He Grew Up Disappointing His Parents

He grew up disappointing his parents, his father particularly. This hurt him, even though he was in violent disagreement with his parents’ philosophy.

DEATH & RELIGION: As he entered his teens, almost all father-son conversations revolved around death and religion. Although he recalls this as being intolerable at the time, if he had not been raised this way, he realizes that he wouldn’t now know to revile and reject it.

He tried to kill himself – jumped out of a third floor psychiatric ward. Forty feet down. Right out the fucking window. Defenestration they called it. Whoosh.

But he didn’t die. They called it “the first try” or “that first attempt” – and, as far as anyone knew, no prior attempts existed. No one knew or predicted that more would come.

His parents’ religious friends were all about “let’s pray for him” – but did any of those zealots visit him in the ward? Call him?

“What would you do, though – if you ever wanted to really die,” I asked myself. “Would you try something else? Some other way? Some other means?” Not this friend – he did it again, jumped from the third floor window. He only had access to that third floor, or maybe he’d have succeeded. So, again, nothing. Splat. Nothing. Jumps, hits the parking lot, lives, walks away.

PLEASING THE PARENTS: He knew in his heart of hearts that he could never please his parents because, in order to do so, he would be required to adopt their philosophy – a very militaristically religious philosophy that never felt right. Rewired. And he could never adopt that philosophy with his whole heart because it didn’t make logical sense.

He experienced several false starts – attempts to please his parents, specifically the father, by converting to their religion – before he finally summoned the courage to step out, break away, and declare for himself.

This “stepping out” fractured more lives than just his own, but this necessary step in his Independence of Thought would save his life, if only to enable him to live an unhealthy life. Yet he lived. And, after a number of decades, he would finally consider that to be a basically good thing.

RELIGIOUS BEHAVIOR: Some religious people behave as though “You want to become a better person without religion? I won’t let you!” These types of people cannot exist without that mindset. Anyone who leaves their sect could not possibly become a better person unless he “returned to the fold” so to speak. To “return to the fold” though, would be a step backward (probably more than one step), for this son who broke free and began to think for himself, to engage with that Independence of Thought.

THE SON’S “NORMAL”: As this son became an adult, his parents’ disappointment became his “normal.”

“But then they’re participants in this religious sect, so their opinion is invalid,” he thought.

Those outside the sect noticed the son’s potential, but they were clueless to help him because of the times in which they lived. And so it became a consensual rape of the mind.

Even when he stepped away – by his early thirties, a highly positive step – that step disappointed his family and friends because they were all “behind” in the sense that they were stuck in that old, nonthinking, religious mindset that he needed to break away from. But again, this being his “normal,” it became his comfort zone in a small sense.

His “normal,” however, bothered him – but then he couldn’t allow it to bother him because his standards had to be higher. And yet it lived with him. But to adopt his parents’ backward philosophy, that which they persisted in cajoling him to do throughout his life – indeed, their religion made this their duty, and they were true to themselves in this persistence – adoption of that old life would be to lower his own high standards.

He could not be about that, and yet he could not reconcile the idea that his DNA sprang from his parents, who seemed to live in the same Cocoon of Naïveté they wanted for him – something from which he had freed himself, and was very happily free.

THE IMPASSE: So these two sides, both remaining true to themselves, remained at an irreconcilable impasse. When people occasionally told the son that he resembled his father, he felt insulted, although he knew shouldn’t because the intent was good and seemingly pure. Strangely, the son also seemed to have a sense of entitlement that accompanies children whose fathers have been in positions of leadership without being true leaders. This entitlement couldn’t be considered negative.

Fathers of this strain pay far more attention to other peoples’ families than to their own, and they invest their lives everywhere else but in their own homes. They have little more than biology in common with their own families. The results of these emotional investments outside the home (or, failures to invest at home) become apparent in the returns they yield: Families containing almost no sense of common notions of loyalty.

COCOONS OF NON-CREATIVITY: These kinds of fathers suppress creativity within their families, which later stifles their children’s ability to thrive outside this nonthinking structure, and so they have a tardy development of the capacity to do anything meaningful – any meaningful act – without that nonthinking framework of “follow unquestioningly” and “you’ll do [something] because I said so.”

No meaningful act can be performed within that framework. The resulting cycle installs people in religious cocoons with little hope of – or desire to – escape.

Note that creativity, while it probably can be somewhat developed later, manifests itself in retarded fashion, the handicap being the late start out of the gate.

The realization of this idea makes for real and lasting resentment. That is, if and when the children of such families come to realize that their upbringing has handicapped them, effectively making them one-dimensional in a world that is already creatively mediocre, it might kill them or make them want to die.
If these children lack the courage to kill themselves (some end it quickly and early), they might commit suicide on the installment plan via unhealthy living, failure to develop and cultivate long and meaningful interpersonal relationships, or other bad acts in a life of overarching self-sabotage.

FATHER & SON: In later life, the father of this son became impossibly obsessed with death and religion, and no communication could exist without the father turning to either of those two topics. This points to the reason – if there is only one – that father and son couldn’t sit together quietly. But, for the son to reconcile to the father would mean a betrayal of himself, and that would kill him more swiftly than remaining true to himself.

Part of him realizes that he must make peace with his father – a man he barely knows, but a man he knows well enough to understand they can never be in the same room for more than a few minutes. Another part of him understands that he must maintain a healthy distance from his father, or risk being beckoned back to a world that is insane (at least to him). The cycle isn’t often interrupted.

I relate so strongly that the son might as well be me.


4 thoughts on “He Grew Up Disappointing His Parents

  1. joyscheetz

    I’ve always been distracted with this POV. As a reader I wonder if I’m meant to think that the narrator and that “someone I knew” are the same person. I consider that it could be that the narrator wants to create a distance between himself and the reader so as not to be too personal and intimate–too revealing, but that the narrator and that “someone” are the same.

  2. Jerri Cook

    While I echo Joy\’s concerns about first-person narratives, it works here. It shows the pain that fills the distance between parent and child. I have a hard time reading this. You know that.

    I idolized your parents, especially your father. He was handsome, moral, strong, and kind to me. I hated my step-father so bad, you can\’t even imagine. I thought your family was the perfect family. I had no idea you felt like a stranger in your own family. But I sure know how it feels.


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