Oh a hard rain fell all right. It roared, and it pummeled the ground last night as the temperature dropped along with torrents of cold water. Tonight comes our first frost, so says the weather guy. With winds rushing by like a Russian freight train into the eastern night, shaking the lilac bush against my house’s siding till dawn, I almost believed in weather guy’s other prediction– a tornado. Foot deep pools formed on the roads and in low lying areas. The occasional magic canal has returned to the shorn farm field behind my house. The mystery canal is a silver brush stroke across a muddy field under this morning’s smoky light.
It had to come. The warmth and humidity were approaching 100 proof strength, like whiskey that makes you sweat as you drink it down. Then the slow burn follows. Chemical warmth spreads into a budding perspiration. The smoldering late summer fever had to break the stultifying atmosphere. And so it did.
Many times life brings us moments like this, maybe in a job or a family. A sudden transition must rush through to change unnatural dynamics. Oh man, something’s gotta give. Yeah, the pressure builds from tropical depression, to storm, to hurricane strength; and then, look out, Brohinga. The palm trees and motel signs are coming down.
I’ve known several boys who knew a day of reckoning was coming with their overly critical dads. Even as young as 8 years of age a boy can tell if his dad is meeting or ignoring his needs. He can see injustice, favoritism or perfectionism in play. No one boy’s pain in particular comes to mind. They all seem to gather in similar fashion like so many rivulets that gather into a sad salty stream of neglect.
“Ever since my parents divorced, my dad has trash talked my mom. If I argue with him, he tells me I’m disrespectful. Well, he’s being disrespectful of mom. I’d do the same thing if she trash talked him, but she doesn’t do it. It’s not fair.”
“I miss my dad. I want to spend time with him, sure. He doesn’t seem to want to spend time with me or my step brother Colton. Instead he seems to want to control us, you know, make us do chores and then restrict us to our rooms so we can’t bother him and Haley; that’s Colton’s mom. She controls Dad and he controls us. We can’t have friends over or spend the night at other places cuz he says it’s too much running around. Like driving five miles is a big deal. He thinks nothing of driving to Baltimore or Myrtle Beach when it suits him. It’s not fair.”
“Yeah, it’s been a long time since I had any alone time with my Dad. He says we need family time. It doesn’t feel like a family at his house. I feel like a servant. Colton too. He’s three years older than I am and he still can’t go out on weekend nights. No sports either. Too much running around, Dad says. If you ask me, my Dad and Haley are just lazy and selfish. They have to have new vehicles and the perfect yard. Looking good from the street. You know what he tells me? If he didn’t have to pay child support, we could all go to Disney World this year, every year. Greedy, add that to their list. I’d rather live in a trailer with my mom than go to Disney with him. “
“The day is coming when I will tell him off. He’s a bully, though, with everyone but Haley. I think he’s scared of her, but I’m still scared of him. She bosses him around and he doesn’t usually argue back. Now if Colton or I try to argue with either of them and their stupid rules, look out. He rages. He did the same with my mom, but she didn’t approve of it like Queen Haley seems to. It’s a big soap opera they put on for each other. We’re just props.”
“So, yeah. I turned 18 and just cleaned out my room. No good byes. I’d been packing and sneaking my stuff out all summer long, but he didn’t notice. That’s my dad: if you don’t bother him, he doesn’t notice you. He likes low maintenance kids who don’t cramp his style, his drinking, or his narcissistic puppet show. He’ll miss the child support more than he misses me. Watch: he’ll insist that I come for holiday photo shoots. Screw him! He can photo shop my face into his happy family scenes and kiss my ass good bye.”
These hard rains fall predictably as a boy gains confidence and muscle. Sometimes a younger sibling’s welfare will delay the day of reckoning, or there may be other strings that constrain the inevitable emotional gully washer… graduation, a dying grandparent, a sibling’s wedding. Eventually the raging lava flows, devouring false fronts and fakery, incinerating everything in its downhill path.
Bad dads reap what they sow. Guilt and blame and shame, harshness, unforgiveness, perfectionism, criticism, arrogance, double standards, lies, etc. seep into a sensitive boy and ferment over time; not into wine but simmering hostility, that distills into anger, and finally vaporizes in rage. When the personal Vesuvius erupts, the rain is hard, full of resentment and bitterness, indigestible injustice cinders, and merciless 50 grit sandpaper. Syllables, words, gestures, screams, and violence blow up until gravity pulls it all back down in a horribly heavy hard rain.
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
You can’t go this far without a little Bob Dylan.