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Posts Tagged ‘F. Scott Fitzgerald’

My Dad, right, with Jesse Gardner


Since my dad died last week I have been thinking a lot about his life and his influence– and sometimes, lack of influence– on my life. Just trying to see if I can recognize those sometime intangible things he might have passed on. It’s not an easy task because he was not a sentimental person in any way and the idea of him trying to consciously pass on words of advice to any of his kids is unthinkable.

I wish he had because he had a lot of traits that, when I really think about it, are worth passing on.

For example, I don’t ever remember seeing him exhibit fear. I am not saying he was fearless. Who truly is? I think he just faced it and reacted to threats in a in a different way than myself. He was more than likely to react to danger with confidence and an anger directed at the imminent threat. Direct with no overthinking involved. More fight than flight.

Man, I wish I had that trait.

And I don’t remember him worrying or, at least, expressing his worries outwardly. He must have had worries, right? But he never sat wringing his hands while wailing about what might come. It was more of a just-take-it-as-it-comes attitude. 

Man, I wish I had that.

There are a lot of other little things, good and bad, that I could go over but I just wanted to contemplate what he might have really said if asked to give advice to his kids. I doubt that it would have looked anything like the list below that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote to his daughter in 1933, which was coincidentally the year my dad was born.

That’s probably unfair. My dad was obviously no F. Scott Fitzgerald. But then again, I doubt that Fitzgerald could throw a decent knuckleball.

What advice would you pass on to a young person?

Here’s Fitzgerald’s list:


Things to worry about:

Worry about courage
Worry about Cleanliness
Worry about efficiency
Worry about horsemanship
Worry about…

Things not to worry about:

Don’t worry about popular opinion
Don’t worry about dolls
Don’t worry about the past
Don’t worry about the future
Don’t worry about growing up
Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you
Don’t worry about triumph
Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault
Don’t worry about mosquitoes
Don’t worry about flies
Don’t worry about insects in general
Don’t worry about parents
Don’t worry about boys
Don’t worry about disappointments
Don’t worry about pleasures
Don’t worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:

What am I really aiming at?
How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:

(a) Scholarship
(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?
(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful instrument or am I neglecting it?

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1933, Letter to his Daughter


 

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It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made. . . .

–The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald


I came across the bit above and immediately knew that I was going to use it to illustrate the effect of the current president***, someone who has crashed every aspect of his  life with reckless abandon and carelessness. He always leaves behind a trail of destruction — and now, death– in his wake and like Tom and Daisy Buchanan, lets other people clean up the mess he has made.

This sense of hubris and selfishness was in clear focus yesterday as the covid-19 virus swept through their ranks, finally taking hold in the Oval Office.

He** and those around him have known the risks longer than any of us, even as they tried to downplay the danger of it as over 210,000 Americans died from it in a little over 6 months. They have been told by the highest authorities how to best combat the spread of this virus. They have incredible access to information and resources– medical equipment, testing, doctors and treatments– that would be unavailable to almost all of us. They have the ability to control their environment and reduce risk factors in a way most of us cannot.

Yet, with all of this, they practically thumbed their nose at it all. They refused to wear masks. Refused to stop gathering in groups or maintain any social distancing. Many refuse to quarantine properly. And with the virus running through their ranks, they continued to go out among the voters.

The sheer selfish disregard for others and the willingness with which they put others in peril is astonishing.

As one Secret Service agent who has put their lives on the line in protecting this person** stated, “He’s never cared about us.”

That’s a quote that should remain in the minds of the voters when they go to their polling places or mark their mail-in vote.

He’s never cared about us.”

Like Tom and Daisy and others like them, he** only sees people as resources to be used for his own benefit and pleasure.

Folks are seen as either as steps to climb up or obstacles to be kicked out of the way.

Kindling to be burnt to keep him warm.

So, as he** remains in Walter Reed getting better care than any of us could ever expect, excuse me if I don’t show a great deal of compassion for his plight. If our situations were reversed, he wouldn’t go out one inch out of his way to express concern.

If I were on fire on the side of the road, he** wouldn’t stop to piss on me to put it out. That is, unless there was something in it for him.

And you know why? 

He’s never cared about us.”

So, don’t ask me to care about his health now.


Maybe that sounds a little bitter this morning. Well, it probably is. My dad’s death and how our response to it has been tempered by the virus, the sheer folly of the covid outbreak at the white house, the recent surge of covid cases in my local area– these things and so many more have me a little on edge. Plus, the first thing I saw this morning was an announcement of the death of my greatest childhood hero, Bob Gibson, at age 84.

A legendary pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, Gibby was it for me. He was always the toughest guy out there on any field, a smoldering force whose competitive fire bordered on sheer hostility toward any opponent. With Gibby, it wasn’t that you were trying to best him a game. It was more like you were trying to take something from him. Every inning was an existential exercise. And he most often prevailed. He was so dominating as a pitcher that baseball changed the mound height because they felt the hitters needed help since he was practically unhittable.  I read his early autobiography, From Ghetto to Glory, numerous times and that made him an even bigger hero to me. He was eloquent and college-educated, a rarity for ballplayers of that era, and his story was compelling. He spoke out about issues of the day with intelligence and passion, like two of my other great childhood heroes, Bill Russell and Muhammad Ali.

And as the case with these three, Bob Gibson remains a hero.

Rest in Peace, Gibby. And say Hey! to my dad if you see him around. He’s new there, as well.

Have a good day.

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