Friday, July 06, 2007

What was my father's dream?

Before I was born.

Before I was even thought of.

My dad had a dream about how his life might be.

What was it?

He told me once that he liked drawing. Did he dream of being an artist?

His father did. But then the Great Depression happened and he came back to South Chicago after a year at Notre Dame to work in tin mills.

It turned out to be a good life. A life that included creating art. A life that was even enriched by it. In fact, when he began creating models of the floor process at the tin mill out of a purely aesthetic interest, he discovered a whole new way to complete the tin making process.

Even a stroke couldn't stop him from creating work. Despite severe paralysis later in life, he continued to work in pastel chalks that had an abstract vibrancy that earlier work never had.

What about my dad?

He's never talked about his itch for art, though I know it's in there from the way he attends opera and talks about movies. But still, what was it? That dream? Was it art?

Or was it something else? Was it the simpler, easier to express dream of a family and a house and a good retirement plan?

A relative who helped him get the mortgage for his first house told me once that when she asked him what his goals were, he replied he wanted to be a millionaire.

But that was after his first child, me.

I'm wondering about before that.

Before he was a young Naval officer in Hawaii married to a woman named Ursula who was going to be my mother.

What was his dream?

What?

Did I and my brothers and sister make it better? Or worse? Or the diplomatic "different"?

After all, I'm not sure he ran around in the south Chicago streets saying, "Some day, when I grow up, I'm going to the father of a guy who writes for a precarious living."

Or maybe he did.

I'm going to be a dad in about a month. I'm wondering about all that. Not that there's really any real answer.

But still. Sometimes a question is worth asking just to look at the curving mark it leaves in the air.

I can tell my boy what my dream was and how it all changed and accelerated and everything - everything except whatever it was in my head to begin with. Which is how it always is - with, or without, kids.


Above, a photo from 1962, two years before I was born. My dad, William George, sits closest to us. Then my grandmother, Mary Kay, followed by my Aunt Jan and my namesake, Malachy (who is himself named after his uncle, Malachy Flanagan, who raised Mary Kay and her sister Helen after their father was killed in a boating accident.) Finally, my grandfather, William George - a painter, sculpter, dad of three, tin mill worker - several years before his stroke.

5 comments:

nick said...

The sins of the father. So to the virtues or dreams of the father.

What to do with papa's shovel?

Most would say you have to learn to play with the cards you have been dealt. But I have an endless argument with my DNA and destiny. He's the Big Daddy Deadbeat. My dead father is my younger brother now. He follows my dreams.

Malachy Walsh said...

I think I'm wondering more what he wanted to do BEFORE having children.

What was his plan?

Not so much a DNA story, but a dream story. A desire story.

Of course, having no plan is often better than having one - since plans that don't work usually leave you disappointed.

But I think one of the contradictions of youth is to dream about what you want to do before you've really done anything.

"In dreams begin responsibilites." Delmore Schwartz said if first. I'm just wonder what responsibilities were dreamt of before they really showed up at the door.

Dave Tutin said...

My own delving into this abstract realm showed me that I was a member of the first generation to think their dreams could become realities. It got us into a lot of trouble. Every generation had its geniuses, its Picassos etc but generally you were expected to "earn a living" and education, as Ken Robinson, says was geared to that end even in our Grandfathers' days. You worked in preparation for what life was supposed to bring you - namely a spouse and kids.
And it usually happened. As did wars - back when wars were fought for good causes and could be won. Then somewhere after the second world war, the idea began to take shape that everyone could and should have a dream. That we all had some kind of inner potential that wasn't being expressed. All I know for sure is my dad died without ever expressing his. And I was ridiculed for saying I could make a living by writing. So, the most important thing in the entire world is that a child like yours will grow up in a home where there are no such limits put on him. That's progress. It's also what those other men, living and dead, were working towards. Even if they don't - or didn't - realize it. And all the ones who may have - like your Grandfather, should be seen as treasured steps along a difficult path.

Heather said...

I love you Dave Tutin!! Heather

Dave Tutin said...

Mutual!