CafePart III take a moment to turn off the movie going on all around me and start thinking about my son Mark. That eighteen-year-old bastard has honed the Teenage Sulk to a fare-thee-well. Earlier in the week he disappeared with the only room key; I couldn't get in the room; I had to wait in the car for two hours for him to turn up; I called him a "stupid goddamn idiot;" he shut down the response machine.
Since then, he has managed to be around me, but in such a way that he is able to be in my presence without actually communicating with me. He'll wake up in the morning, and while I am scratching myself and yawning, he's taken a shower and slipped out the door, or maybe even out the window. He puts in a brief appearance around lunch time, to let me know he isn't dead, at least, not in the normal sense of the word that is, and then he's gone again. Before supper time, when he briefly reappears, I take the opportunity of addressing him directly, and as I do, he looks vaguely around the room, as if there were some presence around him, somewhere, but he's not exactly sure where.
"Look, don't you think this is getting ridiculous?" I say. There is this mutter of a noise somewhere in his larynx and when I get up to get another beer and come back, he has turned to angel-dust again, is nowhere to be found.
When I finally corner him in the patio later on, I say "Look, I am sorry I blew up at you. People can't travel together for two weeks without some problems. We haven't known each other for years. You've been with your mother, I've been with a whole other family, and sometimes I get edgy. We don't really know each other. I'm sorry." Silence. I then give him a fairly long and quite expert (and funny) disquisition on the Silent Treatment, which in the course of my life I had brought to a high level of perfection, like him. "It's very harsh, you know," I say. "Silence is a form of violence," I say. "I used it on your mother all the time. Before we got divorced." Silence.
All this reminds me of a very similar movie I ran on my own dad. Once long ago he did something to me I didn't like (he grabbed me and shook me, in a rage at me, a long-ago anger, bursting up, a cherry-bomb, in my face). Consequently, for the next five years or so, I came up with the one weapon I had in my defense-bag: namely, I turned into a spook.
I would never talk to him, except in monosyllables. When I heard his car in the driveway, him coming home from the office, I was down the back stairs and out of the house in a flash. My appearance at supper was brief, and silent. When we were forced together --- on family occasions --- I read (that was an accepted reason for silence in our world). Between the time when I was eleven and the time when I was sixteen I probably exchanged no more than a handful of words with him.
This was the man who was considered to be one of the brightest lights in the legal profession in our part of the country. He was a man who could woo juries, cause district attorneys to gnash their teeth, have judges marvelling at his eloquence, his astute knowledge of federal and state law; this was a man who before age forty was president of the state bar association, a credit to his profession, a force in the regional and national legal establishments.
Yet I, his own child, had managed to keep him at bay for five years with the one tool I could command --- that is, by pretending that neither he nor I existed. Until the day in 1950 when he became a literal ghost, I was a figurative one.
When they brought me into the headmaster's study, that dark room, filled with books, and the smell of pipe-smoke and leather and solemnity, and said, "Your father is dead," I put my head down on my hands, perhaps for five minutes, closed my eyes --- and had this feeling sweep over me, this great feeling of relief. That now I was free, free to live, and act and react, and live my life and never have to hide from him ever again.