Inspired by a Kleenex commerical - a man struggles to find his role as a father again.
I’m a successful man; got a great job – the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I have a lovely wife and two kids. One of them wants to be a firefighter – I even got him one of those ginormous bright red fire trucks from F.A.O Schwartz. Know the one? No? Ah hell, it’s a great toy. Kid loves it to death and he’s just six years old. The other one…he’s fourteen. I know the age gap is pretty wide, but that’s because my wife wasn’t sure she was ever gonna have another kid again. Know what I mean? We tried. Hell! We tried. Took all those fertility tests that cost me a freakin’ fortune and I even thought my lil’ guys down there were on vacation…permanent vacation. Scared the hell outta me, I tell you that. Look at me! I’m still young, still virile…sure got a few gray hairs at the temple, but nothing some hair dye can’t fix, know what I mean? I still attract the ladies, I tell you that.
Anyway, the older kid, his name’s Brandon, suddenly thinks he’s too big to be my son. I spoiled that kid rotten. Bought him every damn thing he wanted. He wanted to spend the weekend at Disney World on his tenth birthday; I practically rented out the goddamn park for he and his buddies. He went to the best private schools, had the greatest nannies, private tutors, everything that money could buy. His allowance is a hella lot more than my dad ever gave me. You know I had to shine shoes, be the paper boy and every Friday, I show up on Doc. Wilson’s doorstep and become his assistant all for a measly five bucks a week. I swear it was a fortune for a kid like me back then. I didn’t get to where I am today by sitting on my ass in front of the T.V playing video games like it was going outta style or somethin’. Or I don’t lock up myself in my room and blast that goddamn music that just makes my head hurt. I tell his mother, get that boy in order. What the hell do you do at home all day, anyway? All she does is sit on her ass looking through the latest fashion magazines wondering what the hell she’s gonna get for some stupid meeting with her League. Her League for Pete’s sake! You know what they do in their freakin’ league, Doc? Share cookies and caviar, get Botox injections and yak about what they’re gonna wear for the next meeting! You ever hear about anything like that, Doc? I tell ya, it’s enough to make me wanna just sign those papers and call it quits.
Why don’t I? Shit, if I knew, I wouldn’t be sitting here, Doc. I tell ya, she’s done so many things that make me wonder if she’s turning my son against me. The little one, he doesn’t know any better and thinks I’m Superman, which makes me feel kinda good inside. At least I can play with him and feel like…like things were before everything changed. Ah, didn’t I tell you? When I married Melinda, we were pretty much middle-class – didn’t have much, and we lived in some small house in suburbia hell. But it was fun, Doc. Fun in the sense that it was just me, Melinda, and Brandon – he was only three by the time we moved to the mansion. I would work my ass off at the job, but know that I’d come home to a wife and kid who showered me with hugs and kisses and made me feel like a freakin’ King. Like I was something, you know? Money changed everything, Doc. I wanted more. I wanted to beat my rivals, get to the top, and show my late Dad that I wasn’t going to be a loser like him. In less than five years, I was the IT guy; the one who made headlines for the coolest invention yet. Money came in faster than I knew what to do with it. It got to all our heads, Melinda’s especially. Now nothing’s too good for her. She’s got to have more and more and more. It drives me nuts! I swear her section of the house is about as big as our old house. Hell no, we don’t sleep in the same bedroom! Her suggestion, mind you.
Why? She had the notion that I was cheating on her. Why would she think that? Hell, just because the executive director of that damn bank came to my office to visit and just stayed for a chat – I swear it was just a chat, Doc. Sure she’s a hot piece and has legs that can make you cry with joy, but that’s about it. She was attractive, but I was not attracted to her, know what I mean? All I could think about was Melinda – who is still gorgeous, mind you. Hey, did I show you her picture? See? What do you think? Beautiful, eh? My money does all that….although I swear her face looks less expressive each day. Must be all those Botox shots, it screws up the muscles and stuff, I hear. Anyone ever think of suing that goddamn company?
Oh, yeah, back to the cheating thing – which never happened as I said. I can’t tell you how many women have wanted me to hit the sack with them, but I just don’t get the urge. It’s not because my libido is going – oh, no sir. I still get the urge and Melinda obliges once in a while, but a man’s got needs and after working for 48 hours straight, he needs a little relief now and then. What’s that? I told you, Doc, I don’t cheat on her! Okay, so the guys and I went out to the strip club one time, just one time! But I didn’t do anything with anyone, honest. You don’t believe me either? I can see it on your face. Hell, I don’t really care whether you do or not. I know what happened and nothing did. I went home, hoping Melinda would give me some sugar and all she does is slam the door in my face and call me a…a….she called me something not very nice. So I swore I’d go out and really cheat on her. Teach her a lesson and all that righteous crap, but it was then that I caught my son smoking weed in his bedroom. Shocking, eh? Oh yeah, I went a-stomping out, ready to leave the house and I don’t know what possessed me to go see Brandon all of a sudden, but there was that sickly sweet smell I’m all too familiar with (trust me, I was a wild one in my college days). So, I open the door and what do you know? My son’s lying on the bed; hand in his pants, guilt written all over his face and some porn tape playing on that massive plasma T.V he got for Christmas.
I tell ya, Doc. I saw red. RED. I couldn’t believe it! There was my kid, only fourteen years old, for chrissakes, watching porn (don’t even know how he got his hands on that and it’s not mine that’s for sure), smoking weed of all things and pretty much sending himself to an early grave. And what did I do? What did good ol’ Dad do?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
I couldn’t even yell at him. What was I gonna say? I hardly see the kid anymore. I’m at work stuck there for hours, by the time I get home; he’s locked in his room. What fatherly instinct is left in me? How the hell do I look at him and say the words my dad said to me many times? ‘Grow up and become a man! Work, work, work till your goddamn hands bleed and then you’ll understand the true value of money!’ How can I tell him all that when he’s pretty much grown up in luxury and comfort? How can I ever get him to understand what it means to earn your manhood? That life doesn’t come on a silver platter and he ought to be sweating it out like the rest of the real world. It’s all my fault, Doc. I realized that as I walked out of his room. I was a fuckin’ failure. A no-good father who didn’t even know his own son.
And what does Melinda say when she comes out of her room and sees me sitting on the floor? ‘See? That’s what happens. I can only do so much, Travis. Your son needs his father more than his mother.’ And I swear that was more painful than if she had physically hit me.
It took me a while to muster up the courage. I gotta tell you, Doc. Facing my son was ten times harder than meeting a room full of stuck-up execs you’re trying to sell your product to. But I managed somehow. I told him we’d spend a Saturday together. Just him and me, doing …stuff. Hell if I knew what he’d like to do, but I could try, eh? You shoulda seen the look on his face when I told him about our outing. He thought I had gone crazy or was only going to yank his chain or something, but no, I decided to take him back to where I grew up.
The old house is still there, you know. It’s in the middle of city – a slum. A couple of old folks live in the building now, but I took my boy there and showed him all the places I used to go. I told him of how I used to wake up in the morning to a freezing house, and a father who just about kicked me out to go make some money. I had no brothers or sisters, my mother died when I was a baby, so my dad was all I knew. I showed my son my usual hangouts – Doc. Wilson’s clinic (his grandson has taken over the family business now), the old Diner…now some new game arcade center. Sheesh. My old school – still standing and still taking in pathetic whiners like myself. I laugh because that’s what I thought I was back then, Doc. My dad did all he could to remind me of it. As for my boy, I thought I was boring him to death – and he did look that way the first hour or so, but after having lunch at the park where I used to hang out to study and read (when I could find the time), darn if the kid didn’t start asking me questions. There we were, father and son, sitting beneath the same tree I sat as a kid, him asking me questions about what his grandpa was like, and how I used to spend time and stuff. Who woulda thunk that almost thirty years later, I’d be with my own offspring in that place…thanks, Doc. Needed that. Soft tissues you got here. Kleenex? Nice.
I wanted to cry then…but couldn’t. I had to be strong for my kid. I wanted to show him that I could be a great Dad if he’d give me a chance and I’d do better, I swore it. He just gave me this small smile and then shrugged like he wasn’t gonna hold it against me if I screwed up again. But I swear I’m trying, Doc. I’m gonna change over a new leaf and all that stuff. I’m cutting down my hours at the office. I’ve got assistants that can take care of things if I’m away. And me and my boys, we’re gonna spend a weekend on the yacht – fishing, swimming…doing cool guy stuff. No T.V., no cell phones, no BlackBerries or all that. Melinda…well…she just looked at me funny, but I could tell she was surprised at my decision.
I think the boys are excited too, although Brandon isn’t trying to show it too much. Hehee, the other one, Scott, he’s been telling all his friends about it, so now I’m the 'Coolest Dad' in his class. Nice title, eh?
Well, Doc, looks like my time is up. Been nice talkin’ to you. Melinda? What about us? I really don’t know. She’s thawing a little – although I didn’t do a damn thing to her, but at least she crept into my room last night and slept with me. So that’s a nice start, eh? Who knows? If I’m lucky, she’ll reveal what she’s been hiding under that two-thousand dollar Prada suit and Victoria Secret lingerie for the past few weeks. A man can dream, can’t he? My goddamn hand can only do so much.
See ya later, Doc. Mind if I borrow this box of Kleenex? Thanks.