Robert Tolkien Meets His Father (Part I) – A Team PCPB Original Story
For Nick deCourville II
I have not said much about my father, and I realize I have not done him justice. I’ve been older now than he ever was for almost twenty years. So in a sense, I’m looking back at a younger man… wait a minute, that’s not me. That’s the final speech from No Country for Old Men. I really liked that movie. I hate to admit that after the studio rejected my draft of the screenplay. Then again, considering my teacher gave me a C- on my book report, claiming that while growing old was a major theme of the book, there was a lot more to it than that… Ah shit, I’m getting off subject, aren’t I?
My point is I can totally understand the tragedy of not really knowing one’s father. (Hopefully, Mr. McBride isn’t reading this, I have a feeling he’ll give me another C, reminding me that’s not what it’s about, but I must continue.) Either way, my father’s been more myth than actual man for me. He and my mom divorced when I was really young. He lived far enough away that he never visited. He didn’t call, and I didn’t know his e-mail address. He sure as hell never responded to the Dad Signal I created.
About the only correspondence I ever got from him was the occasional Christmas card. So I had pictures of him. I don’t mind admitting that he was a very handsome man… Hey, he’s family! Besides, it only makes sense that I got my devastating good looks from someone. He was not only handsome, but he was the kind of handsome you just don’t see anymore. He had man good looks, not sissy good looks. This was the kind of face you’d see wearing a smoking jacket. You wouldn’t see him sporting a sideways baseball cap.
He had a mustache – not one of those phony-bologna stubble beards that people have because they really think it’ll dupe people into thinking they don’t care what others think about them. (I guess that’s why they take the time to keep up an appearance.) It was a face that brought me back to a time when women would have shunned a zero like Russell Brand for the buffoon he is, and swooned over men like Warren Beatty, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman – men like me!
Sadly, these pictures were pretty much all I had. Since the only time I saw him in the flesh was when I was so young – like single digits and stuff – I only have sketchy memories of the man: Some good, some bad. I vaguely remember playing Aliens in our back yard at night. I also remember him busting me for trying to stay up late. Of course, the only memory I have of my mom and dad together is the two of them fighting. Being so young, I can’t remember what they fought about, but I really hope it wasn’t me. While rummaging through my family photo albums, I have seen a few pictures of my mom and dad together – they seemed happy. I guess they had to be. They did marry after all.
My mom didn’t really like talking about my dad. She’d take the occasional pot shot at him, such as the time she called him “a means to an end of getting me and Tim.” But that was about it. Sometimes I wish other women were so good at keeping mum. I remember when Taylor Swift and I were going out; she tasked me with getting her a turkey & Swiss with a grande black tea from Starbucks. Unfortunately, because of Starbucks’s size descriptions, I accidentally ordered her a small tea. Not only did she break up with me, but she wrote TWO songs about it: “Tea Black Like Your Heart” and “It was Supposed to be Grande.”
But one day, I decided to unravel the mystery. No longer was Robert Ulysses Tolkien going to be in the dark about the man who brought him into this world. Specifically, my mom was sitting at her computer. She asked me to come over and read something:
“Bobby, what does this say?”
I read the image: “Lack of sex causes poor eyesight.”
She gave me a crooked stare: “Something you’re not telling me?”
Considering that moment was already awkward enough I decided to ask her point blank: “Mom, could you tell me about Dad?”
This question earned me another weird look from old mama. Considering how little she’s said about the man, I thought it would be a look of contempt. When in reality, it was more like a look of confusion like I just asked her if my hair was blue. Maybe she was taken aback that I was asking about someone I have in fact met. Maybe she was surprised that I finally decided to ask. At any rate, she drew a breath and answered. Her answer had a very strange tone: It had this rehearsed, weary but self-realizing tone about it, like a mother explaining to her son that there’s no Santa Claus:
“Your father… is something else. He had a way with women. He sure as hell had his way with me. I yelled at him a lot for it. He’d get angry every once in a while, but he’d always get over it and come back with that devilish grin. He was also a man without fear. It was nice to have a man who would stand up for his lady. For a man in his 40’s who worked a good job, he sure managed to get into a lot of trouble. I couldn’t help but get a little nervous whenever he’d pick a fight with someone twice his size. He took his licks, but it never seemed to get him down. In fact, he usually came out on top. I remember one time some guy broke his nose and he just said ‘don’t worry, I’ll be pretty again in a few days’.”
I think Mom noticed the excitement in my eyes as she talked about my old man.
“Bobby, you don’t want to be like your father.” This comment puzzled me. I… didn’t want to be good-looking Adonis who could have any woman he wanted? It’s like I understood the words my mom was using, but she wasn’t using them in the right order… Either way, I figured Mom wasn’t the best person to ask. Unfortunately, she was the only person to ask, which meant I was still going to be in the dark.
The subject didn’t come up again for a while. Yeah, I thought it about it from time to time, but for the most part it was an afterthought. But then one day, the unlikely happened. The day actually started out like a pretty normal day. The Porsche was in the shop so I had to take the bus to and from school. Kanye had texted me to tell me he couldn’t come over to play Call of Duty. I also tried to ask out Sarah Connelly, but somehow the Tolkien charms didn’t work on her. But I say if being able to play the drum solo from “If 6 was 9” isn’t high on her priorities, forget her. So in short, it was the same old, same old for me.
Upon arriving home, Mom was on the horn with someone. I couldn’t help but wonder who she’d be talking to. I could tell this was someone she didn’t want to talk to. She may have kept a pleasant tone, but I could see the frustration in her face. She flashed me a very passive aggressive smile at me before saying: “Oh, he’s right here, you want to talk to him?” Whoa, who is this that he/she/it wants to talk to moi? And if mom’s so pissed do I even want to talk to this person? Mom, pointed the phone to me.
“Bobby, it’s your father.” Yup, that’s someone I wanted to talk to. I grabbed the phone. I hoped to sound dignified and honored talking to a man I held such high regard for (despite not remembering) but I probably sounded like a total doofus when I said “Hello?” Hey, even the best of us have our moments.
“Bobby, I didn’t recognize you. Last time I heard that voice it didn’t have so much bass in it.” He chuckled and I kind of awkwardly laughed along. “Listen, I’m moving back to Dayton for a little while. I was wondering if you and Tim would like to visit for the weekend.”
I always hoped my first encounter with the man would be in the flesh, but this was bringing me one step closer to that – even if Dayton was one on hell of a long ways away. Still, I couldn’t resist” “Tim and I would love to visit!”
“Great, I’ll see you and Tim Friday night.” Finally, I was going to meet my dad!
Tim was at one of his friend’s when I got the call I told him, “Tim, we’re going to meet Dad this weekend!”
I was dumbfounded. “’So?’ Is that all you can say, ‘so?’ I mean I can understand being in my constant presence of greatness, you may not be interested in anyone else. But this is the bad hombre who brought us into this world!”
Tim just shrugged, apparently still nonplused by anything I told him. I think the fact that he’s a few years younger than me may explain that one. Whereas I’ve tasted the fruit of knowing dad and wanted more, Tim probably doesn’t even remember him at all. Leading up to Friday, meeting Dad was the only thing on my mind. Okay, I had to think about that speech the governor was begging me to write, and pussy crossed my mind more than once, but can you really blame me?
To be continued
Copyright 2012 Alex deCourville