Early in life, every little boy begins to ponder the possibilities of what he will become.
My earliest aspiration was to become a trash man. I’d sit at the window on trash day and watch as the big yellow truck drove haltingly down the street, its crew bumping cans and shouting to the driver when it was okay to advance to the next house. I loved how the guys would swing up onto the back of the truck and ride along until deftly jumping off and doing it all again. Their work was like a trashy ballet, and I thought it was wonderful.
Well, I didn’t become a trash man, but I did become a newspaperman, and folks, there’s really not much difference.
But this post isn’t about trash men, and it isn’t about newspapermen. The point is that little boys have dreams about what they’ll become. Those dreams are usually about some profession — airplane pilot, astronaut, shortstop for the Yankees — and those dreams stop far short of considering what they might become … after.
My recent absence from the blogosphere was because I was attending a family reunion, the first with just my family and my sister’s family. While driving home, it finally dawned on me just what I had become, and honestly, it scares the liver out of me. Gods help me, I’m a patriarch!
Long ago, when I was jumping onto the end of our sofa and pretending to be a trash man, I never considered that something more dire would happen to me one day. But looking at the picture above, I realized that the stink of corruption isn’t emanating from the garbage truck, it’s emanating from me! There’s one characteristic of patriarchy that cannot be denied: You’re at the end of the line, the rotten, stinking, decaying end of the stick!
How did this happen to me? Nobody ever warned me when I became a husband and a father that this one day might occur!
In fact I’ve already been a patriarch for several years now, ever since my own father died, which means that my own patriarchal candle has been burning down to a stub without me even realizing it. How much is left? Now I know why all those grandkids, nieces and nephews were staring at me during the reunion. Those were the same looks I used to make when I was a kid attending family reunions, looking at some old codger and thinking to myself, “I wonder when he’s going to kick off?”
I guess there are benefits to being a patriarch:
- You can look at your progeny and consider that none of them would be here if not for you.
- You can rest assured that your every word and action will be treated with the respect that comes with the wisdom of your years.
- You can chortle at the sure knowledge that everyone’s thinking, “Why isn’t he paying for all of this?”
But beyond that, what is there other than watching your flame guttering at the end of an ever-dwindling stick?
My father failed me because he never warned me that as a firstborn son (well, almost), I might one day become a patriarch, and because of that, I’ve decided that I need to issue my first patriarchal edict: Family, warn my grandsons about what they one day might become. It will be easier if they have time to prepare!