er told me she never doubted him, even when she received arntelephone call warning her that her husband was out late withrna showgirl. As it turned out, some less perfect husbands hadrnused my father’s reputation for fidelity as an alibi.rnHe was not an easy father. Stern and exacting in all thernthings he cared about, he had no patience with a boy whorncould not keep from getting a backlash just as he was about tornhook a huge northern. Playing noisily and unconsciously in thernafternoon, we hushed immediately when the dreaded words,rn”Your father’s home,” were spoken. If only I could inspire thatrndegree of respect. As a small child, I remember playing with myrnfather and being called foolish nicknames. As I grew older, thernfun came to an end, and we found ourselves arguing about politicsrnand literature. lie was an individualist; I stood for communityrnand tradition. His idea of folk music was RichardrnDyer-Bennet singing Beethoven’s setting of Burns and Scott;rnI played Dylan or Guy Carawan. I was all for civil rights; he saidrnhe had been there, and all it now amounted to was the governmentrntelling small businessmen what to do. I went in forrnphilosophy; he preferred history and polemics. He once remarkedrnsarcastically, knowing I was an atheist, that I was thernfirst man in my family to have a supernatural bent. “But,” Irnprotested, “I thought there were bishops and even cardinals inrnthe family.” He conceded there were, “but none of them believedrnanything supernatural.”rnVisiting a town where we had once lived, I ran into several ofrnmy father’s acquaintances. “You’re his son? He was a realrnS.O.B,” went the response half the time. Other times it was,rn”He was the greatest guy I have ever known.” Even in old age,rnmy father could walk into a hotel bar in Mexico City and withinrn15 minutes strike up a friendship with the proprietor of a distantrnhacienda who would offer to take him there, along with myrnmother, in his private plane.rnAlternatively, he might provoke someone into taking a swing.rnNearing 70, my father was standing in front of a sporting goodsrnstore in Atlanta with a group of even older men, mostly ex-baseballrnplayers. A pair of bikers in their early 20’s approachedrnthem, mocking and threatening the old men. My father, I wasrnlater told by one of his friends, held up one hand to say “Comernno further,” and when one biker kept coming with raised fist,rnmy old man decked him with one punch. His friend wisely ranrnaway.rnLike most of the men in my family of whom I have heard,rnmy father was better at making money than keeping it.rnNonetheless, he was a good provider and died in comfortablerncircumstances. In his last years, he used to say that he neverrnfeared losing all he had, because he knew that he could walkrninto any city of the world and get a job, any job, and work himselfrnup to running the operation within a few months. If thisrnwas vainglory, it is the vainglory of a free man who, even if hernfinds himself working for an employer, knows in his heart thatrnhe will quit rather than endure insult.rnThere was a great deal wrong with the men of my father’srngeneration. They were less educated than their own forebearsrnand more prone to credulity, easily duped by schemesrnthat would have struck the men of earlier ages as ludicrous: socialismrnin all its forms including National Socialism, sentimentalismrntoward strangers, preposterous theories of humanrnequality. My father, in his youth, apparently believed in women’srnrights; my mother, on the other hand, was convinced thatrnfemale suffrage was a mistake. That she had herself voted forrnJohn Kennedy because he seemed nicer than Mr. Nixonrnseemed to clinch the case.rnIt was my father’s generation that installed FDR as dictatorrnand backed him as he dragged the nation into war; it was theyrnwho suffered the infamous tyranny of the withholding taxrnthat confiscates our wages before we receive them and forces usrnto beg for the return of what is ours. And yet, looking back atrnthem from this age of iron, they seem like heroes. Sure enoughrnof their manhood not to crow about it, they could afford to toleraternhomosexuals, because they did not fear them. One of myrnearliest memories is of staying home to keep my father company.rnHe had been badly burned in a fight with several menrnwho wanted to have a good time picking on my effeminatern(and homosexual) piano teacher. To teach him not to defendrnqueers, they held his arm down on a red hot stove until theyrnhad burned off the skin.rnor most boysrntoday, their life isrnendless bullying byrnwell-intentioned schoolmorms who workrnnight and day to exterminate the firstrnsigns of manliness.rnFor a man like my father, the piano teacher was simply arnfriend, a cultivated man in a community of savages. Homosexualityrnhe regarded as a nauseating vice, but other people’srnvices were, for the most part, none of his concern. Today, I amrnnot sure which movement would offend him more: gay rightsrnor the men’s movement, both of them bizarre deformations ofrnvirility. More than either, I think he would have despised therncult of machismo, to say nothing of the self-fetishists, thernbody-builders. Most conservatives like Arnold Schwarzenegger’srnmovies, but there must be something a little odd about arnman who would want to look like a freak, much less devoternyears of his life to the process. In Arnold’s defense it can be saidrnthat his fetish made him rich, but in the end he supportedrnGeorge Bush against Pat Buchanan, something no entirelyrnnormal man could conceive of.rnMy father has been gone for a decade, and as badly as hernbotched the job of fatherhood, I know 1 am doing a worse job.rnIn looking at the boys my sons’ age, I see as little hope for theirrngeneration as for my own. Perhaps less. For most boys today,rntheir life is endless bullying by well-intentioned sehoolmarmsrnwho work night and day to exterminate the first signs of manliness.rnWhen they do assert themselves, it is almost always inrnsome bizarre and perverse form, as semi-professional highrnschool athletes or as skinheads and punks. In their eyes, thernchoice is either mindless conformity or sadistic rebellion; victimizationrnor racism; careerism or the gang. As a father, I prayrnthey will choose the safe route, but as my father’s son and hisrnfather’s grandson, I know that it will be a long and difficultrntime before they find themselves as men, and if and when theyrndo, everything they think and do will probably be against thernFEBRUARY 1994/17rnrnrn