THE PARENT FILES: History Repeating Itself
A day does not go by without me realizing I am a lucky man. I am an unworthy husband to a woman who, if not for the grace of God, would have left me long ago. She gave me a son who, with the grace of God, will exceed me in all things that matter. I stumbled into the noblest of the noble professions. I own a home and haven’t been truly cold or hungry for many, many years.
But thing were not always thus. And if not for one pivotal experience would not have been thus.
I won’t bore you with stories of violence and deprivation. We have all experienced hardship. Some more – some less – than me. All you need to know is that I did just fine – me and my hoodlum friends. We couldn’t read and couldn’t write, but I was smart and that meant I prospered in the chaos. I moved easily within the Wasteland and became a master of the urban wreckage I surveyed.
And then my father found me. He asked me my plans. I had nothing to say to this stranger. He asked about college. I told him I had it on impeccable authority that university was out of my reach.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I am going to Europe and I want you to travel with me.”
We flew from Chicago to Amsterdam, where he showed me the red light district and we slept in a hostel that reeked of hashish. Then we drove through Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
Along the way, my father would teach me bits and pieces of whatever language was spoken where we were. He would make me roll down the window and ask directions, the time of day, where the train station was located, from strangers on the road.
On the Israeli/Jordanian boarder he gave me a plane ticket and five hundred American dollars.
“The ticket will get you home from any city in Europe,” he told me. “You can stay as long as your money lasts.”
And then he was gone. Just like that. I swear it’s true. I walked over the River Jordan on the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge towards the Promised Land. I turned to look back at my father. He smiled and waived in the distance, wearing those thick ARAMCO issue horned-rimmed sun/safety glasses.
I walked across, got into a crowded cab. Everyone was going to Jerusalem.
Seven months later – after spending time living and working in Athens, Vienna, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, London and Dublin – I decided it was time to go home.
And that’s when things started happening. I traveled from Santa Monica City College to California State University, Northridge to the University of Southern California back to Northridge (just didn’t really enjoy USC) and on to the University of California, Davis School of Law, King Hall.
Now my son is 18 and I want to do for him what my father did for me. But I can’t. Times – and my son – are different. The best I can do is two weeks in Ireland, England and France. We leave right after my son graduates highschool and before he attends university in the fall.
Not the same. But good enough.