I think you are very likely dead by now. Last I saw you was about thirty years ago at our wedding, you and Jeanne were the guests of honor, because without you, I might not have married the right girl. I thought it was damn decent of you to take me in to your home when I was a wandering mess of a young man. I was dating your niece and our first conversation was in her home, with her entire family right in the next room. You said to me in your scary blunt style, "My niece is nothing but a gold digger, she thinks you are rich. Young man, you must disabuse her of any such notion."
Impossible, I said, she loves me, we're engaged etc, etc. Van told me to make it crystal clear that there is no wealth, and to watch what happens to her undying love. Well, it died. Her interest in me began to fade when the word "poor" crossed my lips at the end of long, explanatory sentence. The moment that sentence came to an end, so had her feelings. The word "poor" was still on my lips, pursed out, as if waiting for a kiss, but she was long gone, looking for sugar elsewhere. When you're 21-22, there really is no limit to the depths of your stupidity So, for that piece of advice, Van, I thank you.
You got me a job as a repo man at your bank, The FishKill National Bank. I hated that job from the very second it began. I cannot remember a moment's pleasure or fun in that year. You told me in that blunt way, "Get your MBA and you will be president of this bank in 15 years, that's my promise." I studied hard at Marist College, grappling with accounting, statistics, finance. But, oh, how I hated my days and only a ferocious 6-8 mile run after work could set me straight. I promised my Dad I would stick it for a year. What profound soul sucking misery that was, ruining people's lives by taking their car, garnishing their wages, setting lawyers on them, nudging them to bankruptcy. I could always tell myself they brought it on themselves but I knew I did not want to be the bringer. I hated it and soon began to hate myself.
Van, you must have seen my inner torment because you gave me the gift of your second piece of advice, "Young man"- this is how people speak after graduating at the top of Cornell law school- "you must learn to disenchant yourself". At first hearing this I had no idea what the sentence even meant. But as time passed I began to see the entire lack of enchantment at the bank. If you are going to work in a soul sucking career, it is best to leave your soul at the door or maybe put it in a safe deposit box or perhaps a long term interest bearing CD. The notion of disenchanting myself from anything was so foreign to me, just like my fellow bank employees were utterly foreign to me, laughing at something devoid of humor while I found myself laughing alone, and really, there is nothing quite so sad as laughing alone in a room crowded with the disenchanted.
I made it 364 days. Sorry Dad, I tried but one more day would have killed me, I just had to flee. So, Van, where ever you may be resting, thanks for all the advice, the good, the bad and the ugly.
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