Sunday, May 17, 2015

Not your dad

For a variety of reasons my wife and I did not have children. Though there can be faint touches of sadness about this I am very aware that it doesn't seem like a very nice thing to do, that is, to bring a person into this world. Yes, I know that's a dark view, and that this is a beautiful world, but you know as well as I do that this place is also terrible. It's one thing to already be here, but if you take a fair look at the thing from an outside perspective you will have to agree that life is, sadly, an unreasonable burden to put on someone.

Don't get me wrong. I embrace it as I can since I am here, and I am fully open to a reconsideration in the event of a badly needed redesign of the world. But the whole thing, I am sure, could have been done much, much better. It is childish to call this perfect.

Anyway, not having a child has left my sense of fatherhood profoundly underdeveloped. So it is strange to me when I have surges of parental response. Lately I have this fatherly response every time I walk through the student union at the University of Minnesota, walking through a crowded room of people the right age to have been my kids.

There I am walking along the quiet river. I climb the long stairs. I greet the turkeys. The weather is glorious even by the standard of a person who hates all weather. But I don't hate much weather at all, only heat, and I certainly will not complain about springtime, 68 degrees, just barely partly cloudy, light breeze. I climb to the Coffman Union, the student center. There is a back plaza. In the middle of plentiful, agreeable seating overlooking downtown Minneapolis and the noble river itself, is a bronze and marble fountain made in 1620. 1620! In Florence! By a guy named Pietro Tacca. It is the prettiest fountain within at least a thousand miles. Water spouts from mermens' lips. The churlish could complain that the fountain is not by Bernini, which might be passingly relevant in Rome, but this is Minneapolis. It would be like walking into someone's farm home in Iowa and seeing their lovely Pissaro, then faulting it for not being a Monet.

So I admire this fountain very much. It is a mighty wonder. And generally I admire it alone. Three or four students at most are scattered in the seating of the plaza, though there's room for dozens and dozens more. I admire the Tacca Fountain and head inside.

The Coffman Union is sprawling with students. A hundred of them lay across the darkened room, slouching. Every one of them is quietly absorbed in their smart phone.

"Hello, children." I cry out. "It's a beautiful day! Go sit outside! Get some fresh air. Step away from your gadgets, there is art and sun and wild birds out there!"

They don't even look up from their phones at me. And why should they. I am not even speaking out loud. I am merely having a few parental thoughts. Not even the good kind. 

Here are the good kind:

"Do what you want children. If you can't squander time now, when can you? Your phones are amazing and that ancient sculpture outside, feh! It's not even by Bernini!"



  1. Funny.

    My wife is from Minnesota (Nerstrand). It is south of Northfield near Fairbault. We were married in her childhood church in the middle of farm land. We are childfree but I have a 28 year old daughter from my first marriage.

    1. That is pretty country down there. Faribault they call it, I believe, which is fun to say. Have you ever told your daughter that it's a beautiful day and she should go outside? I don't know if there are any baroque fountains in Nerstrand, but clearly you live elsewhere. Perhaps Florence?

    2. I did live in Rome for two years when I was 6-7. My wife and I live on Puget Sound with a beautiful view of Bellingham Bay. She is a associate professor in Education. I drink tea and write haiku.

  2. I totally understand and relate to this. Although I do have a beautiful nine year old daughter! Gawd, who was her father?

    1. I'm glad you can relate. A cat. A cat was her father!

  3. I'm quite sure I have no idea what you mean.


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