Family

The Book That Made Me See Fatherhood Anew

Dad will never forget the reading experience — and new understanding — he gained from one novel

Visualize a cold dreary barren landscape. You and your young son are hungry, tired and weak. There is not much hope for long-term survival and the outlook for the immediate future is just as bleak.

According to Cormac McCarthy, this is one potential future for mankind. His book, “The Road,” had a very eye-opening effect on me. Having a boy of two years old at the time of reading it really hit home.

I vividly remember flipping through the pages during my lunch break, sitting at my desk with tears in my eyes. Going back to work each afternoon was tough. I didn’t want to leave the next page unturned.

“The Road” was released in 2006. It was the year after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Like many others, my wife and I watched in horror as The Big Easy changed from a charming southern city into a place of unabated chaos and crime. I’d previously heard a saying that “we are only nine meals away from anarchy.” Witnessing the breakdown of society from one event started the wheels turning.

Visualizing the conditions described in McCarthy’s book made them spin faster.

After finishing the book, I describe some of the scenes in situations with my wife. I told her how it concerned me that we were in the same boat as many others, should some type of disaster occur locally, or on a regional/national scale. At the time, we lived in Jacksonville, Florida. It is a good sized city of people, but the infrastructure was not there to support the population.

I learned this during the evacuation and return for Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Trying to leave the beach area and go inland for safety, normally a 20-minute trip, took more than six hours. Both interstates 95 and 10 turn into giant parking lots.

In a crisis situation, our best bet would be to initially hunker down. If that was the case, I wanted us to be prepared to feed ourselves for an extended duration. We also had to ensure we had the ability protect ourselves and our supplies.

Not only did “The Road” prompt me to prepare materialistically, it also taught me to cherish the special bond I had with my son. It made me realize so much of his life would be guided by my words, my instruction, my experiences and, especially, by my encouragement. I saw fatherhood differently than when he had first been born.

Related: American Dads Matter, Too

Sadly, I missed my eldest son’s childhood due to the Army’s need to have me in South Korea which, combined with other factors, led to a divorce from his mother. Sad thoughts of missing many of those interactions were another byproduct of reading this novel. Somehow, even without being around me as a child, my oldest son still turned out a lot like me. I can’t describe just how proud that makes me feel.

Getting a second chance with my youngest son was a blessing. One of the main effects of reading the story was focusing my intention of raising a responsible and prepared child. I’m not talking about prepared as in a survivalist, except in the mental aspect. I wanted to ensure my boy had a psychological strength to endure different types of challenges.

The hard part was doing it without scaring him or instilling a sense of dread about the future. I hope I was successful by challenging him physically and mentally, while raising him spiritually to believe in God.

Cormac McCarthy presented a tale that holds a woeful future for the father. However, the perseverance of that doomed soul presents hope for his son. Since that is all a good father wants, it makes it a sadly satisfying ending.

John Cylc is an eight-year U.S. Army veteran and lives with his family in eastern Tennessee. His primary advocacy is promoting and protecting Second Amendment rights.

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