I understand that I am not only with my father and grandfather as family, but also as a writer. I am sketching them. The mechanical hand in my mind that never stops is charting and sketching and composing them. I feel that I am with them, but also at a great distance from them. I fictionalize my father as he speaks, as he gestures, what he says and does, what he doesn’t say and do. I am creating from him on the fly, a sort of metaphysical free sketch, drawing from his reality and unreality, and in that sense I am also creating myself. It is a relationship based on invention and rooted in artistic license. A part of me hates that I am doing this. Or maybe not hates but feels somewhat cunning and diabolical. And yet I can’t not do this, it happens naturally. I participate almost by default. It is an action that breeds a degenerate form of intimacy, which I crave.
I see and hear throughout dinner how my father so desperately wants to impress my grandfather, wants to be applauded by him, recognized, seen. My father bulldozes in with his own stories, his own flourishes of pride. He vacillates between recent past, distant past, and present, in crafting a small legacy to which my grandfather can respond with praise or compliments. This doesn’t happen. My grandfather either says nothing or somehow maneuvers the topic back to himself. In some ways it is painful to listen to these exchanges. No, not painful exactly, squeamish. And sad. And I knew the same was true for my father and me. A sad chain of fathers and sons, not hearing each other, not seeing each other, relations bereft of anything even remotely resembling intimacy. I was my father’s father as much as I was my father’s son. All of it relative in a broad, orchestral sense.