DAD DREAMS

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I’m not breaking down Bonaduce today, or bringing up My Damn Channel….I’m dreaming about my Dad on the third anniversary of his last day chasing dreams.  Irwin Morton Barnett started off with two crappy names. When I tell you his mother’s first name, you’ll realize this was a guy who had a lot to overcome while growing up in depression and poverty in New York.  

Grandma Ukie was a ball buster. She married a kind, quiet man named Stanley Barnett and proceeded to give hell to her husband and son every chance she had. Somewhere inside a painful childhood, my father developed a deep desire to rise up out of repression and fight back with skills to market, brand, and promote Irwin Morton Barnett as I.M.B. He became an ad man able to conjure up commercial campaigns for clients that included airlines, foreign countries, radio stations, and tourist destinations. 

My dad became a big success – a big man in his own mind – and in his belly too. When he was as old as I am now, my father was sometimes mistaken on the streets of New York for Pavarotti. He perceived these mistakes a badge of honor, rather than as putdowns. This was a man extremely over-conscious of his own brand – always wanting to be considered a rainmaker, an influential power-broker. 

Three years ago, my dad died a broken man. Massive business success in the sixties and seventies led to extravagances that poisoned his spirit and took his health. My father never did drugs and rarely sipped wine, but he became hooked on money, on power, and on winning. Self-made roads led to self-obsessed dead ends. Passengers on the journey got swept up in the race – and a series of crashes wounded unsuspecting participants and bystanders. 

When he died on this January night in 2005, my dad and I had been estranged for several years. As I sit awake in the middle of ‘the night feed’ tonight with my 12 week-old son, and my wife and two daughters sound asleep, I’m praying that pain releases the past. I’m praying that my dad’s story informs the future for all of us that follow in his family. 

His story taught us to never to demand victory, but how to balance highs and lows. His hard times remind us life is supposed to be a team sport. Victories and losses have more meaning when they’re shared with people you trust. Treasure is tainted if it’s not shared.  I’ve finally found words to thank my dad for all the good, the strength, and the creative commitment that inspired him to conjure up magic out of little more than dreams. I honor a man who fell in love with my mom and gave me life and love. This was a guy who showed me how to create substance from dreams and I’m dreaming that his hardworking soul is finally at peace.

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4 Responses to “DAD DREAMS”

  1. Dr Pimento Says:

    I’ve been given all that I wanted.
    Only three generations off the boat.
    I have harvested and I’ve planted.
    I am wearing my father’s old coat.

    Paul Simon, “How Can You Live In The Northeast” from the album SURPRISE

    You and I are the same age, Rob. I’ve been wearing my father’s old coat since 2002.

  2. Dr Pimento Says:

    BTW, SURPRISE is a great album for new fathers, as is Lou Reed’s album “New York” where in “Beginning of a Great Adventure” he says:

    It might be fun to have a kid that I could kick around,
    create in my own image like a god
    I’d raise my own pallbearers to carry me to my grave
    and keep me company when I’m a wizened toothless clod

    Some gibbering old fool sitting all alone drooling on his shirt,
    some senile old fart playing in the dirt
    It might be fun to have a kid I could pass something on to
    something better than rage, pain, anger and hurt

    I hope it’s true what my wife said to me
    I hope it’s true what my wife said to me
    I hope it’s true what my wife said to me
    She says Lou, it’s the Beginning of a Great Adventure
    Lou, Lou, Lou, Beginning of a Great Adventure

    Fatherhood changes most artists rather noticeably when you study their work. It’ll hit Wain in due time.

  3. honored you took the time to share that – thank you doctor – felt extra odd about posting this personal a piece – then realized it’s the whole point – isn’t it? – like hillary – still finding “my voice” – unlike hillary – trying not to co-opt someone else’s

  4. Rob,

    Thank you for sharing. Your writing is inspired and inspiring. “…magic out of little more than dreams” reminds me of Shakespeare’s Prospero “we are such stuff as dreams are made.” You do your family proud Rob, you finest hour yet to come. Lead on!

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