Mar. 6th, 2017

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Dreamed that I was the head of a Silicon Valley company, but my employees were not invested in “our” success (as we used to say back in my corporate days.) In fact, I could not figure out what any of their job descriptions were, and they were quite condescending when I asked about the job descriptions. I kept trotting around trying to extract information, and my employees kept eluding my attempts, so finally, I thought, Well, I’m going to have to do everything myself. Which didn’t particularly bother me, you understand – I prefer doing everything myself. But I kind of know that the mark of a good executive is successful delegation.

I was trying to set up a group meeting. I wanted to set it up for 6pm, but my employees told me they only worked five-hour days, and they’d all come in at noon. Fine, I said. We’ll meet at 4pm. Then I was trying to find a writer who could craft the meeting announcement, and one such was actually on staff except she burst into tears when I tried to give her the assignment and accused me of bullying her.

Then I awoke.


Robin texted me a photo last night.

Great, I thought. He’s taken up abstract painting.

I was wondering whether he actually knew who Jackson Pollock was so I could blandish him by dropping that painter’s name.

Then he texted me again: That’s my vomit.

Right, thought I to myself. You should know better than to expect Robin to reach out to you without an agenda.

Been pretty sick all day, Robin continued. Figured it was a hangover. But my puke looks like it has blood in it. And I dunno how to describe this well but like if I snort for instance to try to spit out a loogie, I feel this weird thing, like, maybe my tonsils? Not sure what else it is. At first I tried to like "snort" it out assuming it was a big piece of phlegm but I think it's just a part of my throat that's super enflamed.

Reader, I am not a doctor, but I play one on TV!

What does the blood look like? I asked. Is it bright red?

Yeah, he said.

I suspect your tonsils are inflamed, I said.


No thermometer in the house to check his temp. (Natch.) He doesn’t know what lymph nodes are – which struck me as a bit odd given how much animal biology he’s studied – so he doesn’t know whether they’re inflamed.

Well, you should see a doctor, I said. You may need antibiotics.

What I did not tell him is that inflamed tonsils have the potential to morph into a medical emergency. If they get too inflamed, they can occlude the airway. A tracheotomy would really ruin Robin’s looks.

We stayed in contact for an hour or so during which time I ascertained that he was in no immediate danger of dying, that the student health clinic opens at 8 this morning, and that there was absolutely no food in the house since he’d spent his last $100 on tickets to a basketball game and a ceremonial frat dinner.

(Robin belongs to the same fraternity as Donald Trump’s two sons.

I imagine that means if McDonald’s refuses to hire him after he graduates, he can get a job in the Trump White House.)

I’m gonna Internet-order him some food this morning.

My furious volley of morning texts has gone unanswered. I figure he’s either dead or sleeping. I don’t figure he’s on his way to the clinic – though he really should be on his way to the clinic: B tells me Robin has a Big Test today at 10:30 and he probably should get his medical needs tended to before that.


I’ve been pretty angry at Robin for the past few weeks. Not that this impacts my relationship with Robin in any way since we never communicate. I’m not big on initiating contact with anyone since I have this innate thought, mired like stable muck on the floorboards of my mind, that nobody really wants to hear from me. That’s what an abusive childhood will do to you.

I was willing to try and overcome those innate tendencies on Robin’s behalf since he is, after all, my son, but he almost never picked up the phone when I called, never answered my voice messages, never responded to my attempts at friviolity via text.

So after a while, I just stopped trying.


I was pissed at Robin over some irresponsible behavior that involved my other son, his brother Max. In fact, Max actually called me to ask if Robin was avoiding him. Many years ago after I made some awkward attempt to get the two boys to play more nicely with each other, Max told me in no uncertain language to butt out of his relationship with Robin. So the fact that Max was actually asking me about his relationship with Robin was pretty significant.

Robin is completely irresponsible.

Of course, so was I at his age.

In fact, I was worse than irresponsible. I was a pretty adept little hustler. Small hustles. But hustles nonetheless.

So in some cosmic sense, I understand exactly where Robin is coming from. Temperamentally, we are very much alike, and many people think we look alike. Gazing once at a photograph of me taken around age 20, B remarked, “You know, you and Robin could be fraternal twins. Separated by 40 years.”

I’m inclined to cut Robin a lot of slack, but at the same time, I do worry that he will never be able to turn himself around.

As a parent, it tears me apart to see my children in pain. I’d throw myself in front of a speeding bus rather than to have it hit my children.

I’d rather Robin had been born empathetic and honest like Max rather than duplicitous and conniving like me because that particular transformation process involves a lot of pain, a lot of personal humiliation. It’s gonna cost him, and I can’t bear the thought of him suffering.

But suffer, he will.

Otherwise, he’ll turn into a man like my father or my half-brothers.

Or a man like the man his own father was before B’s near-death experience turned him into a Real Human Boy.


Robin just texted. He's on his way to the clinic.

Great, I texted back. Responsible decision.

This is my attempt at positive reinforcement: I use the word "responsible" a lot when I talk to Robin about the decisions he makes.

Somehow, Robin thinks of me as more of a dragon than he thinks of his father. Possibly the residue of those screaming, knockdown fights we used to have when he was a teenager, and I made him go to school.

("Robin says that the only reason he graduated from high school is because you forced him to," Max told me once.

“Right,” I said. “He blames me for keeping him from the personal fulfillment he would have found working at McDonald’s!”

“No,” Max laughed. “He’s grateful.”

Does that mean my attempts to invoke a sense of duty and obligation in him fall on fertile soil?

One can but hope.)


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