The Decade in Dads

The Decade in Dads

At the beginning of the decade, Denis Johnson published a slim novella called Train Dreams. The book, which is in my opinion the best of the past 10 years, tells the story of a laborer’s life in the far northwest in the first half of the 20th century. In the book, Johnson gives us a brief portrait of the domestic life of Robert Grainier, his wife, Gladys, and their daughter, Kate, as Grainer brings home a bottle of sarsaparilla tonic for his wife, who’s fighting a cold. “She could easily have braved it and done her washing and cut up potatoes and trout for supper,” Johnson wrote, “but it was their custom to let her lie up with a bottle or two of the sweet-tasting Hood’s tonic when her head ached and her nose stopped, and get a holiday from such chores.”

Three years later Grainier returns home to Idaho from a railroad job to find the valley where he lives has been scoured by wildfire so fast-moving that none who tried to outrun it survived. Gladys and Kate are nowhere to be seen. When I first read Train Dreams, I was Robert Grainier’s age, and my younger daughter was the age of little Kate, and I feared all the time for the survival of her and her sister. It still seemed impossible to me that these two lives had been placed in my hands, and having just escaped the sleeplessness and chaos of the infant years, I didn’t yet know how to talk about that fear or the role I was meant to play in their lives.

Over the next 10 years, I slowly learned what kind of dad I am. I did that in a decade in which I struggled to see myself in the culture, where dads were monsters, or burdens, or jokes. I did it in a decade in which many dads started to understand the privilege long inherent in dad-dom, and in which many of us strove to rethink that role. And in a decade in which the filial bond curdled in the cultural imagination from the conveyance of tradition to the transmission of wealth and hate from generation to generation. So alongside all of this, I—and many other dads I knew—worked to rethink what it was a dad could be.

In movies, dads were challenges, their legacies albatrosses around their children’s necks. Tony Stark and his father issues bookended the decade, with 2010’s Iron Man 2 revealing Howard Stark’s role in forming S.H.I.E.L.D. while 2019’s Avengers: Endgame actually sent Tony back in time to shake the old man’s hand. (In between, Thor mourned his flawed father, and Peter Quill straight-up killed his.) Will Ferrell’s dad character turned out, to his shock, to be the villain of The Lego Movie; Han Solo, to his shock, watched his son become the villain of a new Star Wars trilogy.

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from Human Interest - Slate Magazine 

The Decade in Dads The Decade in Dads Reviewed by streakoggi on December 16, 2019 Rating: 5
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