Netherland (4)

Perhaps it’s because I’m a seven-year old child of divorce. Or maybe it’s because I’m a recent dad who, like Reverend Ames in Gilead, comes to parenthood later in life than most men. Or maybe it’s because the prose is so damn exquisite that the only aesthetically culpable reaction is to linger over certain passages and share them with others, in the hope that their poignancy burns an after-image in memory’s blinking eye. A worthwhile
hope, that.

Sometimes I confused the cries of the sirens with my sons night-time cries. I would leap out of bed and go to his bedroom and helplessly kiss him, even though my rough face sometimes woke him and I’d have to stay with him and rub his tiny rigid back until he fell asleep once more.

What father hasn’t worried over and lightly touched his son’s back as if reading or imparting a Braille message? Then there’s this whiskey-scented prelude to a papa’s waltz…

I was a little drunk; I couldn’t resist brushing my lips against his flushed cheeks. How hot his two-year old skin was! How lovely his eyelids!

In a train, on the way to work, Hans is softly singing a Dutch lullaby to himself, thinking tenderly of his son.

I hummed this nonsense about pigs and beans and cows and clover to my faraway son, tapping my knee against the underside of the lowered tray as I imagined his delighted weight one my thigh… Unseen on this earth, I alighted at Albany-Rensselaer with tears in my eyes and went to my meeting.

There are several other father-son passages I’d like to share. But you’ll just have to chase them down yourself. 

Time to play with my boy!


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