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  • Richard Conniff writes about behavior, in humans and other animals, on two, four, six, and eight legs, plus the occasional slither.

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Fathers and Sons

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 22, 2013

Regular readers may recall that a few months ago, after my father’s death, I posted an article he had written. “Manchild Coming of Age,” about his youngest son Mark.

Yesterday, going through my Dad’s papers, I came across a poem he wrote in March 1951 about his eldest son Greg.  At the time, the writer was 30 years old and had just become the father of his fifth child, me.  Greg was 6.  It’s about blocked communication and miscommunication between father and son:

DAD RECALLS

Greg is a boy

And full of boy things:

Laughter, mischief,

Yearning wings.

Dad was a boy once

He recalls

Life in the itch

Of overalls.

Dad is a boy still —

Greg mustn’t know

Though Dad’s heart yearn

To Tell him so.

By the way, that second to last line is not a typo.  It’s not “Dad’s heart yearns.”  My father was extremely careful about his grammar, to the point that it sometimes became another form of blocked communication.  In this case, he’s using the subjunctive mood, to express a sort of future conditional.  To quote wikipedia, things in the subjunctive do “not refer directly to what is necessarily real.” That is, Dad’s heart might yearn. But he’s not saying so out loud.

So it’s a lovely, touching poem, but–how to express this correctly?–also fucked up.

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