I am named after my father, though I don’t know why. Perhaps my parents simply didn’t have any other ideas at the time. I wasn’t expected, after all. O, I’m sure I was expected eventually, and certainly by the time the actual birth came along, but I was not expected at the beginning. Not “planned” is the term I’m looking for, I suppose.
I remain, to this day, unconvinced that a sequel to my father was, strictly speaking, necessary. From him, I’ve inherited little but my tendency towards depression and alcoholism.
Dad was in the Navy and later on worked as a truck driver, then as a welder, and for many years, as a sheet metal fabricator, whatever that is, or was. He was, for a time, a member of the Teamsters Union.
Several years before I happened along, while Dad was driving extremely large trucks all over the country, he was in an accident during which he got thrown through the windshield of his extremely large truck. They say he died for a time, but he got better.
There came a day when I was home from college and my family sat down around the breakfast table. Me, my younger brother, and my mother, too. Dad came out from the bedroom, silent as he ever was, and set an enormous chunk of glass before my mother. Maybe it was the size of an orange.
I shrugged at Mom.
“Sometimes a piece of glass from his accident works itself out from his forehead,” she said. But it had been more than twenty years! My brother and I stared across the table at my father as though he were some sort of alien.
But it was me who soon became the alien, to him, it is safe to say. I lost myself in music, in books, and in my studies, and everyone could tell that he shared nothing in common, almost, with his strange, surprise sequel. I was John Cage to his John Wayne.
He spoke to a friend of mine, recently. He does not speak often but he spoke to this friend of mine, and recently, and about me. This is what he said:
“Harry’s always been really smart. A lot smarter than me. He spent so much time getting all those degrees and we spent so much money sending him to school that I’d always hoped he’d go and find something and get really rich. But he wants to help people.”
OK. There’s that.
There still remains some time, I believe, during which my father and I might get to know one another. To understand one another, even, at least a little.
That would be unexpected.