The children created their own world, and only they understand what it felt like to live in it. All they had was each other, and both longed to decode their dad, and maybe find themselves in the process. Whenever they'd ask questions about his childhood, or his life, he'd scowl and grumble, "Read my book.
Just a part of the collection of artifacts fills a storage room to its foot ceiling. She especially loves movies about dragons. On the living room cabinet, there's a ceramic statue of Toothless, the star of the animated movie How to Train Your Dragon. She got it as a gift.
Her voice changes and her eyes and face soften when she says "Toothless. A few years ago, she and Eric's teenage daughters from his first marriage went to see a movie called The Water Horse, about a boy who raises a Loch Ness Monster -- which is close enough to a dragon for Claudia -- then releases the beast to save its life. It is named Crusoe, and as the movie ended, Eric's girls looked over and saw Claudia weeping, shoulders rocking up and down, distraught over the boy taking the dragon out to sea. Claudia smiles.
That night, after Eric cooks steaks and Emma bakes sugar cookies, everyone piles onto the sofa for movie night. Claudia picks How to Train Your Dragon , bringing another round of catcalls and laughter. Everyone settles in, and the movie starts. No one is laughing now, and Claudia reaches for Eric's hand from time to time. Every now and again, she sighs. The story is about a boy trying to live in the shadow of his powerful and domineering father -- about a child searching for his place in the world.
Watching her watch a dragon movie makes it all make sense. He loved anything small and weak. During storms, driving up the hill toward their house in Vermont, he'd jump out of the car in the pouring rain, trying to get the frogs to move before they died beneath the wheels of the car.
Like any damaged person, he took his protection too far. He saved a wild duck he found, and countless other birds. If they bit him, he'd tap their beaks to scold them, as if they loved him with the same intellectual fervor he loved them. Claudia still remembers Bangor the Cat. Driving back from visiting Ted's compound in Canada, Dolores and John-Henry stopped in Maine to spend the night in sleeping bags at a rest stop. In the night, he heard a kitten crying, and after searching for and finding her, he tucked the cat, fleas and all, into his bag.
At home, he brought her back to health and felt hurt when she wanted to roam outside.
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Always scared of being abandoned, he fit a dog harness on a long leash and tied Bangor to his bed. Claudia tried to get him to release the cat, but he refused to listen. He protected Claudia too. The first time they visited Ted in Florida together, he made sure she knew not to annoy him, advising her to use the bathroom before leaving the airport.
At Ted's place in Islamorada, in the Keys, she got a terrible sunburn. Terrified of Ted raging at them, John-Henry quietly fed her ice chips and got her ginger ale when she vomited from sun poisoning. She was about 9. He was John-Henry rubbed Vaseline on her shoulders and told her not to cry.
A young John-Henry poses with his father during Red Sox spring training.
That was three decades ago. There is only one picture of John-Henry in her house. It hurts too much. When he got leukemia a year after Ted died, she donated bone marrow, and when he needed another transplant and her blood count was too low, she begged the doctors to try anyway. She screamed at them in the blood lab. An agnostic, she stopped in a church near the Los Angeles hospital and got on her knees and begged. It was the first and only time she has prayed. She asked God to take her instead. John-Henry died on a Saturday, and as he requested, his body was suspended at Alcor too, in the same tank as his dad.
Just horrible guilt. Like I didn't deserve to be happy. I love you. When you laugh -- ". She interrupts him. A heavy rain is falling, blurring the streetlights reflecting off the asphalt, and she looks out into the glare of the headlamps and sees something move. He presses hard on the brakes, and she gets out.
In the rain, in the glow of their house, she shakes her foot along the pavement, clearing a path, making sure no frogs get caught beneath the tires of the approaching car. On a shelf above a Desert Eagle. In public, he seemed to revel in the solitary pursuit of baseball greatness, then fishing greatness, but really, his lonely existence was a self-imposed exile, not because he didn't want to know his children but because he was scared of hurting them, and of being hurt.
Something happened to Ted Williams in the years after his son came into the world. You could see it just gnaw. It was everything against his grain to succumb to this outside influence of children. Love had control over him. He felt vulnerable. A vulnerability he never had in his life. I think he hated that vulnerability of feeling guilt. First, just simple mentions, when they were little: "Claudia, John Henry took canoe ride to Gray Rapids. By , when they were 10 and 7, he practically gushed in his upright, loopy handwriting.
On June 14, he wrote about his son: "His casting is better than I expected so he must have been practicing some. After an aching rest and a few blisters on his casting hand, he is getting a little uninterested. Finally he got his first fish. A grilse. Enthusiasm revived. Big day in a young fisherman's life. Claudia and John-Henry would have given anything to know this.
It might have changed their lives. Near the safe in his old house is a note Ted saved, dated Dec. It's a contract she wrote -- the Williams family loves handwritten contracts -- with her mother at a Howard Johnson's somewhere: "When I grow up I will never have a child. If I do I will pay my mom 1, dollars. At some point during the session, instead of signing his name, he wrote a note to Claudia, one he knew she'd discover someday. He signed the rest, and the whole box went into storage. She found the note three years ago, 10 years after he died, going through memorabilia.
Trembling as she held the poster in her hand, she finally read the words she wanted so badly to hear as a child: "To my beautiful daughter. Trouble is, nobody knew how to start to repair something so completely broken. It began with Claudia. About 20 years ago, she graduated from college. He asked her what she wanted as a gift, and she said she wanted time. The three of them flew together to San Diego and drove up the Pacific Coast. It was a do-over. So many firsts happened on that trip.
She and her brother saw the house on Utah Street. The three of them laughed, and they asked Ted questions, and he told stories and asked them questions too.
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For years, she'd thought her father had stopped maturing when he became famous at 20, and now they'd both reached his emotional age, equals and running buddies for the first time. He never lost his temper or spun off in a rage. He wasn't angry, and they weren't scared. They visited Alcatraz, and Ted used a Walkman for the first time, befuddled by the technology, and they all laughed. Something happened to Ted Williams' face when he laughed; most pictures show him stern, in concentration, but when he giggled, his jowls would hang and his eyes would squint and he looked, for just a moment, nothing like one of the most famous men in America.
He looked anonymous and happy.
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When the boat docked back at Pier 39, they walked down the boards looking for dinner. A man at a card table was reading palms. Claudia saw him first, and she and John-Henry dragged their father over. The fortune-teller sat on a low stool. He traced his finger over the old man's wrinkled palm. Ted laughed and made a joke about it feeling good, and the inside of his hand was soft, the calluses he cultivated during baseball long gone smooth.
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John-Henry snapped photos, forever documenting every moment he spent around his dad. Claudia leaned in and watched. Everything that would happen began in these moments, but none of them could see the future, not even the fortune-teller. John-Henry looks over a special edition of Boston Red Sox Monopoly with his father in , two years before Ted's death. His health declined steadily for nearly the next nine years.
John-Henry and Claudia cared for him every day, and every day they discovered new levels of understanding and knowledge. They sought out anything that might buy him more time -- no matter how experimental, unorthodox or just plain weird. They tried bee pollen and acupuncture and hired a therapist to work through his anger. John-Henry bought a dialysis machine so Ted could get the treatment at night. Nothing worked. Father and son had epic fights, bad enough that the caretakers called protective services. Investigators came to the house and interviewed both men, asking whether Ted was being made to sign autographs against his will, before determining there was no abuse.
John-Henry wanted to control his father -- his latest Bangor -- and his father rebelled. About once a year, Abel would get called to the house to mediate a bizarre dispute, usually about Ted showering to ward off infection, or taking his medicine regularly. He loves me, I love him. I wanna say no so goddamn bad. Everything about me says no. But I love him. Even now, Abel laughs about the scene he'd find upon entering the house.
Abel would write up a contract on a napkin or a piece of scratch paper, which is what Ted liked, and negotiate a settlement: Ted agreed to take the pills every day, and John-Henry agreed to let him shower only four times a week. Both would sign it, and the crisis would be averted. Even as he fought him, Ted knew John-Henry was struggling to find his place in the world. He worried about his son. The guilt Ted carried slipped away when he did something to help his kids.
Looking back, Claudia wishes she'd let him get her into Middlebury, because it was the only thing he knew how to do. In those last years, she taught him how to be a father to a daughter. When Claudia went through a breakup, instead of keeping her pain a secret like she'd done as a teenager, she explained how to comfort her. The outside world slipped away, and the universe shrank to the three of them: a dad looking for absolution, a son who needed a dad to show him how to be a man, a daughter who'd always craved a family, which they at long last became. A strange family, to be sure, but a family nonetheless, with a patriarch who'd found escape from his guilt and his shame in the company of his children.
Thought he wasn't very good at it. And we actually showed him that not only was he good at it, we wanted him and we said, 'You can do this, Dad. In the long row of filing cabinets, a drawer holds a blue folder marked "Alcor. On a page, he drew a horizontal graph, with a line drawn down the middle, dividing the plan into actions he'd take before convincing his father and what he'd need to do after. In big letters, he wrote "Make Claudia co-petitioner" and circled it.
She agreed. He was still learning, he was still -- he was still -- what is it? Becoming a man in his father's eyes? He needed more time.
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The literature John-Henry took home from Alcor, one of the country's two major cryonics companies, worked in his imagination; he purchased every book they offered, according to credit card receipts. The most important thing he read was the origin text of cryonics, a book by science fiction writer and professor Robert Ettinger titled The Prospect of Immortality. Ettinger wrote that the freezer always trumped the grave, and with nothing to lose, why not take a chance?
Children who buried their parents were described as murderers. Ettinger also made many other wild and foolish predictions about what science would bring to the world in his lifetime, so the book, like the Bible, is believable to those who want to believe. On page 5, Ettinger seemed to be speaking directly to John-Henry: "The tired old man, then, will close his eyes, and he can think of his impending temporary death as another period under anaesthesia at the hospital.
Centuries may pass but to him there will be only a moment of sleep without dreams. Ted did not want to be frozen at first. His will, which he wrote near the end of the fishing act of his life, made his wishes very clear. He should be cremated, his ashes "sprinkled at sea off the coast of Florida where the water is very deep.
Four years passed between John-Henry's purchasing the books and requesting membership documents from Alcor. Ted's health declined, more every day. John-Henry kept saying cryonics provided a chance for them all to be together again one day. I can tell. They spent hours around the dining table, and every so often John-Henry would bring it up.
Sometimes Ted would curse and walk away. Other times he'd listen. These private discussions would eventually become public, fitting into an existing narrative. John-Henry Williams, a 6-foot-5 ringer for his handsome father, had long lived in the zeitgeist as a bumbling son who took and took without ever standing on his own. This depiction of her brother by an author she cooperated with haunts Claudia, who believes her dad knew better, and she feels like the only one left to defend John-Henry. After Ted died, friends told reporters that Williams disagreed with his son's obsession. The stories and biographies quote staff members and associates who say Ted continued to want his remains scattered in the Atlantic, and in the end, Bradlee seemed to conclude that Ted did not want to be frozen.
Abel goes into the study and comes back with the book. He opens it on the kitchen counter, the pages full of his notes, some passages marked with a check if he feels they're accurate, other quotes highlighted and some with sharp, angry pen strokes when he's aggrieved, the margins littered with "not true" and "bulls" and "lie. The clean cryonics narrative of Bradlee's book doesn't match the messiness of that long family dispute.
Claudia has spent considerable time looking for documents that would prove she was in the hospital for the signing of the informal contract. Bradlee's book strongly suggests, without ever saying so directly, that she was lying about being there. She says she visited the hospital so many times that all those trips ran together, but she remains steadfast: Ted signed a piece of paper.
The argument remains frustrating for everyone: Claudia can't prove they followed her father's wishes, and Bradlee can't prove they didn't. Nobody quoted is without an agenda, whether fueled by anger, misunderstanding, jealousy or love. Nobody is unaffected. Nobody is clean.
It's a mess, all of it. Ted Williams left behind so many unanswered questions that two of his children went to the extreme edges of science to find more time for them to be answered, while his third child went to equal extremes to stop them. At the end, jealous and estranged, Bobby-Jo raged, leaving bizarre voice mails on Abel's answering machine: "This is Barbara Joyce Ferrell. I live right behind you. Prepare thyself, sir. Bobby-Jo lashed out, and Claudia hid, and John-Henry got as close as he could. He pushed and explained his idea, working cryonics into those dinner-table evenings.
One night, Ted looked at Claudia and asked, "Are you in on this too? Ted, exhausted and struggling to keep his eyes open, sort of laughed, then his son helped him to the recliner where he slept. Months passed, and after trying every other option available to buy time, only surgery would help Ted.
First, he needed a heart catheterization, and doctors worried he might not survive even that preliminary procedure. Most people his age wouldn't risk a series of operations. In her book, Claudia writes what her father told the doctor.
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I'd like to have some more time with my two kids. The doctor nodded and scheduled the surgery. Claudia began to cry, and Ted's voice cracked when he tried to comfort her, as she'd taught him to do. According to Claudia, that's when John-Henry returned to the Williams family favorite: the nonbinding, casually written contract.
She says Ted sighed, agreed to go along with their wishes and signed a piece of paper agreeing to be frozen. He knew he might not live through his procedure, and at the end of his life, he'd finally put aside his own wishes for theirs. For comedians and baseball fans and biographers, cryonics was a joke or a disgrace, but inside the Williams family, it was a profound act of love, a conscious attempt to undo the cycle of pain both felt and caused.
She was trapped in his house by television trucks and reporters shouting questions. Claudia, then 30 and an elite athlete, paced the halls like a wild animal. Days passed without her manic exercise routine, which she used to exhaust herself into a kind of peace. Finally Eric realized she needed to escape, so he put her in the back seat of his car, covered her with blankets and snuck her past the cameras. They drove to a nearby park, where she could run until she felt tired enough to stop thinking.
That was 13 years ago, and while people still remember something about Ted's head being frozen, the daily onslaught is over. Claudia and Eric are moving back into Ted's old house, not wanting to sell it and not wealthy enough to maintain two homes. It's empty now, under renovation, sitting low and wide on a hill, beneath the grove of live oak trees.
Claudia and Eric pull into the drive, the gate with the red No. Her mood founders when she stands in the towering great room, cold and unfurnished now, except for row upon row of almost empty bookshelves rising toward the ceiling. The only thing left is a frayed set of Ted's beloved Encyclopedia Britannica, which he bought after retiring, spending hours scouring them for the knowledge he felt ashamed not to have. When he was an old man, Harvard begged him to come and receive an honorary degree. He refused, over and over again, never feeling as if he belonged in a place with such educated people.
Ted's white Sub-Zero fridge with the wood-paneled front is unplugged in the corner. The kitchen brings back so many memories. Surviving Adolescence. Surviving Adolescence audiobook. Interview: Dr. Buy Kindle ebook. Buy on Audible. Colarusso, M. Like all relationships, fatherhood is not a static experience, nor is it easily described, and at times the path is unclear and confusing. How do we relate to daughters and sons as they mature?
As teenagers? As adults? As caretakers and heads of their own families? How does one best find joy in their accomplishments and our hand in them? And how do we come to terms with their failures, which can so often feel like our own? He will guide you in exploration of the evolving role of the elderly father, from King Lear to your peers; the developmental tasks of late adulthood and how they interact and sometimes interfere with healthy familial relationships; and much more. The Older Father: Life and Legacy of the Patriarch gives clear, familiar examples of the importance of understanding the experiences that mark the life of a father in his later years and provides a firm foundation for appreciating and recognizing the trials and joys of this significant stage of life.
About the Author: Calvin A. He is also a Training and Supervising Analyst in child and adult psychoanalysis at the San Diego Psychoanalytic Institute and an internationally known lecturer to students, professionals, and the general public on many aspects of normal and pathologic development. His books have been published in English, Korean, and Spanish. See www. He said, I should read it to understand him better.
So, I did. The one thing what this book achieved is that it doubled my respect to my father. I see him now through other, yet better eyes. All rights reserved. True Nature Productions ISBN: Introduction If you believe, as I do, that we continue to evolve and change throughout life, including what I reluctantly call old age—I think a better term is late adulthood—then we can expect that the experience of fatherhood not becoming a father, although that happens, too will be dynamic and dramatic.
Of course, we bring the past with us as we move through life, but we should not underestimate the power of the present, particularly after Even though at 76, I feel more like Like all relationships, fatherhood is not a static experience, nor is it easily described, since one can become a father at 13 or 83, to say nothing of the fact that biological fatherhood cannot be equated with psychological fatherhood and that fathers come into being through intercourse or adoption and may be straight or gay.
By so doing, I hope to strip the mask from the stereotypical description of the elderly father and grandfather as passive, benign, a bit senile and inconsequential. As described by Colleen McCullough in her wonderful series of historical novels about Roman life, the paterfamilias was the head of the family. His right to do as he pleased with his family was rigidly protected by law.
He was expected to be kind, loving and generative but had the legal power to be an unchallenged dictator if he so decided. Modern-day versions of the paterfamilias still exist in some cultures, but in the Western world such total paternal power exists only in the realm of fantasy, film and literature. The following two examples are among the most illustrious because they not only portray aspects of the paterfamilias but also vividly illustrate the enormously powerful dynamic conflicts that determine the interactions between elderly fathers and their children.
Weak and dependent, aware of his approaching mortality, at the very moment when the once strong and self-sufficient king has a great need for love and tender caretaking from his children, he is confronted instead by their grasping ambition, false concern and strong ambivalence. Sibling rivalry abounds, and his offspring do not hesitate to use any ploy to exploit his vulnerabilities, including manipulating his feelings about his grandchildren.
Obviously, not all elderly fathers are confronted with grasping children and in- laws, as were Lear and Big Daddy. But these classics do illustrate certain universal truths. All elderly fathers must struggle with approaching mortality, their complex feelings about and appraisal of their children and their uncomfortable responses to the ambivalence directed at them.