I have been derelict in many things, but what's been at me most is how to respond to The Road, both book and movie. The praises for the novel-in-prose-poems don't need to be rehashed. The prose is sparse and stunning, grand and intimate. But what's more telling, at least for me, is how I read the book.
For much of it, A. slept on top of me. He'd stir some as I turned the pages or propped the book lightly on his back when I had too hard a time holding it above his sleeping body, yes, but he remained asleep long enough for the man to cook his son breakfast, to salvage supplies from the boat, to keep coughing through the misery in hope of what could be.
My survival skills are next to nothing, and on too many days, my capacity to get from morning to sleep with a hopeful outlook is even less. I don't require an apocalypse to happen so that I can know for sure whether I have it in me to do for mine what the Man does for his. He gives each day like it's a gift, which is a terrible example for a father, post- or pre-apocalyptic, to have to live up to, especially one who has the faults mentioned previously.
Literature is full of fathers and sons, and it's a trope I could always look at with the short-sightedness of a son who has no idea what it was to be a man, a father. Now, there is so much more to be taught and given, even if I don't always have the desire or patience to spend the effort doing so. He's a sponge. He's a person all his own. He's my son, and I have the responsibility to be as selfless as I can. I don't always know what that means for me. I don't know if gradually my needs and goals will fall farther away because it's damn hard to consistently find a balance every day.
I love him, and he loves me, but wondering whether I've done all I was meant to by having a child, whether my goal is not to be great myself but to teach someone else how he can change the world, keeps me awake some nights. Being a writer, I've made peace with the second part some. Poems and essays, stories and novels, may not be able to change the world, but they can shape the minds of those who can alter what we do to each other. And biologically speaking, I know the answer, but there must be something else I'm supposed to accomplish, some other way to keep my family and me feeling fulfilled. I trust something will help show me what needs to be done, how I can make certain I set a good example.
I love him and don't want to fail him, though of course I will sometimes because no one is perfect, which is not something someone who fears failure wants to type. Please be proud of me, A., even though I may not always earn it.
"They slept huddled together in the rank quilts in the dark and the cold. He held the boy close to him. So thin. My heart, he said. My heart. But he knew that if he were a good father still it might well be as she had said. That the boy was all that stood between him and death."
- Cormac McCarthy