Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Favorite Leonard Cohen Quote

It's Father's Day and everybody's wounded... LC

Who knows how he intended it, but I've clutched that Leonard Cohen quote tight for decades. For those of you who feel the way I do about Father's Day, I highly recommend the documentary Surfwise about this narcissistic father of nine (technically father of eleven but "only" nine kids are featured in the film). The entire family lived, full time, year round, in a 24 foot RV, and surfed every single day. Sounds lovely for a fantasy, but the reality, and what this upbringing did to the kids, is hardly fantasy.

This one hit so close to home that, despite the fact I took anxiety meds yesterday (which I only do on really bad days, and it was an especially bad day), and despite the fact these meds usually flatten me out so I can't cry no matter how sad I am, I bawled my eyes out at the movie. The featured dad is a Jew devout to his own brand of Judaism. My father-- also the father of nine was a hardcore Catholic devout to his own brand of Catholicism which was extremely heavy on the You're Going To Hell message.. Both of these guys narcissists through and through with nutty ideas that outsiders might view as mere eccentricities but the insiders could tell you come with a lot of abuse.

Other interesting points-- there was mention of Galveston (with an illustrated map) the beach I most frequent. And lots of footage of Hawaii and Israel, both of great interest to me. And a devoted wife/mother who, in her memory (the kids beg to differ) mostly remembers raising nine kids with not enough resources as just a lovely thing. Oh, and they had eight sons and one daughter. My parents had eight daughters and one son.

I really hated the part when the kids talked about not ever having enough clothes. It recalled for me how people at our church would send over bags of shitty clothes for us to sort through and wear. Being the fourth kid, not only did I have a lot of hand me downs, but they might be hand me downs that originated in these bags of hand me overs.

They also ate a really weird diet. We ate a diet heavy on the cheap ground beef, macaroni, and white bread. To this day I spend far too much in restaurants and on organic foods, a habit I have no intention of changing, due, I am certain, in large part (maybe entirely) to the fact that to my mind, having very good food is some kind of signal that I am doing okay. I don't give a crap about clothes, material objects, fancy houses, jewelry or any of it. But I will always have good food.

Interestingly, just about all of the nine kids decided to live "normal" lives upon reaching adulthood and a number of them have had a decent measure of professional success. But at what cost? They are mostly estranged from each other now. And as one of them put it-- their parents raised nine "only children." Here's a spoiler: there is a reunion at the end. But one review I read had the reviewer wondering if this was more for the documentary than a true desire on the kids' parts. This recalled for me my father's recent funeral, which I had forever planned not to attend, but wound up going to at the last minute. That was the first time all nine of us kids were together in I don't know how long, and it might just be the last. And why is that? Because yours truly can barely stand to go back and remember all the bad stuff.

Uh, happy Father's Day to everyone who survived the crap.

2 comments:

Joe D said...

My kids woke me up yesterday with presents of Hawaiian shirts. But my oldest told me that they were from Mom, not her, and the she hadn't gotten me anything. I told her not to worry about it, just having her around was present enough for me.

A couple of times throughout the day she'd mention something about not having gotten me a present. Each time I told her not to worry about it. But she's six years old. At that age, kids have a hard time with abstract things. All she knew was that it was Father's Day, and she didn't have a present for me.

Then she comes up to me, hand behind her back, and says "Happy Father's Day!" and gives me a present she'd made.

It was a construction paper heart, all colored real nice, with a red plastic heart glued in the middle of it, and a ribbon tied to the bottom. It said "To Dad" on the top.

Best present I've ever gotten.

mcoker said...

Oh excellent! I caught Surf Wise at the Dobie last weekend. Awesome movie, I couldn't imagine growing up in an environment like that. It seemed somewhat normal at first, quirky and "out there", but not bonkers or anything. And then the hints of violence and abuse came in and wow... I was amazed a lot of those kids ended up as normal as they did. Seemed like a few of the boys got it the worst.