Work: “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury
I am in awe of father-son dynamics. Perhaps it’s the wordless connection boy and man instantly share right from the former’s birth that enchants me so. Furthermore, there from the said bond is a distinctive scent of manly respect parent and child hold for each other that pulls me in. And how curious it is to pick up nuances of the invisible thread of such relationships through their interactions!
Yet, no matter how delighting it would be to see such interactions come into play, I will always be that relatable loner who prefers solitude than being surrounded by people. Gratefully, even in the absence of real humans, I had the chance to see the wonder of a powerful tie through the lens of Ray Bradbury’s fantasy “Something Wicked This Way Comes”. Bradbury, with his superior literary prowess bordering the heavenly, painted a poetic picture of my ever loved father-son stories.
In Chapter 28 of the book, parent and child shared a lovely conversation on being a good person, the meaning of happiness, and life’s ironies.
The stream of wisdom began after Will (the son) asked Charles (the father) if his dad is a good person, to which the latter answered in the affirmative.
The glum in dad’s voice and his overall demeanor prompted the son to ask: “Then Dad, why aren’t you happy?”
From that inquiry comes this gem:
“Now look, since when did you think being good meant being happy?
…Since now learn otherwise. Sometimes the man who looks happiest in town, with the biggest smile, is the one carrying the biggest load of sin. There are smiles and smiles; learn to tell the dark variety from the light. ”
It was the beginning of an onslaught of father’s take on the realities of life. The disillusioned man, in a resigned manner, told his son of the deceit that goes with trying to fake being good, and the frustrations that result in wanting to be perfect when it is not possible.
After talking about people, dad talked about himself. And the ultimate lesson lies in his own life’s realization:
“Too late, I found you can’t wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else.”
The unabashed admission of father’s defeat was something we don’t see everyday between parent and child. Usually, if dad is story-telling his life, he would like to tell us about his accomplishments more than his failures. Probably, to inspire us. But here’s the catch: we, as sons, love to hear the good things, but we want to learn from our fathers’ mistakes, too.
Most of the times, revealing some of your vulnerabilities to your young ones could be a better way of connecting to their souls. As in the case of Will, who, hearing the sadness in his father’s voice, said:
“Funny. You’ve told me more tonight, than I’ve told you…
Anything I could say or do to make you happy, I would.
Pa, don’t sound so sad.”
I find Charles a heroic man as he was brave to accept his shortcomings. Better yet, he confided his so-called failures to his son. It’s one of the most loving things a father, and parents, in general, can do to their children. Why? Because telling children these things can help teach and save them.
What’s tricky, though, is how parents could still remain respected despite showing their humane, flawed side.
That’s when lovely, innocent children complete the picture. Because they understand, albeit subconsciously, that such mistakes are essential parts of humanity, and such failures do not make anyone less of a person.
Perhaps that’s why dad’s conclusion was this:
“And the strange thing is, son, and sad, too, though you’re always racing out there on the rim of the lawn, and me on the roof using books for shingles, comparing life to libraries, I soon saw you were wiser, sooner and better, than I will ever be…
I’d be a fool not to know I’m a fool. My one wisdom is: you’re wise.”
Though gloomy and regretful at some point, this part of the story and the book’s entirety will make you re-examine yourselves and your choices. But most especially, it will make you love your fathers and sons more. Which is, I think, one of Bradbury’s most wonderful legacies.