke much, as she grabs another – and who lives with guys she proclaims, are “not the one”, while somehow believing “the one” would really want a gal who’s living with someone else. Happily, not at all like me.

Two more, attractive, intelligent, but il-defined – two more who appear to be their mother’s daughters.

Loyola, or those who quote him, had it wrong. It is not the first five years which produce the adult – rather it is the first eight; and years five to eight seem the most important. Though, looking back on my own life, I would extend that to eleven – and quickly understand why Judaic teaching allow the adult to be fully defined at thirteen. But even there – definitions extend to twenty-one, with the next critical period being the three years beginning at eighteen.

Well ... clearly this is too long for a column – so guess it will be a Shreckenangst (Mindsay and Dashboard) blog.

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