Notes from the small pond: King-Kong Dad
One summer Saturday, a long time ago, Terri showed me the difference between how King Kong walks and how a regular gorilla does. King Kong, according to Terri, didn't drag his knuckles but used them, punctuated, as steppers, like an elephant, toes expanding like a sponge as the weight descends, spreading the weight, which wasn't intuitive, as an 8-year-old listening to a 7-year-old lecturing on the wooden painted porch of a 300 block, 9th Street, post 1918-fire built farm-house-style with a picnic table in the kitchen and a scattering of raucous, thinker-ish boys and a drift of talky girls inhabiting. Ruth, from the Bible, running the operation and Dick working at the mill. Then sleeping. Then working. Then sleeping. Midnights pay double, and weekends.
"King Kong walks like this."
"How would you know?"
"You're doing it wrong. It's like this." She makes gorilla noises.
"My brother's got a King Kong model. His hands are in fists. Punching at airplanes."
"But he's not walking, is he?"
"Well, he's gotta walk at some point."
"King Kong walking is boring."
"What about the girl he catches?"
"He doesn't even kill her."
Terri is no longer in charge.
"Of course, he doesn't. He's in love with her."
"King Kong is?"
"In love with the girl — the blonde girl."
"...This is how he walks."
This afternoon at least 40 years after Fay Wray in 1933, and probably three or so years before Cloquet Superstar Jessica Lange, played the love interest, and another 31 years before I brought my 11-year-old son Evan to the 2005 version with the incredible T-Rex fight, during which, Evan, who'd been to three tropical islands, lots of swanky vacays and dozens of Stuff Way Cooler Than I'd Ever Seen at His Age, leaned over, looked me in the eye and said:
"This is the coolest thing I've ever seen. Thank you for bringing me."
Dad-Proud from doing something right for a change, I grab like a grabber and, inspired by the memory, deliberately recall all the things, for which, I've been explicitly thanked:
"Thank you, Dad, for getting me to Montana."
"Thank you, Dad, for teaching me to skate...Sort of. No problem you forgot to teach me to stop."
"Thank you, Dad, for throwing me passes in the basement."
"Thank you, Dad for picking me off the floor and calling the ambulance."
"Thank you, Dad, for paying my rent."
"Thank you, Dad, for paying my tuition."
"Thank you, Dad, for helping to get wrestling going."
"Thank you, Dad, for helping with Tommy."
"Thank you, Dad, for helping with me."
Dads mostly want to help. Mostly. Of course, there are statistical outliers who give us all a bad name, but given an omniscient look at the hearts of dads eternal, I'd bet my next paycheck that the revelation, in general, would be dads mean well. And want to help.
But dads are also hopelessly insecure. And, just like any other insecure person in any other instance, dads who are insecure about whether or not they're applying the perfect cocktail of affection and guidance — that razor's edge between advocating and enabling — a lot of dads get defensive. Or offensive. Easy to default to "I'm right cuz I'm Dad," or give up, "Do what you gotta do, kid. It's your life."
Of course, neither of this is any good.
It's why King Kong never had any kids. He just hulked around, lonely as hell, half-time terrorizer, half-time sorrow monger. Until Faye Wray came along and revealed he was way better at loving something that could never love him back. As for loving himself, the way Hallmark Cards say one must first do before loving another: King Kong didn't walk that way.