Unspoken, my young adult novel, features aspects of what it takes to be a competitive distance runner. But underneath, it’s really about the complicated relationship between a spirited daughter and her unemotional father. I have another young adult novel, A Christmas Dragon, coming out this fall which has much to do with the—again complicated—relationship between a father and his two sons.
They are not autobiographical, but both novels have something to do with children trying to reach very decent but seemingly unreachable fathers.
For many of us growing up, especially those of us from previous generations, our fathers tended to be loving but somewhat remote. The role of "father" used to be regarded as requiring an element of remoteness in order to impose discipline, although in many cases I suspect that fathers simply did not know how to be make their feelings known to their many rangy kids. Remote fathers often could not find the words for what they felt, could not make known the inarticulate speech of their yearning heart.
It has been said that the only way to know your parents would be to meet magically them as contemporaries. I am now three years older than my dad was when he died. If ever there was a man who did not say what he felt, it was my dad. Being young at the time, I just didn’t know what he wanted us to know, I didn’t understand that he wanted me to understand.
So, as I seem to do when working out life’s many mysteries, I wrote a book. In the summer of 2018, I will be launching an adult non-fiction book entitled Lament for Spilt Porter. The book is a lament for the wisdom of my parents’ generation much of which was barely or poorly articulated, or else we many of the ‘me’ generation were just not listening. My depression-era, Second-World-War-parents were tough, resilient, and for all their restrictions, slew of kids and lack of money, they knew how to carve off time and have fun, far more than we technologically distracted, angst-ridden baby boomers could ever dream of. Perhaps we failed our parents by not passing on the wisdom, sense of family and unselfishness emblematic of their generation to our kids, who as a generation seem lost in the affluence and seemingly limitless choice of the present age. The problem is, endless choice is an illusion, and may actually cause young people to be more anxious.
Young people need old people to calm them down, give them a sense of perspective, and reassure them, over and over again, that in this hyper serious, competitive and overwhelming world, they need to pause, take a breath and have a laugh.
I have three amazing daughters. I was born into a family of mostly boys, so having girls was a gift. As adults, they in turn are having girls, so the gift has an exponential echo for which I am truly grateful. Still, a little thought rattling in my brain that cannot be quieted. I want my girls to know my parents. They knew my mom when they were young, but much time has passed. They never met my dad, and though he was hard to know, I happen to believe that the relationship with those who have died continues to live. Dad, hard as he was, was transformed into a wee softy whenever he encountered a baby. The point was not lost on us that all his progeny had to do to have fostered a meaningful relationship with dad would have been to remain a baby for life.
Somehow, mom and dad are out there watching me watching my girls watching their girls, encouraging them to get over the inertia and spiritual ennui of modern life, to me to say what I feel, and to all of us to find a way to make known the inarticulate speech of our otherwise lonely hearts. I think I’ll start this Father’s Day by extracting a promise from each of my girls that they will read Lament for Spilt Porter, and make the leap from regarding their grandparents as dead and gone to realizing that they remain a guiding force very much alive in their lives.
Larry lives in Ottawa with his
two dogs, and