My Dad is very important to me. My entire life he has been the moral center of my life. I learned right and wrong from my Dad. I have my Dad’s name. I have his voice. I do not have his values. Despite my upbringing, we have distinctly different moral compasses. This is due in no small part to the fact that he’s a Born Again Christian and I’m an atheist. I’m a former Believer but thanks to my parents, I was encouraged to think for myself.
A few years ago I wrote a book called Ruin Your Life. It was a tongue-in-cheek guidebook on bad behavior. I gave a copy to my Dad because he’s my Dad. When I came by the following week he handed the copy back to me and politely asked that I remove the book from his house. I knew that the book wasn’t going to be his cup of tea. I had no idea he was going to treat it like a brick of cocaine.
This month my second book, 15 Minute Stories was published. It’s a collection of the short stories I wrote in January on this site with illustrations by Ossaín Ávila Cárdenas. I told my Dad about it this weekend. He asked if it was ‘R rated’ material. I explained that it was whatever was in my head that day and that it wasn’t all suitable for children. He expressed no interest in having a copy. This did not surprise me. I hadn’t planned or expected that I’d be giving him a copy of it any more than I plan or expect that he’ll read this.
When I tell people about my Dad’s lack of interest in my writing, they tend to think that such behavior reflects bad on my Dad. Why doesn’t he just smile, take the books, and be done with it? I know that it’s because he doesn’t want to lie to me and I can appreciate that.
However, I’d be lying myself if I said I didn’t care. I’ve been thinking about it and I wonder if I’m ever going to write a book that my Dad would be proud of. I’m not one of those people who spends their whole life trying to get their Dad to be proud of them. I know that he loves me and that’s really enough.
A few years ago he had a medical condition that put him in the hospital for the summer. There was a very real chance he could die. I visited him every day. We talked more than we ever have in my adult life. You know those things you’ve always wanted to say to your Dad? I’ve already said them. We’ve had those final talks that so many people don’t get and I’m aware of how supremely lucky I was to have that opportunity and for my Dad to recover the way he did.
Still, it’d be nice to create something he liked. I’m not sure what story that would be or what form it would take. I rarely write fiction with the thought that I should try not to be offensive. I go where the characters and story take me.
Is there a story I need to tell that would suit my Dad’s taste? I doubt it. My Dad likes books, but I’ve never seen him read a novel. At one point I asked him if I could write his biography, but there is much in his past that he does not want to revisit or recount. It’s too bad because he has some great stories from those days, few of them aren’t ‘R rated.’
– Jack Cameron