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by on March 7, 2010

I remember, sometime around the age of twelve – I know it was before I moved away from home at fourteen – a conversation ’round the dinner table.  My dad, in a fatherly sort of way, gave me advice.  He said to me, said he, that he expected me to be a better man than him.  Not an idle challenge, to a young child!  It is not bad to wish one generation to exceed another; indeed, we must leave this place better than we found it, or there seems to be some failure.

But  to command a child to better his father?  And what a father!  How shall I exceed you, sir?  You, you of the proudest of families, and the best-educated.  You, you were among the first of the Green Beret.  You, you gave your career to public service, and though you may have thought otherwise many-a-time, still you did your duty as best befit you.  What!  What shall I better?  I cannot exceed your knowledge, for you may as easily assemble a car engine as you may build a house as you may mitigate the fate of some character in the court of law.  Shall I better that?  At present, I cannot.

You did right.  A father should never tell his son, ‘son, be worse at things than me.’  But what do I better you at?  What do I pursue to make your many-rounded abilities something which I can equal?  You did not tell me that.  You enjoin me to do one, and not the other.  Well then … you mistake me, for I am your son, and my style of comprehension is frighteningly close to yours, minus a generation.

And you shall exceed me always, and I bear no grudge for that.

From → On the Dole

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