Cultured – playful – clever and confident – Willy Wonka always had a plan — exactly the kind of man I wanted to be.
I’m no psychologist but I have always assumed the father’s presence is especially influential – especially needed – during those pre-adolescent years when the testosterone starts to kick in – when the question of what-makes-a-man stirs up into a kid’s mind as a conscious issue.
Perhaps it seems to me ‘especially needed’ at that age because during those years in my own life my father wasn’t there to provide guidance.
He was incarcerated and I had to seek examples on my own.
My father wasn’t a violent man or a drug user or some burglar sporting poorly made tattoos so much as a country boy who came to the city in the ’60s to start a family and make good money.
He found that a man willing to transport packages from one place to another without questioning people he considers friends could make some solid extra cash.
When one of those friends found himself in trouble with the law he could lessen his punishment by pointing out all the other friends.
Suffice to say that through my middle and half of high school years my father became a voice on the phone every Sunday evening – a handmade gift card in the mailbox every birthday and sometimes there in the flesh for an hour or two at a steel table in a large sad room surrounded by numerous other felons and their families – whose children looked as shy and uncertain and sometimes even bored as I felt.
Even at that impressionable age I understood it was pointless to look around that room for suitable heroes – the Clyde Barrow-type has never held any romance for me.